Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rounding up rattlesnakes - 123 tons so far

Long before Sweetwater made its name as the “Wind Energy Capital,” there was the Jaycee’s World’s Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up. It’s a safe bet that both the wind and rattlesnakes will be around long enough for Sweetwater to keep a firm grip on both titles. The 51st annual rattlesnake roundup gets under way today with a parade at 4:30 p.m., followed by the 50th annual Miss Snake Charmer Pageant. Special guest will be the winner of the first-ever Miss Snake Charmer title, Nelda Smith Hedges of North Carolina. She also will serve as grand marshal of the parade. Even if cool, rainy weather cuts down on the haul of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, area hotels and restaurants are sure to profit from the annual event that draws up to 30,000 visitors from all 50 states and several foreign countries. "It almost triples the size of Sweetwater on that weekend," said Riley Sawyers, publicity chairman. Hunters get paid for their catch, Sawyers said, but in order to control the number of snakes caught, the per-pound payment drops incrementally from $5 for the first 2,000 pounds of snakes down to $1.50. Hunters are conservationists, Sawyers said, and don't want to deplete the snake population by over-hunting. Apparently the strategy works because the average total poundage has remained about the same year after year. Since 1958, about 123 tons of snakes have been caught...Abilene Reporter-News

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