Trump Pardons Snake Trafficker In Last Days Of Presidency

Robert Bowker served two years probation for trafficking timber rattlesnakes.
Timber Rattlesnake Dennis Riabchenko
Timber rattlesnake. Photo by Dennis Riabchenko/Shutterstock

As one of his last acts as president, former President Donald J. Trump pardoned a man who was convicted of snake trafficking in the early 1990s. Robert Bowker was convicted of wildlife trafficking in 1993, after pleading guilty to trafficking 22 timber rattlesnakes  (Crotalus horridus), according to a report in the Sun Sentinel. Bowker served two years probation. The snakes ended up at the Miami Serpentarium, which at the time was run by William “Bill” Haast from 1947 to 1984. Haast was one of the most vocal proponents of snake venom research.

Snake Venom Pioneer Bill Haast Dead At 100

According to the Sun Sentinel, Bowker allegedly made a deal with a man named Rudy “Cobra King” Komarek. Komarek apparently would supply Bowker with 22 American alligators in exchange for 22 timber rattlesnakes.

The snakes made it to Haast’s facility, but the jig was up. According to the Sun Sentinel report, citing The Register-Citizen newspaper of New Haven, Connecticut, Rudy “Cobra King” Komarek served a four month federal sentence in 1993 for his crime. Nancy Haast, however told the Sun Sentinel that Haast cooperated with law enforcement regarding Komarek, but she said she was unaware of Bowker’s role in the scheme.

“It’s fascinating this would happen so many years later,” said Haast, ostensibly referring to the pardon. “He was quite a visionary,” Haast said, referring to her husband. “He collected high-grade research quality venom. A little goes a long way.”

Bill Haast Information

For years, Bill Haast would milk cobras and other venomous snakes to rapt audiences at the Miami Serpentarium.

His handling of venomous snakes caused him to get bitten 172 times as of 2008, according to his page on Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, Haast first developed an interest in snakes as an 11-year- old Boy Scout while at a Boy Scout summer camp. The following year, he was bitten by a Timber Rattlesnake, and was said to have applied the standard snake-bite treatment at the time, was then sent to see a doctor but recovered with no further treatment. Haast went out of his way to save people who were bitten by venomous snakes.

The New York Times says Haast made a trip into the Venezuelan jungle, donating a pint of his blood to save the life of a boy who was bitten by a venomous snake. The favor was returned in 1989 when he was bitten by a Pakistani pit viper. According to the Associated Press, the White House was able to get a serum out of Iran to treat Mr. Haast.

Categories: Snake Information & News, Wild Snakes