4

Texas Is Mulling a Ban on Pouring Gasoline into Rattlesnake Burrows

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

At some unknown point in the not-too-distant past, after the advent of the internal combustion engine, human beings discovered that pouring volatile chemicals into underground burrows made it much, much easier to hunt rattlesnakes and other critters.

The practice, aptly called "gassing," caught on and has been in use in Texas ever since.

"What people do is take gasoline or kerosene or other noxious substance and pour enough of it down into an animal burrow to create a vapor that forces them out," said Texas Parks & Wildlife spokesman Mike Cox. "That's the main idea: it messes up the atmosphere enough inside the burrow to force them to come out."

See also: Texas Sure Seems Hellbent on Killing Off the Endangered Prairie Chicken

Sounds brilliant, you're no doubt thinking. Surely there can't be any drawbacks.

Alas, TPWD says there are. It turns out pouring gasoline underground tends to damage delicate ecosystems, contaminate water and indiscriminately kill things, not just the rattlesnakes and gopher tortoises being targeted, but also lizards, toads, other less loathsome snakes, many of them endangered.

Even if the practice were less indiscriminate, it would still be harmful, Cox said. "When you start tampering with the pieces in the ecosystem it leads to a cascading effect that leads to worse and worse [damage] for the environment."

That's why, when the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission meets on January 23, it will consider joining 30 other states by enacting a full or partial gassing ban.

Rattlesnakes aren't the only animals people gas, but they've been getting the most attention since TPWD proposed the new rule last month in large part because of events like the "World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup" in Sweetwater, Texas. An organizer told the Austin American-Statesman that a ban on gassing would kill that event.

YouTube footage of people actually gassing rattlesnakes is disappointingly hard to find, but here's a National Geographic clip describing Sweetwater's festival:

Cox says comments given at public hearings this week in Fort Worth and Houston have been mostly positive. One expects that will change once officials reach Sweetwater next Friday.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.