Arrow-right Camera
News >  Idaho

Rattlesnake skins slither onto market

Harvesting of roadkill for hide being considered

BOISE – Thanks to concerns from Idaho state legislators, Idahoans now may legally sell up to six rattlesnake skins a year, and the state’s Fish and Game Department is looking into whether to allow Idaho hunters to salvage some road-killed animals.

“I’m all for it,” said Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, who last year caused a stir when he proposed legislation to let folks with hunting licenses harvest pelts from bobcats and the like that are found dead on the state’s roads.

The state Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to oppose Harwood’s bill, and he pulled it before it could be debated; but now the commission is examining whether its rules could be adjusted to allow for some salvage.

“I just hate to see that stuff go to waste,” Harwood said. “People use that stuff all the time, especially hides. … A bobcat right now would probably bring $250, and just to leave it laying on the road just don’t seem like the right thing to do.”

Road-killed wildlife is considered the property of the state and is illegal for anyone to take. Part of the problem that Fish and Game had with Harwood’s bill, said agency Assistant Director Sharon Kiefer, is that it would have created no paper trail – and people could scoop up out-of-season wildlife with no way to show it is taken legally.

“We certainly understood his objective, but the devil, as usual, is in the details,” Kiefer said.

The Fish and Game Commission on Nov. 18 directed its staff to look into possible rule changes, but that’ll take at least until next spring. So even if rules are developed and the commission approves them, they couldn’t go to state lawmakers for review before the 2012 legislative session.

The new rattlesnake rules are on a faster track, however. The commission approved them in May. They took effect then, and are scheduled for review in the legislative session that convenes in January.

“It’s not a wide-open, go kill a rattlesnake and you can sell it, but within our current rules and laws … to allow a certain number of rattlesnake skins to be sold on a legal basis,” Kiefer said.

Idahoans with hunting licenses now are allowed to have up to four “native amphibians” including rattlesnakes and frogs that they take alive from the wild and hold in captivity. And if a rattlesnake is threatening a person or property, it’s legal to kill it, even without a hunting license.

But no meat from game – including rattlesnake – can be sold, and until the new rule was approved, no rattlesnake skins, either. Several members of the Senate Resources Committee drafted, but didn’t introduce, a bill last year allowing for legal sale of rattlesnake skins, so Fish and Game started looking into the rule change.

Under the new rule, “If your personally retained rattlesnake dies, and you want to go sell Slinky’s skin, you can do that,” Kiefer said, adding that snakes killed to protect people and property can be sold as well.

Harwood said he’s all for that change, too, to prevent waste. “I’m glad they’re doing something,” he said. “I would hope that they could use some good common sense on this thing. I think they’re trying, and that’s good.”

Harwood said a coyote pelt is going for $20 these days. “So just to walk away and leave it lay there … you wouldn’t do that with a 20-dollar bill,” he said. “So it seems kinda odd that they would say, ‘You can’t touch that.’ ”