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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement

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Offline SA Bill

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2007, 08:58:30 PM »
Daryl wrote:
Quote
The scariest part for me is that stopping to photograph (or even just look at) an animal could be probable cause for a search and (at least according to the account of what the ranger stated) confiscation of photographic equipment.


I guess this is what makes me worry about this whole affair...Say I stop to photograph an animal if the occasion arrises. No stalking...no harrasment...no goading into baring fangs...etc.  If a Ranger decides that my actions, no matter that I feel that I am not doing any harm to the animal, are indeed harming the animal...they can arrbitrarily confiscate my camera. What if I were to stop with a sketch pad and do the same thing? Would I be treated differently? If the Ranger in the above scenario asks to search my vehicle and I refuse, what happens? Too many gray areas...maybe I'll just quit taking pictures of animals.....not!
  Bill

P.S. What's up with the pages jumping up and down a couple of lines at a time? Or is it just me??
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Offline Daryl

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #16 on: June 25, 2007, 09:41:27 PM »
Quote from: "SA Bill"
I guess this is what makes me worry about this whole affair...Say I stop to photograph an animal if the occasion arrises. No stalking...no harrasment...no goading into baring fangs...etc.  If a Ranger decides that my actions, no matter that I feel that I am not doing any harm to the animal, are indeed harming the animal...they can arrbitrarily confiscate my camera. What if I were to stop with a sketch pad and do the same thing? Would I be treated differently? If the Ranger in the above scenario asks to search my vehicle and I refuse, what happens? Too many gray areas...maybe I'll just quit taking pictures of animals.....not!
I wouldn't suggest that anyone stop observing or photographing wildlife.  I just wanted to post this info so folks would be cautious about even coming close to crossing the line into harassing them (especially snakes).  I really do believe the rangers in BBNP are typically fair and reasonable.

Some of them just have a REAL high prejudice against herpers (folks interested in reptiles and amphibians).  This harsh attitude toward people interested in reptiles and amphibians (particularly snakes) goes WAY back.  Ask around on the various field herping websites and you will see that herpers regularly observe and photograph snakes in almost all other national parks but many choose not to even VISIT BBNP because of the harsh treatment herpers have received there.

I understand that poaching is a serious issue, but unfair profiling is also serious.  Many field herpers (myself included) only photograph and NEVER capture snakes.  I’d love to cruise the roads in BBNP and photograph the creepy crawlers, but I’m not welcome, so I stay out.
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Offline SA Bill

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #17 on: June 25, 2007, 09:52:31 PM »
Understood Daryl.

Why are the BB Rangers so up tight about herpetologists? Bad experiences in the past? Just curious because I too feel that the BB Rangers are pretty much okay, at least in my experiences with them.

It's too bad that they have made a group of hobbyists feel uncomfortable about even visiting the park. I hope they never decide to make amature astronomers feel uncomfortable in the park!
  Bill
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Offline Daryl

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #18 on: June 25, 2007, 11:01:28 PM »
Quote from: "SA Bill"
Understood Daryl.

Why are the BB Rangers so up tight about herpetologists? Bad experiences in the past?

Yep, there have been some bad experiences.  Add to that, some negative stereotyping and entrapment.  Eventually, things just spiraled downhill so that about the only herpers that DO visit the park are those that ARE likely to poach.

West Texas has some AMAZING snakes and much of the best habitat is in the park.  As would be expected, some less than ethical herpers have decided to play the odds and poach some snakes.  This was more common in the past.  Like most eco-centric hobbies, herping has evolved tremendously to where many herpers JUST collect photos and NOT specimens.  Also, those that DO collect specimens (usually for pets or captive breeding programs) OVERWHELMINGLY detest any commercial trade in ANY wild caught animals.

Once the poaching was noticed, BBNP rightfully decided to crack down on it.  Problem was, they cast too broad of a net.  The crap really hit the fan back in 1994 when NPS instigated "Operation Rock Cut” and set out fake snakes and other entrapment schemes to catch snake poachers.  My info on that operation is all second hand and all from herpers, but according to my sources several months of sting operations netted ONE conviction of a poacher and judicial slap in the face to NPS for their tactics.  If you read between the lines in BBNP webpage on the topic, you can see they are still hurting from the humiliation.  They choose their words carefully, but try leave the impression that 200 snakes a night are being poached from BBNP.  I can tell you now that even if 50 herpers a night were cruising BBNP it would be difficult to catch that number of snakes.  Spotting four snake with any market value in a night is a VERY good night anywhere in West Texas.

