Next year’s rattlesnake roundups could have fewer snakes.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is proposing an amendment to the Parks and Wildlife Code that would make it illegal to use noxious or toxic substances to disturb or collect nongame wildlife as well as prohibiting the possession of nongame wildlife collected using these substances.
The technique, often used to collect rattlesnakes, is commonly referred to as “gassing.” Persons engaged in structural or agricultural pest control activities would be exempted from the rule.
Using noxious or toxic substances such as gasoline or ammonia to force wildlife from burrows, dens, and other places of concealment has come under increasing scientific scrutiny as questions arise concerning negative ecological impacts to associated ecosystems, populations, and non-target species.
If the amendment is approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Texas would become the 30th state in which the practice is partially or completely prohibited, including the four states sharing a border with Texas — Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Six meetings to allow for public input on this proposed amendment have been set for January:
Jan. 7: 7 p.m. at Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, 9601 Fossil Ridge Road, Fort Worth.
Jan. 8: 7 p.m. at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Regional State Parks Office, 14200 Garrett Road, Houston.
Jan. 17: 10 a.m. at The Center, Texas State Technical College, 300 Homer K. Taylor Drive, Sweetwater.
Jan. 23: 9 a.m. at Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin.
Public meetings will also be held in San Antonio and Taylor. Dates, times, and locations for those meetings will be posted online at <http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/meetings> as they become available.
Comments regarding the proposed amendment may also be made online at <http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public_comment/> or submitted to Andy Gluesenkamp, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas 78744; (512) 389-8722; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to TPWD, current literature supports the conclusion that the use of noxious substances to collect or harass nongame wildlife negatively affects not only those animals that are being pursued, but other animals that co-inhabit or subsequently use a treated refuge. For instance, researchers investigating the effects of one-time “gassing” on gopher tortoise burrows (under variable exposure intensities and durations) demonstrated that the practice resulted in significant mortality in four species of snake and one species of mammal. Laboratory experiments conducted on seven species of snakes, lizards, and toads in 1989 determined that a 30-minute vapor exposure produced a “dramatic and obvious” effect on the test subjects and resulted in a range of outcomes from short-term impairment to death. Other studies have shown a strong correlation between exposure to petroleum products and mortality in various species.
In addition, use of noxious chemicals to flush or capture wildlife is a demonstrable threat to species that use karst environments as habitat, which is of particular importance in Texas. Karst environments are typically created by the long-term chemical action of water on calcareous rocks such as limestone, which creates sinkholes, caverns, and other features that then become habitat for highly specialized aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Many of these species are extremely rare and several are currently considered threatened or endangered. Karst ecosystems and the species they host, by their nature, are fragile and especially sensitive to pollutants.
In addition to prohibition on the use of gasoline, or any other stupefying, noxious or toxic chemical or substance to take, harry, flush, or dislodge nongame wildlife, the proposed amendment would also prohibit any person from knowingly possessing wildlife that was captured as a result of the use of gasoline or another stupefying, noxious, or toxic chemical or substance. The department’s reasoning is that if a specimen of nongame wildlife was collected by use of an unlawful method, no person who knows that the specimen was unlawfully collected should be permitted to possess it.
The proposed amendment also would create an exception for pesticides being used in accordance with labeling instructions by persons licensed under certain provisions of the Occupations Code or the Agriculture Code. The department has determined that the rules should not apply to persons licensed to conduct structural or agricultural pest control activities. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is expected to take action on the proposed amendment at its January 23 meeting.