End the Gassing of Texas Habitat!

In the crazy world of the non-game wildlife trade, some hunters collect live rattlesnakes to be made into hatbands, trinkets, and other products. Many of these snakes come through the annual rattlesnake roundups where they endure cruelty and stupid daredevil tricks before being killed, skinned, and sold. And the collection of many of these snakes begins with the environmentally destructive practice of spraying gasoline into crevices and burrows to drive them out. We now have a chance to stop this toxic pollution of Texas’ habitats.W-diamond-1

You would think it would be illegal to spray a toxic, carcinogenic substance into places where various wildlife species take shelter and rain percolates down into groundwater, but you would be wrong. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for gasoline states that “Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling gasoline can be harmful or fatal.” Benzene, one of the components of gasoline, is a human carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates and in many cases prohibits use of waste disposal wells to collect oil and gas from car repairs, in order to protect drinking water, and so it seems crazy that we allow the intentional spraying of gasoline into the ground. Twenty-nine states, including all the states that border Texas, either partly or completely ban the use of gasoline to collect non-game wildlife. Texas, however, has continued to allow this practice.

About ten years ago, a Jaycee at the Sweetwater rattlesnake roundup told me that gasoline “don’t hurt nothin’, it just takes the oxygen out of the air so they got to come out to breathe.” He was clearly misinformed. As if the information in the MSDS above was not evidence enough, there are studies showing how gas exposure harms wildlife. Campbell, Formanowicz & Brodie, in a 1989 article in the Texas Journal of Science, experimentally exposed a number of species to gasoline fumes, and found that it was harmful to all species but more likely fatal to species other than rattlesnakes and especially toxic to amphibians and invertebrates. Toads and lizards exposed to gasoline fumes and tested seven days later were less able to catch prey. Therefore, animals surviving the initial exposure may die later because of impaired ability to catch food.

Three years ago, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department began exploring citizen reactions to the idea of banning the use of gasoline in this way. Finally, this year, a proposal was made to the Commissioners and now a regulation has been drafted. You can see the draft regulation and offer comment at their Public Comment page .  It is not a done deal; if we do not speak up, the loudest voices will be the handful of people who make money by poisoning Texas wildlife and land, and they might prevail.

Here is how you can help: Respond to the “Pubic Comment” link during the online comment period from December 19, 2013, through January 22, 2014. You provide your name and county of residence at the top, read the regulation, and then provide your comment at the bottom. Please help us put a stop to the poisoning of Texas wildlife and habitat!


About Michael Smith

From the age of 11 (in 1962), I grew up mostly in north Texas. I’ve been interested in herpetology for all those years, and so I have some experience with the reptiles and amphibians of Texas. I have written on the topic, given talks, been president of and editor for the DFW Herpetological Society. I wrote an article on venomous snakes published in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Clint King and I have a manuscript in the editorial process at Texas A&M University Press, anticipated out some time next year. Additionally, I have been licensed in Texas as a Psychological Associate since 1985 and have worked largely with children and families. My background and training are in the areas of applied behavior analysis and infant mental health, and I worked in an early childhood intervention program for many years. In that position, I worked with the child and family together, addressing a wide variety of issues including maltreatment and trauma as well as developmental disabilities such as autism. In recent years I have worked in a pediatric hospital, administering neuropsychological tests.
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One Response to End the Gassing of Texas Habitat!

  1. MOS says:

    Petroleum products make a habitat uninhabitable for years. Not only for just a target species but for anything that might colonize that area. It is not a sound environmental practice. Stop gassing and petroleum spillage in fragile and limited ecosystems, and wildlife habitat.

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