Thursday, March 15, 2012

Snakes Alive

St. Patrick, whose “holy day” will be celebrated March 17th, was credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. Recently a gentleman came to the Refuge wanting to release snakes there that he had captured on a golf course. NOT! We began wondering what other rules and laws there are about this type of thing, and asked Hagerman NWR Manager, Kathy Whaley to update us. Here is Kathy’s information:

Snakes are considered non-game wildlife in Texas, and are not protected by law. However, it is unlawful to capture any species of wildlife on public lands without a permit, or along roadways and road edges. In addition, protected species of wildlife may not be captured or possessed without a special permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. On the Refuge, no wildlife may be captured without a Special Use Permit issued by the Refuge Manager. Permits are issued on a very limited basis for scientific research only.

Texas law protects 12 species of snakes which are considered to be threatened with or in imminent danger of extinction of local populations, or of the species as a whole. These threatened and endangered species are protected by law from hunting or harassment. You can find the list at

Since 2008, a permit from Texas Parks and Wildlife has been required for the sale, transport or recreational ownership of exotic snakes ( Exotics include venomous snakes not native to Texas, several species of python, and one species of anaconda. Releasing these snakes into the wild is also prohibited.

Even though they usually get a bad rap, snakes are a very important part of the natural ecosystem and play a critical role in the balance of nature. Small snakes feed on many harmful bugs and insects while larger ones eat rats, mice, and other rodents that can destroy crops or damage property by chewing. Without snakes, the world would literally be completely overrun by rodents! Snakes also serve as a food source for larger predators such as hawks, owls, herons, and carnivores including bobcats and coyotes. On occasion, some snakes will even consume other snakes.

As with any relationship, it’s all about respect. A snake doesn’t want to be any closer to you than you do to it. Learn to identify poisonous snakes and keep your distance – enjoying the view from afar.

National Wildlife Refuges

It is illegal to release any type of wild or domestic animal on a National Wildlife Refuge. The reason for this is to make sure that animals not native to the area are not introduced to possibly start a population (such as what happened in the Florida Everglades with pythons). The other important reason is that wild animals brought in from another location can transmit diseases such as rabies, distemper, or hemorrhagic disease to previously healthy Refuge wildlife.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Photo, Rough Green Snake, by Rick Cantu

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