Snakes move in and out of Noxen
The annual Rattlesnake Roundup wrapped up in Noxen Sunday, with 71 total snakes captured and showcased in the pit located in the heart of the Noxen Fire Carnival grounds.
Over just the two-day period of the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission sanctioned hunt, 40 registered hunters brought in a total of 28 rattlesnakes, six copperheads and 37 non-poisonous snakes, with only five rattlers brought in that had been captured in previous hunts.
Timothy Folk of Drums brought in the snake with the greatest number of rattles with 14, while Kevin ‘Cletus’ Voelker brought in the largest rattlesnake, a dark phase measuring in at 51 inches.
Voelker also captured the biggest non-poisonous snake, a black rat measuring 75 and a half inches.
Other winners included Ryan Murphy, who had the biggest light phase rattler at 49 inches; Donna Kime, who had the largest copperhead at 36 inches, Glen Ellsworth IV with the most species at nine; and Taylor Lewis, of Linden, who won the ‘Lunker of the Hunt’ with 31 pounds, eight ounces.
The roundup provides a great educational opportunity for folks interested in one of nature’s most revered reptiles that oftentimes gets a bad wrap.
For first-time hunters Casey McAndrew, 19, of Dallas, who is studying mechanical engineering at Robert Morris College near Pittsburgh, and Lewis, 18, of Linden, who is studying civil engineering technology at Penn College in Williamsport, the attraction was clearly in the thrill of doing something on the edge of being dangerous.
For McAndrew, Saturday was a great day for him when around 11:30 a.m. he was out on his first hunt with a buddy and saw a rattler wedged in a rock crevice but partially sunbathing, and he snatched him up and placed him in a red canister affair kind of like a back pack.
McAndrew said he’s attended maybe five roundups but this was his first hunt.
An avid outdoorsman and Eagle Scout who likes to fish and hunt other animals, McAndrew is on his college’s hockey team and admits his engineering studies have nothing to do with snakes.
But, he also acknowledges a certain “rush, very definitely a thrill” when you have success on a snake hunt.
He said he really wasn’t fearful about getting bit, but did admit a tad bit of anxiety.
Lewis, likewise on Sunday, said “there was definitely an adrenaline rush” on his first hunt when he spotted a rattlesnake sunbathing on some rocks near Francis Walter Dam.
Back at the snake pit, many parents brought their children to pass on a Noxen tradition that they, too, grew up with many years ago.
Children of all ages could be seen showing initial skepticism, which soon turned to curiosity as snake handlers provided insight and a rare opportunity to see and touch a rattler up close.
Ray Yanchek, of Noxen, has been attending the roundup for many years, and has made a point to attend each year with his son Tanner, who is now eight.
“I’ve come in the past, but it seems like we’ve been coming here every year since he’s been born,” Yanchek said. “It’s awesome because he gets to see the snakes up close and learns not to be afraid of them, and if he has any questions the guys here are very knowledgeable to answer them.”
Tanner passed up a Saturday opportunity to touch a snake in favor of feasting on a funnel cake, but said that he really likes snakes and was having fun.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize how many snakes we have around here and the size that some of the rattlers can be,” Yanchek said. “They have a good program here that teaches you about snakes and that they’re really not that bad to have around. You don’t have to be afraid of them.”
For those who didn’t care to get too close to the snakes, this year visitors to the Noxen snake pit area could take advantage of a brand new grandstand that seats around 200 and allows people a birds-eye view of everything going on in the area enclosed with chicken wire so the snakes can’t get out.
“We have the largest pit area of any of the five sanctioned snake hunts in the state,” Hackling said, but not a few folks have complained in Noxen because of crowds in years past that they can’t get in close to see them.
“So, we wanted to give something back to the community to change that,” Chief Hackling said.
Being up and away from the snakes, however, was just fine with Kevin Mock of Tunkhannock.
But, his daughter, who just turned seven, exhibited little fear when volunteer Bill Wheeler brought a rattler by just in front of her.
With its head in a tube but its rattles exposed, she thought it was cool and coaxed her dad to come down and feel the skin for himself.
Jim Strohl, the vice president of the Noxen Fire Company, said Sunday night as the carnival was winding down that he was pleased with this year’s turnout and the chance for the public to learn more about rattlesnakes.
“The turnout has been great and we even had to make a food run this morning,” Strohl said. “We try to get the kids involved and get them interested as much as we can. They’re usually very enthusiastic and don’t seem to have the fear that their parents may have.”
After winners were announced late Sunday afternoon, the rattlers were collected to be taken back into the natural habitat in which they were found, all within a 40-mile radius of the Noxen fire carnival grounds.