Rattlesnake Roundups look like something from the mid 19th century. As immigrants swarmed over California in search of gold, feeding all of those people became a challenge, market hunting became a lucrative source of income for many. John James Audubon recognized the problem as early as 1821 when he estimated 48,000 plovers were killed in a single day at Lake St. John, Louisiana. However, rattlesnake-roundups are a product of the mid 20th century. The JAYCEES (Junior Chamber of Commerce), in Sweetwater, Texas invented the modern rattlesnake roundups to raise money and draw attention to their local businesses in 1958. If you visit the Sweetwater Jaycees Rattlesnake Roundup Facebook Page, you will discover the organization's mission is helping local children's groups (Boy & Girl Scouts, Softball & Baseball, Pee Wee Football, Soccer, Christmas 4 Kidz Roping, Thanksgiving Day Feed, MHMR Christmas Party, and Annual Easter Egg Hunt). Thus, the destruction of wildlife is done in the name of good works.
The Rattlesnake Roundup in Whigham, Georgia is said to attract 40,000 visitors, and be one of the premier events in the Southeast (USA). On their web site they actually have the following statement.
"This event includes such demonstrations as the now-famous milking of the venom from an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. This venom is always used for medical research. Ken Darnell, a handler at last year’s event said,
"One of the worst problems you suffer from snake bite is your blood pressure goes down. It can go down tremendously. And now, one of the most effective blood pressure medicines in the world came about because of studying rattlesnake venom. They produced a synthetic pharmaceutical for blood pressure treatment -- very effective. Hey, they did it with our venom produced at roundups in Georgia and Texas."
Sorry guys, the ACE Inhibitor used to lower blood pressure was discovered in the Brazilian Jararaca (Bothrops jararaca), not a Whigman, Georgia Eastern Diamondback.
The Whigham Georgia Rattlesnake Roundup was held recently (January 29, 2011) and one commentator reports 81 snakes were collected. The event continued despite the efforts of the Center for Biological Diversity to get the Attorney General of Georgia to prevent the hunters from gasing gopher tortoise burrows and transporting (illegally) rattlesnakes across state lines (at least some of the snakes are collected in Florida).
In some communities rattlesnake roundups have been converted into to less harmful events. Fitzgerald, Georgia has a Wild Chicken Festival and San Antonio, Florida promotes The Rattlesnake Festival, with captive snakes and wildlife education events. They no longer collect and kill rattlesnakes. Both festivals have reportedly met with great success.
But apparently stubbornness, accompanied by a little ignorance, has prevented some communities from transforming the roundups into ecologically friendly activities. Both the Whigham and Claxton rattlesnake roundups continue, despite offers to help convert them into less harmful activities by OneMoreGeneration.org.