Man Charged with Catching Too Many Rattlesnakes

A  man has run a foul of the law for possessing too many rattlesnakes. Apparently in West Virginia you are aloud to possess one timber rattler as long as it is over 42 inches in length. The Tucker county man had a total of 17 at his residence when wildlife offers showed up.

The West Virginia Department of Resources Police posted the following to its Facebook page.

After receiving information regarding illegal rattlesnake possession, Corporal’s Smith and Ozalas conducted a joint investigation in Tucker and Randolph Counties. The information received suggested that an individual from Tucker County was catching snakes from the National Forest and then taking them to his residence in Randolph County.

Officers met the suspect at his residence and located a total of 17 rattlesnakes being kept there. The individual was ultimately charged with two counts of illegal possession of a timber rattlesnake, and possession of a rattlesnake less than 42 inches. The snakes were taken back to dens near where they were caught.

In the State of West Virginia, the possession limit on rattlesnakes is one and it must be 42 inches or greater in length.

After receiving information regarding illegal rattlesnake possession, Corporal’s Smith and Ozalas conducted a joint…

Posted by West Virginia Natural Resources Police on Monday, August 27, 2018

The possession limit stems from legislation passed in 2014 that was put in place to curtail the pet trade. Initially biologist wanted timber rattler collection banned completely, but they ran into a bit of an obstacle — the West Virginia Constitution, which prohibits any law from impeding upon or promoting a religious practice.

Since snake-handling churches are legal within the state, regulators had to allow venomous snakes to be collected. The regulations don’t allow any special dispensations for churches, though; the same one-snake-per-person possession limit is in effect for them, too.

“We didn’t want to infringe on anyone’s religion,” Sargent said, “but we did want to stop illegal trade. We’re not out to bust churches, but if there are 10 snakes in a church, there had better be at least 10 people.”

It is not clear from the post what the man intended to use the snakes for, but it is good to know that they were returned to their natural habitat.