Ever since then (and to some extent before) herpers have known they have a bulls eye on their back when in the park.  The few poaching herpers that are out there haven’t changed their behavior in the slightest.  They were sneaky slime bags before and they still are.  Non-poaching herpers have responded in a variety of ways, most of which only make the problem worse.
    --Some avoid the park altogether.  This leaves a smaller number of herpers in the park, but since the poachers never left, a higher proportion herpers that remain are the poachers.
    --Some go to the park to observe and photograph (legally) but lie to the rangers when questioned.  Many are even belligerent and antagonistic.  This is stupid on their part, but they do it to avoid (or in response to) being harassed and falsely labeled as poachers.  Of course, the rangers see right through the lies and become even more suspicious and resentful of herpers.
    --Some go to the park to observe and photograph and when questioned tell the rangers exactly what they are doing.  Often, these honest, non-poaching herpers are then treated badly or worse.  Of course the rangers aren’t entirely at fault here.  They are assuming that the honest herpers might be lying because they have dealt with plenty of dishonest (but non-poaching) herpers in the past.
    --Some go to the park and stop at the visitor center to let park staff know that they plan to observe and photograph herps.  This is of course the best plan.  However, the responses vary from “you can’t do that here”, to “we will be watching you closely”, to “good luck and have fun”.  I’ve even heard numerous reports of herpers that were told to “have fun” that were later targeted for “special attention” from rangers who treated them like they were absolute scum.

At this point, I have no idea how to solve this problem.  I simply advise everyone I know to be VERY careful if observing or photographing snakes.  Unfortunately, being careful is often construed as trying to hide something.

Lately, being in BBNP makes me feel like a Muslim on an airplane.  I know I have nothing to hide, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being watched and labeled.

It should be noted that there are also many examples of VERY positive interactions between herpers and park staff, including park rangers.
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Offline RichardM

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2007, 09:10:19 AM »
Any way of finding out why the original thread on the kingsnake.com forum was removed?  Perhaps there's more to the story than the original poster led on?  It sure would be nice to hear the other side of the story....

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Offline Daryl

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #20 on: June 26, 2007, 10:39:57 AM »
Quote from: "RichardM"
Any way of finding out why the original thread on the kingsnake.com forum was removed?  Perhaps there's more to the story than the original poster led on?  It sure would be nice to hear the other side of the story....
Good questions.  I just posted a query on a private forum that has many of the same members.  Hopefully, I'll get a response.

Since there was no profanity, advertising or personal attacks (the usual reasons for removal), I see two possibilities:
1) KS determined that there was something fishy about the thread and deleted (doubtful since as I stated before, the posted was very tempered in his comments and seemed determined NOT to let anyone blow it out of proportion.)
2) The original poster requested that it be deleted for legal reasons.  Since this is an open case that he may be challenging, he or his lawyer may have decided to take a retroactive "no comment" approach.  I had them remove one of my threads previously for very similar reasons.

Like you, I'd like to hear the "other side".  I was actually hoping the ranger or someone familiar with his version would post here.  IF the story from the "accused" is inaccurate or embellished in anyway, I would prefer to see it challenged or debunked as soon as possible.  Until that happens, I feel it is highly credible.
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Offline Casa Grande

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #21 on: June 26, 2007, 12:19:42 PM »
Let's be real here.  

The guy was ticketed and searched because he had equipment in plain sight in his car that is not allowed in the park without a permit. And for good reason.  The officials in the park have no way of knowing whether the wild animals in his (or others) possession have come from in or out of the park.  The equipment that was exposed in his vehicle was a red flag.  The animals found in his possession were a red flag.  Perhaps, if there were no animals in the vehicle, the ranger may have let him go with a warning.  

The same is true if you have a sotol stick in your vehicle. The officials don't know if you've taken it from the park or not.  If it's been varnished and has a cheesy looking "big bend" cane medallion on it, I suppose it would be obvious you didn't poach it.  Beware, if you have a "raw" sotol stick your car and a ranger sees it, it will likely be confiscated.  

This is all necessary, in my opinion to protect the park.  It seems obvious to me.  And, further, let's not go off the deep end here and start accusing our underpaid rangers of confiscating tourists cameras when they see a snake on the road or bear in the basin.  Gimme a break.

Further, Daryl, I think your title: Caution: DO NOT observe the wildlife -It may be illegal is an exaggeration of the facts that you presented and is only intended to fan the flames.

PS-Bill, the "jumping" you describe is from the BIBE news feed on the top of the page. When Eric puts a very long description in his feed, it jumps down to the second line. I'm working on correcting this issue (all be it half-assed).

