Re: “Reptile Hunters Rattled Over Ban on 'Texas Tradition,'
” July 27 [News]: In fact Rep. Harvey Hildebran and Mr. Todd Kercheval were not being up-front about what was in House Bill 12. I personally spoke to many representatives who were not aware of the riders within HB 12 and were very concerned with Hilderbran and Kercheval's actions.
Kercheval goes on to say that "snakes are the biggest problem,” but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department can't tell you how many snakes are coming out of the wild because the data that they collect is commercial data that reflects both captive-bred and wild-caught animals.
The most alarming numbers within the commercial data were 84,000-plus rattlesnakes for roundups and 300,000-plus turtles for the Asian food market. According to those sources, 99% of those animals are harvested from private property, and this law will do nothing to address this travesty.
Hilderbran's legislation unfairly discriminates against herpetologists who have no public land available to them. Look at California, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is legal to collect reptiles and amphibians on the road surface in each of those states, as well as large parcels of state and federally owned land. TP&WD allows hunting of game birds and game animals on Wildlife Management Areas but will not allow collecting of reptiles and amphibians across the board on those lands and offers no other alternatives.
We support any legislation that protects reptiles and amphibians if it is backed by data that illustrates a clear need for said legislation. We do not support rattlesnake roundups, nor do we support the massive exportation of turtles for the Asian food market. This legislation doesn't begin to address those real problems.
We want to be recognized as a legitimate segment of Texas sportsmen. We would like TP&WD to hire more herpetologists and devote more time, energy, and resources for nongame species. We'd like tighter restrictions on commercial take while finding a middle ground for hobbyist collectors with an allowance for selling captive born babies. Finally, we'd like to be involved in drafting regulations that work for everyone, most importantly the reptiles and amphibians.
Hopefully Mr. Whittaker's article will bring light to these glaring inefficiencies within TP&WD, Rep. Hilderbran, and Mr. Kercheval's legislation.
Joseph E. Forks
Herp Conservation Unlimited