I’m starting with some great news, and some lousy news. That’s how it goes in the battle for the environment. Great news first: The Goat Islands in Jamaica are saved!
When the battle for Goat Islands was hot I saw this beautiful portrait of the Jamaican iguana and burst into tears. Oh, please don’t let it happen. I see myself in that lizard and if he and his kind die, part of me dies. I couldn’t do anything to save him, couldn’t make people care about a lizard. I was helpless and the despair made me want to hide and not have to watch the tragedy. But the iguanas and Goat Islands are safe for now.
Here’s a photo of Emo and me. Emo is a rhinoceros iguana, in the same genus as the Jamaican iguana:
The lousy, angry-making news is, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department failed to pass a ban on using gasoline to flush rattlesnakes out of their dens for the horrific rattlesnake roundups. Here’s the Center for Biodiversity’s film about why we shouldn’t gas rattlesnake dens.
I heard about rattlesnake roundups in the 80s, and I still carry images of what happens to the snakes. And here’s a bit from an essay I was working on:
…The first time I met a rattlesnake in the wild he was in a coil by a path, his pattern blending in with the rocks and sand. I stood just a few feet away, holding onto my excitement. Being so close to a live rattlesnake heightened my senses –I wanted to know about him and didn’t want to miss a thing. I saw his breath, saw his body move slightly with intake of air. I watched for his tongue to flick out to see if he was awake and after a moment, it did, cautiously tasting the air. Of course he was awake, with a giant like me thundering up the path, he was keeping still, trying not to be seen. I saw his cat’s eye pupil move. He didn’t rattle and I didn’t want to make him by frightening him, so I kept still too, taking in his angular head and keeled scales that would surely feel like the worn wooden handle of a garden tool, warm and dry in my hand. Time slowed and there was only the snake and me and I felt like I could really breathe and be just plain happy.
After a while I started up the path, trying to understand why people feared and hated rattlesnakes. Certainly people got bitten, certainly the venom could cause pain and tissue damage, but death from rattlesnake bite was rare.
If I’d tried to catch the rattlesnake, he’d have rattled, then struck if I didn’t back off. More likely, he’d have uncoiled and fled into the bush. I imagined the snake sunning himself on a porch step, and a child coming out of the house and trying to pick him up. The child would be bitten and rushed to the hospital, and the snake hacked to death. This is the story that becomes headline news…
Rise Against Rattlesnake Roundups is 3,453 members strong and growing.