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Snakes are often viewed with fear and disdain, and people sometimes find it hard to relate to them. In some rattlesnakes, the mothers will come together in the latter parts of their pregnancies and gestate together. And then they'll give birth at the same spot and they'll help take care of each other's babies. But each year, rattlesnake families are torn apart when people capture thousands of animals to slaughter them at roundup festivals in Texas, Oklahoma and other U.

They capture them by dumping gasoline into their dens, which makes it impossible for snake families to breathe underground. The roundups started 50 or 60 years ago to keep rattlesnake populations down and protect livestock, although Amarello argues that these killings are unnecessary. There's no science to suggest that there are too many rattlesnakes, or that we need roundups to control them. The real purpose of the rattlesnake roundups appears to be financial gain, according to Amarello, as each event brings in a large flow of tourists. The event in Sweetwater, Texas, which is the largest rattlesnake roundup in the country, attracts about 30, people.

There's a flea market. There's a gun show. And then there's the area that's focused around the snakes. After spending weeks - if not months - in boxes without food or water, the rattlesnakes arrive at the festival weak, hungry and dehydrated. While every rattlesnake roundup works a little differently, Amarello explained that the snakes tend to be moved through different stations.

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The first station is the processing area, where snakes are measured and weighed, Amarello said. After their initial weigh-in, the snakes are tossed into a communal pit. It's here that the snakes really start rattling their tails. It means they're scared. But it's not just their rattles that give away their fears - it's also the smell, according to Amarello. For me, that was even more upsetting than seeing them killed, because I know that smell means that they're scared, and they're trying to tell others that there's something frightening going on, and something dangerous. It was overwhelmingly strong.

From the holding pit, some snakes are briefly taken into an educational area, although Amarello refutes the educational value of what's done there. They were doing things at Sweetwater like poking the snakes with sticks until the snakes were so stressed out that they hide their head beneath their coils.

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  • And when they're in that position, they like to pick them up with their bare hands to show people like, 'Look, they can be very docile. After that, the snakes are taken to the venom milking area, where people force snakes to spit out their venom, which they collect in vessels. According to Amarello, the roundup organizers claim that this is necessary for antivenom research.

    How Do You Kill A Snake

    Yet some research companies refuse to take venom from roundups on the grounds that the events are harmful to snakes. Then the snakes arrive at their final destination - the killing pit. The killing method is decapitation, but this doesn't instantly kill them, according to Amarello.

    And when you're there, you can see this - the mouth is still gasping for breath, the body is still writhing around. This means that killing snakes is in fact legal on most urban properties but may be illegal in the outer areas of some rural properties. Mr Parkin agreed, saying any potential charges could easily be dropped if a person could prove they were in danger. But even if prosecutions are rare, Ms Donne said the threat to a person's safety should be the greatest deterrent. First posted January 09, More stories from Northern Territory. If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC.

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    You've just been bitten by a snake — what you do next could save your life. We asked what you do when you come across a snake. Read the comments below. What to do with an uninvited snake Get in touch with a snake catcher. In Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine the callout number is Keep an eye on the snake and monitor it from a distance Don't try to handle or kill the snake Make noise to deter it.

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