The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 24, 2008

Snakes alive! An honor for the timber rattler?

CHARLESTON — Hunters dread them, but some religious sects in isolated pockets of West Virginia are known to handle the poisonous reptiles in worship services.

To three members of the state Senate, however, the lowly timber rattler is deserving of some official recognition.

In a Senate resolution offered Wednesday, the timber rattlesnake would fall into a special honor as West Virginia’s official reptile, standing fang and tail above the blacksnake, garter and copperhead.

“Some people think politicians are snakes,” Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, quipped after he and Sens. Shirley Love, D-Fayette and John Pat Fanning, D-McDowell, had their resolution read on the list of fresh proposals.

Barnes got the idea from a fifth-grade class at Romney Elementary School seeking to distinguish the timber rattler from its cousins in the woodlands of West Virginia.

And if adopted, the resolution won’t forbid anyone from killing the rattler, since it wouldn’t become a protected species.

“I guess every state has to have a reptile,” Love said, emphasizing he signed on out of friendship with Barnes.

“I would step on all of their heads, and told Clark as much. I would do something drastic and blow their heads off.”

Why not the copperhead?

“Well,” Love reflected, “philosophically, it just doesn’t sound as good as the rattler. Timber rattler has a little more strength to it. I never want to see one when I’m hunting in the woods.”

Barnes acknowledged he had been known to dispatch a rattler now and then to another place when he happened on the reptile in the forest.

A year ago, a similar move in the House was defanged in committee.

When read, the resolution stirred Love to make some hissing sounds to simulate a rattler.

“I think we need to honor the timber rattler,” Barnes said.

“After all, we don’t have an official reptile and this is the one the fifth-grade class in Romney wanted.”

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