January 31, 1997 in Nation/World

State Snake Bill Rattles North Idaho Legislator No Diamondbacks In Panhandle

Matt Pember Staff writer
 

Don’t tread on me.

That was the warning Rep. Jim Clark rattled at a proposal to make the Western rattlesnake Idaho’s official state reptile.

The idea slithered its way into legislation on Thursday, courtesy of fourth-graders at Summerwind Elementary School. Students there had noticed Idaho lacks an official state reptile.

The children felt that the rattler is a good symbol for Idaho and convinced Rep. Max Black, R-Boise, to set their plan into action.

Clark, a Hayden Republican, stuck his tongue out at the proposal, saying it’ll only serve to widen the gap between northern and southern Idaho. Rattlesnakes don’t live in North Idaho, he noted.

Although the idea seemed like a diamondback in the rough, it was approved for introduction by only a 6-4 vote.

“Are you aware of the fact that this snake does not travel north of the Salmon River?” hissed Clark. “We’re back again to the division of the state of Idaho, this time by reptiles.”

Black pointed out that the state bird, the mountain bluebird, and the state tree, the Western white pine, are found only in North Idaho and the state fossil, the Hagerman horse, is unique to Hagerman.

But Clark rattled off more objections, saying that the snake should be called the official state snake of Ada County.

“If there is anyone from North Idaho who votes for this, you are now a liberal pinko,” said Clark.

The six fourth-graders observing the proceedings recoiled at Clark’s unexpected strike.

Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, also was ready to spring, saying that in her home state of Oklahoma, rattlesnakes had to be rounded up and killed because they were so prolific and dangerous. The only good thing about them was that they tasted like chicken.

But the legislators’ venom didn’t poison the children’s enthusiasm for their project. When asked why he thought the Western rattlesnake should be the state reptile, 10-year-old Ben Helton said, “It represents the courage and bravery of Idaho citizens.”

, DataTimes

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