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Man faces jail for killing rattler in self-defense

A Michigan man who killed a poisonous snake he says was threatening nearby children has been found guilty of “killing a protected reptile or amphibian without a state permit” and faces a possible jail sentence, reports the Ann Arbor News.

Convicted of killing the rattlesnake during an afternoon outing Aug. 9 with his two sons and their friend at Pickeral Lake northwest of Ann Arbor, 47-year-old James Galloway says he was protecting nearby children and himself, according to the report.

Galloway said he wasn’t aware that it is a crime in Michigan to kill the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, Michigan’s only venomous snake.

The six-member jury convicted Galloway after being confronted by the prosecution with the plastic-wrapped, frozen, decapitated snake as evidence.

According to the paper, Galloway testified he was walking up a narrow, sandy path when he heard a hissing sound. With the rattlesnake about six to eight feet away, Galloway saw a 3-year-old girl and her parents walking down the path toward him. After telling the girl to stop, testified Galloway, he grabbed a stick and used it to pin down the snake while the girl and her parents got out of range.

He then picked up the snake and transported it to a dock where his sons were fishing, said the News. Planning to set the snake free, Galloway says he took the snake to a parking lot preparing to use a shovel to scoop up the snake and release it into the woods. But the snake then came toward him, said Galloway, and, feeling threatened, he used the shovel to cut off its head and rattle.

A woman observing the events and suspecting the snake was a protected Eastern Massasauga reportedly contacted authorities on her cell phone. In court, an expert testified he doubted Galloway’s story, since the Eastern Massasauga is generally a shy snake that usually will flee in the presence of humans.

With sentencing scheduled for June 26, the misdemeanor crime carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

“I’m stunned that the snake had more rights than a human being,” said Galloway.