World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup aims to control rattlesnake population within Sweetwater

Thousands of pounds worth of rattlesnakes will be dropped off during the event.

SWEETWATER, Texas — The 66th annual World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater began Thursday, as many people will begin bringing in rattlesnakes for all kinds of purposes.

Operated by the Sweetwater Jaycees, the main attraction will be the guided hunts for rattlesnakes, but there will also be a parade, gun and knife show, carnival, cookoff and competitions for snake eating and for who caught the longest snake.

The Rattlesnake Roundup also serves as a chance for the Jaycee’s to educate the crowd on a variety of topics, like how to hunt a snake and how to treat a venomous rattlesnake bite.

However, while the Rattlesnake Roundup did get its start with similar intentions, it wasn’t always for just getting people together.

“The whole reason around it began was because of the number of farmers and ranchers that were losing their livestock due to snake bites and losing their pets,” Blake Stephens, a co-chairman of the Research Pit with the Roundup, said. “Animal control here in Sweetwater could not keep up with all the calls so a lot of volunteers got together and started hunting for snakes and thus the roundup again.”

Handlers like Stephens help people hunt and gather rattlesnakes to bring them to the Roundup. They are kept quite busy as well because the rattlesnake population can repopulate very quickly.

“We help keep the rattlesnakes under control as far as the population,” Stephens said. “The average female rattlesnake can have up to thirty babies at a time. We bring in roughly five thousand pounds a year.”

There are many different techniques for hunting down rattlesnakes, but the main tactic handlers like Stephens apply is flushing rattlesnakes out of their dens with less than a quarter of fumes from a gas insecticide sprayer. This makes it easier to capture them.

The fumes dissipate after a few hours and are meant to get the snakes out of their hiding spots.

Some people may not know how to deal with snakes, which is why they call in the experts.

“We get a lot of phone calls, people are worried about snakes,” Stephens said. “We know various places where the dens are at and we get a lot of farmers that talk to us.”

However, snake hunters don’t just go out to mindlessly hunt down any snake they see.

They understand that snakes are a necessary part of their ecosystem, but they still can’t have too many slithering around.

“There’s not really a whole lot affecting the ecosystem and we know there’s a circle of life and there’s a reason for the snakes,” Stephens said. “We’re not out to eradicate or totally make them go extinct, it’s just a population control.”

The World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup will end on Sunday, March 10.

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