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Deadly Rattlesnake Bite Leads to 179 Illegal Snakes

January 31, 2008

Deming, N.M. - On Thursday, Jan. 24 James D. Bear, 37, was bitten on his right thumb by canebrake rattlesnake while he was alone in his three-bedroom mobile home. Bear died at 11:49 a.m. the following Tuesday at El Paso's Thomason Hospital.

The canebrake rattlesnake that bit Bear was one of 179 snakes he kept and bred in various containers in his home. 84 of the snakes were venomous species.

Deming police called the Department of Game and Fish to Bear's mobile home shortly after Bear was bitten to assist with the snakes and to determine whether any state or federal laws had been broken. An investigation indicated that Bear did not have the necessary permits to possess, obtain or sell the snakes. Wildlife  Officers  with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish confiscated the snakes and materials relating to their transportation and sale Jan. 30 on a warrant issued by Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Gary Jeffreys.

The confiscated snakes were turned over to friends of Bear, who said they planned to take the reptiles to Texas, where they would be kept on behalf of Bear's wife, Danielle Plantz, and their three young children.

It is illegal to import any live wild animals, birds or fish into New Mexico without first obtaining a permit from the Department of Game and Fish. Other regulations apply to venomous snakes, and the collection or sales of any wild animals.

"It is important that we carefully control any species that we bring into our state, for public safety and to protect our native game animals, birds and fish against infectious or contagious diseases," Department Chief of Law Enforcement Dan Brooks said.

The Department currently is reviewing the rules concerning the importation, possession and sales of wild animals, birds and fish. Information about the rules and an opportunity to comment about them and offer suggestions is available on the Department website, www.wildlife.state.nm.us . Click on "Public comments."


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