Oddly Enough

Extra bite -- Texan faces charges over snake vodka

A rattlesnake slithers across a pile of coiled rattlesnakes inside the rattlesnake pit at the 48th annual Rattlesnake Round-up in Sweetwater, Texas March 12, 2006. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A Texas man is facing charges for selling liquor without a license after he was found peddling bottles of vodka containing dead baby rattlesnakes.

Bob Popplewell, who runs “Bayou Bob’s Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch” tourist attraction west of Fort Worth, was believed to be selling the vodka in the Asian community, where snakes are seen having aphrodisiac properties, state authorities said.

Popplewell faces misdemeanour charges for not having a liquor license but will not be charged over the 10-inch (25-cm) baby snakes in the bottles.

“I’ve been with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for 20 years,” Sergeant Charlie Cloud said. “This is the most bizarre thing I’ve been involved in.”

In some of East Asia, parts of snakes and other animals are thought to have medicinal qualities and are used to make soups, powders and other preparations. In Vietnam, for example, the serpents are added to bottles of rice whisky and wine.

Authorities confiscated 411 bottles of the vodka, which Popplewell was selling for $23 (11 pounds) each.

Popplewell, also the state’s largest exporter of live turtles to Asia, declined to comment.

Reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; editing by Anna Driver and Eileen O’Grady in Houston and John O’Callaghan