This week, the annual Sweetwater Jaycees World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup took place. Thousands gather to watch as the snakes are milked, skinned, and fried. Visitors even dip their hands in rattlesnake blood and leave bloody handprints on a wall.
The roundup hosts vendors, demonstrations, hunts, eating contests, and even a beauty contest. Attendees can buy a rattlesnake and have it fried. Before the snakes are cooked up, they are passed down through an “assembly line” where they are killed, decapitated, hung from a hook, cleaned, skinned, and then fried, reports the Daily Mail.
The rattlesnake roundup is an annual event that started back in 1958. It is the oldest and largest roundup in Texas. The event was started to help keep the rattlesnake population down. Today, the event has become a draw for the visualization of it all rather than population control.
The roundup is a four-day event. It is held at the Nolan County Coliseum, which also hosts rodeos and the county fair. Each year, the roundup brings 40,000 people into the small Texas town.
The roundup brings in big bucks for Sweetwater, and this year’s event brought in more than $2 million. Sweetwater has a population of 11,400, and all proceeds go to community projects, youth sports, and to help the disabled and disadvantaged.
About a month before the roundup is held, a hunt starts. Hunters harvested around 5,000 pounds of snakes, which is about 1,000 rattlers.
When hunting the rattlers, hunters use a gassing technique. They spray gas through a copper tube to lure them from their hiding places.
However, the gassing method is seen as controversial because many fear it harms other animals and their habitats. The gassing could be banned, which could leave the roundup with an uncertain future. The hunters use the gassing to hunt in large volume in cold weather. If gassing is banned, the roundup will have to be postponed or perhaps even cancelled, reports KTXS.
The Texas Wildlife Department has been trying to ban gassing since 2013. The organization has delayed making a final decision until September. The delay gives Sweetwater representatives and roundup organizers time to propose alternative solutions.
Opponents of the roundup who oppose the treatment and killing of the snakes have suggested a no-kill roundup, but many see it as irresponsible to release such a dangerous creature back into the wild.