March 8, 2009

Snake hunter plays by his own rules

Eric Carl Timaeus, a regular competitor at a Texas rattlesnake roundup has his own code -- he catches no females, no young snakes and only the largest males.

Timaeus has won the prize for longest snake for the past nine years at the Sweetwater Jaycees Rattlesnake Roundup, The New York Times reported Friday. These days, he usually drops off his snakes when the festival gets under way and then returns at the end to collect his prize.

The roundup, scheduled this year for March 12-15, has been an annual event since 1958, when it was started by ranchers who simply wanted to kill as many rattlesnakes as possible. This year's festival is expected to attract 30,000 people.

Timaeus plays by his own rules in other ways as well. He shuns gasoline, sometimes used by hunters to get snakes out of their dens, and does not carry a weapon or anti-venin. He says he has never been bitten.

A former soldier, Timaeus, 57, says he has been catching rattlesnakes since he was a boy in North Carolina. In the U.S. Army, he taught other soldiers how to deal with venomous animals.