PSS---Let it be known to all here:  IT IS THE POLICY OF THIS BOARD SINCE THE BEGINNING TO ALLOW THE FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ABOUT BIBE.  RICHARD, THE MODERATOR, AND I NEVER DELETE OR ALTER ANYONE'S POST BECAUSE WE DON'T LIKE THEIR OPINION OR THINK IT TO BE TOO CONTROVERSIAL.  THE ONLY EXCEPTION IS WHEN PERSONAL ATTACKS HAVE BEEN MADE PUBLIC ON A PERSON'S CHARACTER.  IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE FOR THE RANGER IN QUESTION OR A REPRESENTATIVE OF TO POST ENTIRELY ANONYMOUSLY REGARDING THIS THREAD.  THIS POLICY IS TO MAINTAIN THE LEGITIMACY AND INTEGRITY OF THE BOARD.

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Offline RichardM

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #22 on: June 26, 2007, 12:59:16 PM »
Quote from: "Casa Grande"
IT IS THE POLICY OF THIS BOARD SINCE THE BEGINNING TO ALLOW THE FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION ABOUT BIBE.  RICHARD, THE MODERATOR, AND I NEVER DELETE OR ALTER ANYONE'S POST BECAUSE WE DON'T LIKE THEIR OPINION OR THINK IT TO BE TOO CONTROVERSIAL.  THE ONLY EXCEPTION IS WHEN PERSONAL ATTACKS HAVE BEEN MADE PUBLIC ON A PERSON'S CHARACTER.  IT IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE FOR THE RANGER IN QUESTION OR A REPRESENTATIVE OF TO POST ENTIRELY ANONYMOUSLY REGARDING THIS THREAD.  THIS POLICY IS TO MAINTAIN THE LEGITIMACY AND INTEGRITY OF THE BOARD.

Well, I have been known to change the title of a controversial thread to better reflect the content.  I might even do it for this thread if I think of a better one.  :wink:  However, other than correcting link/img errors or fixing quote attributions, or even the occasional typo, I don't modify posts.  I do delete those annoying double posts that the server seems to generate every now and then.

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Offline Daryl

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #23 on: June 26, 2007, 01:01:45 PM »
Quote from: "Casa Grande"
Further, Daryl, I think your title: Caution: DO NOT observe the wildlife -It may be illegal is an exaggeration of the facts that you presented and is only intended to fan the flames.
You are probably right!  I was very upset at the time and may have gone a bit overboard in the title.

However, I've tried NOT to exaggerate anything in the text of my posts.  As you may have noticed, I have repeatedly acknowledged that this is only one side of the story and that my sources are all herpers that certainly have a dog in this fight.  I even took great pains to point out that herpers (both the few poaching and the many non-poaching) have contributed greatly to this conflict.

Regarding the animals and hook in his possession:   According to the account of the accused, he provided documentation (that the rangers acknowledged as legit) that the animals were from outside the park.  I (and the accused) also fully acknowledged that the hook was a violation.  I was just surprised by that fact as I have NEVER thought twice about having my hook in my vehicle while in the park (in my hand would be a FAR different story).

IMHO a strong warning about the hook and a suggestion to leave non-park specimens outside the park in the future would have been the most appropriate response.  The ticket for and confiscation of the hook is understandable.  The ticket for and confiscation of the CLEARLY documented LEGAL specimens is NOT acceptable.  The threat (if it occurred) of confiscating camera gear (I've heard of this threat being made to other herpers also) is NOT acceptable.  The confiscation of the scientific permit is NOT acceptable (unless he tried to use it as an excuse for collecting IN the park where it was not valid- according to HIS account, this was not the case).

I'm still hoping for a post (anonymous or not) from someone recounting the ranger’s version of events.  Until I see such a post, I will assume the ranger does not disagree with the version put forth by the accused.

I’m also holding my breath for BBNP to pull the “200 snakes a day” lie down from their official website.  That figure has long since been discredited but is still being used as justification for profiling anyone with an interest in reptiles.
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Offline Daryl

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #24 on: June 26, 2007, 01:08:06 PM »
Quote from: "RichardM"
Well, I have been known to change the title of a controversial thread to better reflect the content.  I might even do it for this thread if I think of a better one.  :wink:

As the author of that title, I'd suggest changing it to, "Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement in BBNP"
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Offline RichardM

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #25 on: June 26, 2007, 02:16:35 PM »
Quote from: "Daryl"
I'm still hoping for a post (anonymous or not) from someone recounting the ranger’s version of events.  Until I see such a post, I will assume the ranger does not disagree with the version put forth by the accused.

That implies that the ranger in question is aware of this discussion, which may or may not be the case.  Even if aware, he may not feel he is able to comment or may not even feel the need to join the argument, which is his right.  Either way, that doesn't confirm the other viewpoint as being valid or completely true.
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Quote from: "Daryl"
I’m also holding my breath for BBNP to pull the “200 snakes a day” lie down from their official website.  That figure has long since been discredited but is still being used as justification for profiling anyone with an interest in reptiles.
Quote from: "[url
http://www.nps.gov/bibe/naturescience/poaching.htm[/url]"]Operation "Rockcut" ... reported that on some nights possibly as many as 200 snakes were leaving the National Park. Whether or not this is the truth we may never know, many of the charges were dropped and the case has become somewhat of a misunderstood and little talked about issue.

