CURWOOD: Most people go out of their way to avoid rattlesnakes. But gather a couple hundred of the poisonous vipers together, throw in a contest or two, a flea market, a unique photo-op, and people will come. At the end of each April the annual Rattlesnake Derby in Mangum, Oklahoma, draws thousands of spectators to demonstrations on everything from snake handling to snake meat recipes. But tours provide the uninitiated with an up-close look at rattlesnake catching, and registered snake hunters also venture through local farms with four-foot metal tongs poised to grab and bag native rattlers. Cash prizes go to the largest snake, the most pounds of snakes, and the greatest number of snakes. And the winning serpents get their picture taken with the reigning derby princess. Rattlesnake round-ups are common across the rural South, but some rattlers aren't as common as they used to be. One viper, the Mexican ridge-nosed rattlesnake, is listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And although they're not officially listed, the timber rattlesnake and the Massasauga swamp rattler are each considered endangered in some states. So, with numbers dwindling, a snake in the grass may be worth more than two in the bag. And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
(Music up and under, with rattling; fade to chirps up and under)
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