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New PA regulations to slow down rattlesnake roundps, protect other herps

Discussion in 'Herp Awareness' started by rugbyman2000, Oct 28, 2005.

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  1. rugbyman2000

    rugbyman2000 Elite Member

    Hey everyone,

    The state of PA is seeking public feedback on proposed herp regulations that will do a lot to stop rattlesnake roundups by limiting collection, and offer a lot more protection to most other herps. Below is an article I wrote on the subject for a couple herp news venues, and I wanted to share it with HerpCenter. You will notice there's a link at the bottom where you can post comments about this subject directly to PA Fish and Boat Commission (agency controlling these regs).

    Proposed PA Herp Regulations deter Rattlesnake Roundups, offer further protection to several species; PFBC currently seeking public feedback

    By Jesse Rothacker

    No two states handle wildlife management the same way – especially when it comes to herps. In Pennsylvania, centuries went by before any agency took responsibility for reptiles and amphibians. Even after the PA Fish and Boat Commission reluctantly took charge of state herps in 1980, the state’s seventy-six reptile and amphibian species and subspecies remained an unwanted burden and were continually tossed back and forth between PFBC and the PA Game Commission. While many fish and wildlife species create millions in state revenue through hunting and fishing licenses, reptiles and amphibians are not so lucrative to manage. Consequently, herps have remained largely unregulated in PA, until recently.

    With this history in mind, it should come as no surprise that PA is one of the seven states where Rattlesnake Roundups are still legal. Among the states where roundups are legal (TX, OK, NM, KS, AL, GA, and PA), Pennsylvania has always been one of the most notorious. PA is home to no less than nine or ten roundups per year, despite the fact that PA’s rattlesnakes are a candidate-threatened species (Crotalus horridus) and an endangered species (Sitrurus c. catenatus).

    Unlike the relatively resilient Western Diamondback collected for most Southwestern roundups, the candidate-threatened Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) collected in PA is quite vulnerable. It is listed as Endangered, Threatened, or otherwise protected in several states, including NJ, NY, VT, NH, CT, MA, IN, OH, IL, WS, MN, and of course PA. Adults only reach sexual maturity after 8-10 years, and only reproduce once every 3-5 years. Research shows Timbers may abandon den sites which have been molested. Survival rates are well under 25% for snakes released outside of their small 1-2 mile home range. During roundups, dens are commonly disturbed or destroyed and snakes that aren’t killed or kept are often released outside their home range. After decades of roundups, these actions have taken their toll. A several-year study by state biologists has shown 71% of Pennsylvania’s South Mountain Timber Rattlesnake population has already gone the way of the buffalo.

    The PA Fish and Boat Commission has responded by recently proposing new herp regulations. The new regs, if passed, would take existing protection for state herps and turn it up a notch. While several species will receive an extra dose of protection under the new rules, Timber Rattlesnakes will perhaps be receiving a couple doses.

    Under current regulations, a $5 permit allows roundup participants to take up to two Timber Rattlesnakes per year for a hunt, regardless of the snake’s sex or age. In fact, “heaviest rattlesnake” prizes are awarded at roundups, encouraging participants to seek out and capture gravid females from the wild. Unfortunately, gravid females spend a lot of time basking out in the open to incubate developing young, making them easy targets. Under the proposed regulations, easy targets will be a thing of the past.

    Females will be completely off-limits, and males must be a minimum of 42 inches to be taken (average adult length of a male Timber is 41 inches). The entire South Mountain Timber Rattlesnake population will be completely off-limits for roundups. Hunt permits will cost $50 instead of five, and participants will only be allowed one snake instead of two. Although roundups will still be legal under the new regulations, Timber populations may at least stand a fighting chance.


    Other changes proposed in the new regulations aim to sustain many other declining herp populations. Northern Copperheads will be given a closed season and require a collection-permit for the first time. A new permit system for Snapping Turtles will monitor their collection much more closely. Changes to Snapping Turtle regulation comes after a single Philadelphia meat vendor reportedly sold 12,000 pounds of Snapper meat per year. Additionally, every "unprotected" herp in the state would be given extra protection with possession limits being dropped from two to one for unprotected species. Several declining species, like the Eastern Box Turtle, will no longer be legal to collect at all. This comes after wildlife groups like the Sierra Club have urged PFBC to ban collection of the Eastern Box Turtle and other turtles from the wild (see House Bill 1908).


    These proposed regs are quickly becoming a popular discussion topic, and PFBC is interested in your thoughts on the subject. The proposed regulations are currently up for public comment for sixty days, from October 15th through December 15th. Below are links to the PFBC website where you can learn more about the proposed regs. Most importantly, you can use the last link to send your feedback/questions/concerns to PFBC.


    Page containing all of PFBC's Proposed Regulations (Herp Regs are RuleMakings 175):


    http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Fish_Boat/reg398.htm


    To view Proposed Herp Laws Directly:

    http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Fish_Boat/rulemakings/175nprp.htm


    To voice your feedback to PFBC through an online public feedback web form:

    https://www.state.pa.us/papower/cwp/view.asp?a=1093&Q=438140&PM=1
     
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