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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Snakes Got Teats? Milking Rattlers at the 47th Annual Rattlesnake Roundup

Although it started as a chilly morning, the air in Whigham, Georgia wafted with the aroma of blooming onions, funnel cakes and fried rattlesnake. Yup. Today was the 47th Annual Rattlesnake Roundup. The perfect place to pick up the stars and bars, enter a raffle to win a shotgun and eat something which doesn't taste like chicken (I'm told rattlesnake tastes more like fish).

Rattlesnake hunters came to spook up these venomous critters to be milked (extract the venom). Rattlesnake expert Ken Darnell, who's with Bioactive Laboratories (I swear he said from Alabama but somewhere I saw Tallahassee) has the pleasure of milking these bad boys. He told the group he'd be "milking snakes like mad" this afternoon.

In a ring laced with fences, clear boxes form a half-moon and hold the snakes brought in by the hunters who wore tan camouflage. (I didn't realize camouflage fools snakes; I thought snakes used smell to "see.").

Prior to milking, Darnell gave a brief talk about rattlesnakes - stating they're afraid of humans and demonstrated by standing next to one. As he got closer to her (he confirmed it was a she) she leaped to strike, but not by much. He also explained the benefits of rattlesnake venom stating it's used in the Type II (adult onset) diabetes medication Byetta and other drugs used to thin blood and treat high blood pressure.

He then picked up a timber rattlesnake from one of the boxes. I was standing about 20 feet away and could hear the hum of the pissed off rattlers. He brought a snake around for people to touch. Darnell held the snake's head with a firm grip and every so often it would flip it's tail.

The venom extracted during the Rattlesnake Roundup will be used for research. It's kept on ice until it can be kept cooled with dry ice then once it reaches the laboratory, will be freeze dried into a powder.

Whigham's Rattlesnake Roundup only happens once a year, the third Saturday each January. The event is located at the Rattlesnake Roundup Grounds on US 84. Flipping through the program booklet (which includes information about rattlers, list of last year's winners from the hunting and tips on what to do if one is bit by a rattler), it had ads promoting two more events I need to mark in my calender: Calvary, Georgia's Mule Day, the first Saturday in November and Climax, Georgia's "Swine Time" the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

Despite all the "education" about rattlesnakes during the event, I heard one woman state, "They still ain't no good unless they're dead." And plenty of dead rattlesnake merchandise was available for purchase, too.

View a video of the milking here.

4 Comment(s):

Paula+ Keith said...

I really have no idea what this means - but I had a dream I was bit by a rattlesnake last night. Pretty scary, I have to admit. I often worry about rattlers here in the desert (and for good reason, I suspect)

jhuber7672 said...

Hey Paula! I hope you have more pleasant dreams tonight. I used to worry about rattlers out West, too. I had a run in with one here in Florida and don't wish to do it again.

Matthew said...

I think I'll pass on seeing rattle snakes getting milked. I'm sure I get enough venom in my drinks in China.

jhuber7672 said...

Critic - I don't even want to know what you're drinking (or eating) in China!