As I understand the above paragraph, they're not claiming that the "200 snakes a day" is or was ever accurate.  No lie there that I can see.  They are merely stating that the operation once made that claim.  I agree that 200 snakes a day is extremely far-fetched, but they are not stating that as a fact.

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Offline Daryl

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #26 on: June 26, 2007, 02:26:41 PM »
Quote from: "RichardM"
As I understand the above paragraph, they're not claiming that the "200 snakes a day" is or was ever accurate.  No lie there that I can see.  They are merely stating that the operation once made that claim.  I agree that 200 snakes a day is extremely far-fetched, but they are not stating that as a fact.
Once again, I should have been more careful with my words. :oops:

I did not mean to imply that the posting that figure was a lie.  My position is that the figure itself is a lie and should never again be quoted as anything other than a demonstrably gross exaggeration.
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Offline SA Bill

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #27 on: June 26, 2007, 06:42:24 PM »
Thanks David...for the "jumping" explanation. I thought that might be it but I didn't sit and watch it long enough to verify. A fix, no matter how half-baked, would be welcome! I thought it was the cheap wine making my eyes crazy.
  Bill
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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #28 on: June 26, 2007, 08:21:08 PM »
I think I am with the rangers on this one.  The guy was a snake collector with snake collecting equipment and dead specimens in his car and was circling around to look at a snake in the road.   Even if he was not intending to poach snakes it certainly looks very suspicous to me and sometimes temptation gets the better of even honest herpers when they see a rare or valuable snake.   He may have had a valid "state" permit to collect snakes and just "happened" to have come into the Park with all his equipment at the ready but it sounds like an amazing amount of coincidence to me.    Kind of like a hunter who just happens to have a loaded gun and spotlight in the Park as he just happens to be passing through in the middle of the night and just happens to stop near some wildlife... TWWG

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Offline Daryl

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Caution: Snake Watchers MAY be Targets of Strict Enforcement
« Reply #29 on: June 27, 2007, 12:44:32 AM »
Quote from: "TheWildWestGuy"
I think I am with the rangers on this one.  The guy was a snake collector with snake collecting equipment and dead specimens in his car and was circling around to look at a snake in the road.   Even if he was not intending to poach snakes it certainly looks very suspicous to me and sometimes temptation gets the better of even honest herpers when they see a rare or valuable snake.   He may have had a valid "state" permit to collect snakes and just "happened" to have come into the Park with all his equipment at the ready but it sounds like an amazing amount of coincidence to me.    Kind of like a hunter who just happens to have a loaded gun and spotlight in the Park as he just happens to be passing through in the middle of the night and just happens to stop near some wildlife... TWWG
Thanks for posting.  You’ve made my point quite nicely.

This is EXACTLY the type of stereotyping and prejudice that herpers like me have to deal with in BBNP.  It makes me sick that I can’t visit the BBNP and observe or photograph my favorite type of wildlife without becoming a suspect.  Do you REALLY think I can’t be trusted just because I like snakes?

I’d bet that 10x as many plants and 100x as many rocks are removed from BBNP as snakes, yet people stopping and looking at cactus or rocks don’t get interrogated or searched unless they actually start digging or putting rocks in their pockets.

How many of you have backpacked with a poop shovel?   How many of you have had a ranger asked you if you plan to use it to dig cactus?  How many of you have had your poop shovel confiscated?  How many rare or valuable cacti do you see when hiking?  If plant lovers are trusted not to steal cacti and rocks (despite the fact that some do steal them) then why can’t snake lovers be trusted not to steal a snake?

Besides, there really aren’t any truly valuable snakes in BBNP.  Thanks to LEGAL field herping and successful captive breeding, the market price on Gray-Banded Kings (the main interest of west Texas herpers) has dropped and ranges from $25 to $250 depending on locality, breeding history, appearance, and reputation of the seller.  Any snake from inside BBNP is worth less than ? of one from outside the park because the locality can’t be disclosed by the seller and there is obviously no breeding history.  Also, if a poacher tries to pass off a BBNP snake as being from some other location, the dedicated Alterna (Gray-Band) nuts will usually know something is wrong and that seller loses all credibility.

If I wanted to exploit the park's resources, I could EASILY dig up $500 of cactus in an afternoon.  To locate $500 worth of snakes would likely take me all spring and about $1000 in gas.  Herpers come to west Texas for the sport of finding herps.  Catching them is secondary.  Many (like me) prefer just to photograph them.  If someone just want to own a snake, it is FAR cheaper to buy one than to catch one.
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