WAURIKA, OK (KSWO) - Rattlesnake festivals in southwest Oklahoma are weeks away, and hunters are busy rounding up the snakes.
For some families, rattlesnake hunting is something they've done for generations, including Dustan Bryant's. He said he started hunting them more than 25 years ago with his dad and uncle when he was still in high school. Bryant said there are few places he likes to go to find them.
"Rocky bluffs, sinkholes, any kind of clay river banks, things like that," Bryant said.
Bryant said he hunts them for a couple reasons.
"It's a little extra money for us, and it benefits the fire department also."
Firefighter Zac Latta said the Waurika Volunteer Fire Department depends on this festival to help get them through the year.
"This is the money that will last us all year to buy new equipment, bunker gear, trucks if we need a truck, parts, time, labor," Latta said. "It just benefits us a lot."
While some people may call this is animal cruelty, Latta said he doesn't think it is.
"We actually have a problem here with snakes getting in yards and houses," he said. "This helps thin the population down out, and keep it away from the population."
Once bought, the snakes are put in boxes, which Latta said makes them think they're in hibernation. Bryant said another reason he snake hunts is because Jefferson county residents ask him to.
"A couple of the people have been bitten at their homes where I hunt," Bryant said. "So, it means a lot to me to get rid of the snakes off of the places where they live."
Waurika's rattlesnake festival is the first one of the year. It starts April 12 and will go through the 15th. Officials for Apache and Mangum's festival said they'll start buying snakes when their festivals get a little closer. Apache has theirs April 19th through 22nd and Mangum will have their derby April 26th through 29th.