|EDR, Photo credit D. Bruce Means|
People fear rattlesnakes, but in reality eastern diamondbacks pose a very small public-safety risk. The snakes are certainly venomous, but more people are killed every year by lightning strikes and bee stings. Those most likely to be bitten are snake handlers who either keep the snakes in captivity or work with them professionally. Still, malicious killings by those who perceive the snakes as a threat are contributing to its decline.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Coastal Plains Institute, Protect All Living Species and One More Generation sent a letter to the Evans County Wildlife Club today praising its recent decision to change its rattlesnake roundup in Claxton, Ga., to a wildlife festival where snakes will be celebrated instead of collected by the hundreds and butchered for their meat and skins. In a separate letter, the groups today also presented a petition with more than 5,000 signatures to the Whigham Community Club asking it to make similar changes to its annual rattlesnake roundup in Whigham, Ga., the state’s last outdated roundup.
“We’re so happy the rattlesnake roundup in Claxton is being switched to a humane event that celebrates these great native animals and recognizes the importance of saving them,” said Collette Adkins Giese, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity who works to protect rare and vanishing reptiles and amphibians. “The Whigham Community Club needs to follow suit — it needs to recognize that massacres of endangered animals are just wrong, and clearly the wrong message to send to young people about our relationship to the natural world.”
The Evans County Wildlife Club is replacing its annual rattlesnake roundup with the Claxton Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival, which will feature displays of the imperiled eastern diamondback rattlesnake and other native wildlife. Educational programs, entertainment and a variety of other activities will be offered at the event, held during the second weekend in March.
“We congratulate the sponsors of the Claxton event for recognizing that all wildlife has a valuable place in nature,” said Dr. Bruce Means, director of the Coastal Plains Institute and an expert on the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. “Now we hope to get the sponsors of the Whigham roundup to see the same light.”
“When the rattlers are collected at the Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup this weekend, we hope that it will be for the last time,” said Olivia and Carter Ries, student founders of One More Generation. “Participants in the Whigham rattlesnake roundup need to recognize the impact they are having on the environment.”
Rattlesnake roundups are depleting populations of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes: Analysis of data from four roundups in the southeastern United States shows a steady decline in the weights of prize-winning eastern diamondbacks and the number collected. This once-common species is being pushed toward extinction not only by hunting pressure but also by habitat loss and road mortality. In August, the Center and allies filed a petition to protect the snake under the Endangered Species Act.
“Georgia is blessed with a rich natural heritage of animals and plants. All of these species — even the rattlesnakes — should be allowed to exist,” said Bill Matturro of Protect All Living Species. “Rattlesnakes serve an important role in the food chain by controlling rodent populations and should be respected.”