Thanks to Hanah Boen of the Abilene Texas News, for this great warning on handling and cooking Rattlesnake:

rattlesnake.jpgRattlesnake are commonly feared when they’re alive and rattling, but is there anything to fear when they’re served on a plate with a side of gravy?

Teresa Shisk-Saling, a registered veterinary technician and a herpetologist in Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said most of the health concerns surrounding handling and eating rattlesnake can all be avoided by simply being careful.

The first concern is venom. Like most living things, when rattlesnakes die their muscles relax. At that point, the venom is released from their fangs and can spread to other parts of the snake, she said. Venom is isolated to glands in the mouth, so when butchering the reptile, care should be taken to keep the head away from the meat.

“I personally know a couple people that have been poisoned by dead snakes when they were picking them up on the side of the road,” she said. “If venom’s been dripping down the snakes and it touches your hands, you would want to be sure you keep it away from any open wounds or scratches.”

Another concern is salmonella, which can dwell in the gut of the reptile. As long as the intestines are kept intact, she said, toxins would not be exposed to the meat.

Most of the meat available for cooking purposes is commercially available, she said, and is handled and prepared by experienced individuals.

“Most of the folks at things like this know what they’re doing,” she said of the roundup, “but if you get a novice that’s not the brightest bulb in the box you run a risk.”