One of the most persistent has been the stories of mysterious stockings of timber rattlesnake stockings in East Texas.
The story goes something like this.
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?
Well, rattlesnakes have technically been “released” into certain areas in the Pineywoods. However, scientists did not breed them in captivity and they are not part of some secret restoration effort.
These “released” rattlesnakes are simply ones that were captured as part of a radio-telemetry study conducted by officials with the U.S. Forest Service. Timber rattlesnake were captured in the wild, fitted with radio transmitters and released back into the wild so researchers could track their movements.
There never has been a timber rattlesnake stocking program in Texas or anywhere else for that matter.
According to TPWD endangered species specialist, Ricky Maxey, the rumors have been floating around since the 1990s.
“I used to work in the Big Thicket area out of Beaumont and we used to get questions about rattlesnake stockings frequently. And it seems the rumors are still pretty rampant,” Maxey said.
“Someone could have seen Forest Service officials capturing the snakes or releasing the ones fitted with transmitters and the rumor could have started there. Then again, it could be the case of a true story getting less and less truthful as it’s told,” he said.
If these stories persist in my neck of the woods, how many others are floating around the country and even the world that have no bearing on reality?
Maybe we’ll have to research some and bring the true story to light. After all I love solving mysteries.
That’s what I get for watching Scooby Doo every Saturday as a kid.
Chester Moore, Jr.