Covered by Wide World of Sports, National Public Radio, and National Geographic, Texas rattlesnake roundups like those in Sweetwater, Texas, draw both fascinated tourists and irate protesters. Begun as an organized form of predator control in the 1920s, for many years rattlesnake roundups have been promoted as community events and civic fundraisers. The western diamond-backed rattlesnake is the main attraction, with pits full of thousands of writhing rattlesnakes serving as the featured spectacle.Often taking advantage of the animals' denning behavior to capture large numbers at a time, hunters deliver live snakes to commercial dealers who are contracted by event organizers to supply the animals as a source of entertainment: from snake handling and snake races to snake sacking, snake skinning, snake milking, and snake education activities. Rattlesnake products of various types are also sold and consumed at the events.In this close-up look at rattlesnake roundups in Texas, Clark E. Adams and John K. Thomas present perhaps the first full description of this social and environmental phenomenon, tracking its popularity, its participants, its opponents, its impact on the communities where it occurs, and, as much as is possible, its effects on the rattlesnake itself.In recent years, the commercial trade in Texas animals has emerged as a serious and controversial issue, and the number of roundups has declined sharply. ""Texas Rattlesnake Roundups"" promises to provide a balanced starting point for all those interested in knowing more about this curious custom.
CLARK E. ADAMS, a professor of wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M University, is the coauthor of an award-winning textbook on urban wildlife management and the author of the study guide for a textbook on environmental science. JOHN K. THOMAS is a professor in the department of recreation, park, and tourism sciences at Texas AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University.