The title Miss Snake Charmer is a misnomer for the winner of this pageant, where having a murderous impulse is apt to score you more points than an altruistic demeanor. Once crowned, the title holder gets a tiara and sash, then proceeds to kill a rattlesnake by chopping of its head and then skin it. Hmm, not so charming, especially for the snake.
The pageant is part of the 53rd Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup an annual event that took place last weekend in Sweetwater, Texas, where snakes are captured by being smoked out of their dens using gasoline fumes and hooks, thrown into pits, killed by decapitation and skinned.
There is a cooking competition, where the snake meat is either baked, fried or barbequed. The snake skins are sold for boots and wallets.
The event, billed as the largest snake hunt in the world, was started fifty years ago by ranchers and farmers to control the population of western diamondback rattlesnakes. The snakes were seen as a threat to livestock and people.
The Sweetwater fire department said there were no reports of rattlesnake bites in two years.
The western diamond is a reclusive snake, but can become aggressive if threatened. The snake’s venom packs a poisonous punch and can be deadly if not treated immediately. The snakes killed in the roundup were taken from dens where they had been hibernating for the winter.
Though rattlesnakes are widely and justly feared, the snakes play a vital role in eco-systems by consuming rodents that carry life threatening diseases like the plague and the Hantavirus.
The Rattlesnake Roundup has become a lucrative event for the small Texas town, drawing up to 50,000 visitors and bringing in more than a million dollars the local economy.
Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/mherzber