Originally created 01/01/00

Snake lover seeks to preserve indigenous reptile

MIDWAY, Ga. -- Tim Lane hopes diamondbacks will be forever in southeast Georgia.

The snake lover from Midway is on a mission to stop people from deliberately killing the slithering, rattling reptiles. He has a petition with about 600 names that calls for an end to rattlesnake roundups, in which hunters compete to catch the biggest rattler.

Mr. Lane hopes to get at least twice as many signatures before he presents the petition to governments in the states that hold rattlesnake roundups. Besides Georgia, they include Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas and California.

"I was expecting to get a lot more resistance because it is a rattlesnake petition," Mr. Lane said. "But it's been overwhelmingly positive."

One of Georgia's most famous roundups is in Claxton, a small southeast Georgia town also famous for its holiday fruitcakes.

The initial purpose of the roundup was to get the snakes out of populated areas. But the Claxton event -- in its 33rd year -- has turned into a major tourist attraction. Mayor Perry Lee DeLoach said the rattlesnake roundup will continue unless a state or federal law stops it.

David Strickland, president of the Evans County Wildlife Club, which organizes the event, said snakes aren't killed at the roundup. Instead, they are sold and milked for venom that's used for medical research, he said.

Mr. Lane doesn't buy that. Every year, he sees vendors in Claxton selling snake heads, snakeskin boots and rattler tails. Somebody must be killing the snakes, he said.

"It's the exploitation of wildlife, no matter what you call it," Mr. Lane said.

Mr. Lane practices what he preaches. When he comes across a rattlesnake on St. Catherines Island, where he is a maintenance worker, he bags the snake and moves it to another part of the island, far away from people.

Mr. Lane got hooked on snakes in the first grade, when his teacher brought a hog-nosed snake to class. Now he keeps about 40 snakes -- none poisonous -- in a 20-by-20-foot cinderblock building in his back yard.

He takes care of pythons, boa constrictors and other creeping animals, such as lizards, newts and an Australian blue-tongue skink.

Robert Lessnau, an adjunct professor at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, invites Mr. Lane to bring his snakes to biology classes at the college.

"He gives the animal all the respect it deserves," said Mr. Lessnau.

Mr. Lane said he always keeps his snakes locked up and well-fed. That's the only way his wife will let him indulge his hobby.

"My wife is not into them, but she respects what I'm trying to do," Mr. Lane said. "And my two kids, they love snakes."


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