Showing posts with label eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rattlesnake Roundup in Georgia Switches to Humane Wildlife Festival, Last Remaining Georgia Roundup, in Whigham, Should Follow Suit

EDR, Photo credit D. Bruce Means
The eastern diamondback is the largest rattlesnake in the world. Adults are typically four to five feet long and weigh four to five pounds, but a large individual can reach or exceed six feet in length and weigh 12 pounds or more. Scientific studies over the past decade have documented range-wide population declines and significant range contractions for the eastern diamondback. The Center for Biological Diversity is reporting the following story.

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Community Club asking it to make similar changes to its annual rattlesnake roundup in Whigham, Ga., the state’s last outdated roundup.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.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Georgia Wildlife Officials Criticized for Rattlesnake Roundup Permit

ATLANTA— The Center for Biological Diversity and allies today sent a letter to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources denouncing a state wildlife exhibition permit issued for the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup held on March 12 in Evans County. In January the groups sent a letter to the agency pointing out that state law requires a permit to display wildlife in public. The law states that the permit can only be issued if the display is solely for educational purposes. The Wildlife Resources Division issued the permit anyway, even though the display of rattlesnakes at the controversial roundups is not solely for educational purposes. Today’s letter urges state wildlife officials not to issue permits for roundups in the future.

“Roundups, which persecute and exploit Georgia’s wildlife, are obviously not solely for educational purposes,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center, which has opposed rattlesnake roundups in part because they harm eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, a once-common species in the Southeast that in recent years has seen its populations decline.

“Rattlesnake roundups” are annual contests where hunters bring in as many snakes as they can catch in a year to be milked for venom, butchered, then sold for meat and skin. Two roundups take place every year in Georgia, one in Whigham in January, the other in Claxton in March. The letter was sent by the Center, One More Generation, the Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy, and Protecting All Living Species.

“The Department of Natural Resources is charged with protecting Georgia’s resources for future generations, not with endorsing the unlimited hunting of one of our state’s rare species,” said Jim Ries, community director at One More Generation, which was founded by two elementary students in Georgia.

“The Georgia legislature never intended for this law to be used to justify the removal of animals from the wild for entertainment purposes. By issuing this permit the agency is contributing to the impending destruction of this species,” said Bill Matturro, founder of Protecting All Living Species, based in south Georgia.

A recently published study shows that rattlesnake roundups have depleted populations of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in the southeastern United States. This once-common species is being pushed toward extinction by hunting pressure, habitat loss and road mortality. The snake hasn’t been seen in Louisiana since 1980, and is now uncommon throughout its range in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and the Carolinas. In response to dwindling rattlesnake populations, public pressure and environmental concerns, the town of Fitzgerald, Ga., replaced its rattlesnake roundup with a wild chicken festival, which organizers report has been an enormous success.

“All rattlesnake roundups should be replaced with festivals celebrating wildlife and offering educational programs on the importance of saving native species,” said Dr. Bruce Means, author of the recent study and executive director of the Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy.