In 2009 the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board banned the “gassing,” or introduction of gasoline and other noxious or gaseous substances into wildlife burrows. This specifically targets the practice of “gassing” gopher tortoise burrows to flush out and capture eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, a common practice used by some snake hunters. The maximum violation for gassing wildlife burrows is $500 and possibly up to 3 months in jail.
This regulation allows for the arrest of anyone for “gassing,” or “attempting to take,” which means possessing the equipment in the field such as a hose, gas, and other snake catching equipment.
The gopher tortoise is a state-protected species and is currently federally listed as a threatened species in three Alabama counties: Mobile, Washington, and Choctaw. Over 300 species of wildlife have been documented using gopher tortoise burrows for refuge and dens. Scientific studies have shown that the introduction of gas into a gopher tortoise burrow often results in the death of many of these species, sometimes up to two or three months later.
A number of these species are species of great conservation concern, such as the Eastern indigo snake and black pine snake. Death of a federal or state-protected species only adds to the tragic consequences of this ecologically unsound practice. “Gassing” has also been banned in other states including Florida and Georgia. The gassing ban will hopefully help to bolster the population of the gopher tortoise and other threatened wildlife species.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.