, Port Arthur, Texas


June 2, 2012

Rattlers present in Southeast Texas

Chester Moore, Jr. column for June 3, 2012


Did you know rattlesnakes roam Southeast Texas?
    When thinking of the venomous snakes in the region, the cottonmouth, copperhead and to a lesser extent, the coral snake come to mind. However, rattlesnakes are indigenous to the region.
    The timber or canebrake rattlesnake is the one most commonly encountered and they are present from the northern reaches of Orange and Jefferson Counties on through the Pineywoods region.
    According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, they have a heavy, light yellow, gray or greenish-white body with a rust-colored strip along the length of their back and a black tail is tipped with rattles.
    “Timber rattlesnakes have yellow eyes with elliptical or cat-like pupils. Twenty to 29 dark, V-shaped crossbars with jagged edges form a distinctive pattern across their back.”
    As rattlers go, they are very docile and there are few instances of people being bitten by these beautifully marked pit vipers.
    They are however, subject of an ongoing urban legend of sorts that we first proved untrue on these pages in 2006.
    Here it goes.
    According to the story, in a secret effort to replenish diminishing timber rattlesnake stocks, government officials have been stocking captive-bred specimens of the venomous reptiles at various locations within Texas' National Forest land.
    It is unclear as to which government agency is responsible but some reports indicate it could be the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) while another rumor has it linked to a clandestine Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) project.
    I say "story" but the truth is I have heard numerous tales of rattlesnake restoration efforts in the Pineywoods of East Texas. One gentleman even told me his uncle's brother-in-law had some released next to his farm near Crockett. Hundreds of them.
    Where did these stories originate?

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