Change Rattlesnake Roundups to Humane Festivals

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Originally Posted: January 28, 2012

Change Rattlesnake Roundups to Humane Festivals

FROM From Center for Biological Diversity

ACTION

Please sign this petition asking communities to change their roundups to festivals where snakes are not hunted or killed. Several communities have already changed their roundups to wildlife-appreciation festivals, which generate important income for the communities and educate the public about the importance of saving native species, not slaughtering them.

Sign an online petition:
http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5958

INFORMATION / TALKING POINTS

During annual "rattlesnake roundups" in some parts of the Southeast, participants bring in as many rattlesnakes as they can catch in a year, slaughter them and sell the meat and skin. The toll this takes on declining eastern diamondbacks, as well as other species, is tremendous, and the Center for Biological Diversity has been working to stop the inhumane events.

This week sponsors of the rattlesnake roundup in Claxton, Ga., announced that they're switching to a kinder wildlife festival that recognizes the importance of saving native species -- not butchering them.

The Center is now working to end the one rattlesnake roundup that still remains in Georgia. We presented a petition this week bearing more than 5,000 signatures to the sponsors of this weekend's rattlesnake roundup in Whigham, Ga., calling on them to follow Claxton by switching to a festival free of snake-killing.

OUTLAWING RATTLESNAKE ROUNDUPS

“Rattlesnake roundups” are contests calling for hunters to bring in as many snakes as they can catch in a year, at which point the snakes are slaughtered and sold for skin and meat. Six states still host these killing contests: Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Roundups are driving some species of rattlesnakes toward extinction. A recent study analyzing 50 years of roundup data found eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in sharp decline due to roundup pressure and habitat loss. Rattlesnakes play a key role in the food web, especially in terms of rodent control.

And roundups are harmful to many species, not just rattlesnakes. To catch snakes for the event, hunters spray gasoline into tortoise burrows, destroying the burrows and often killing the animals inside. More than 350 species depend on tortoise burrows for food and shelter. Roundup organizers claim that hunters no longer use gassing to catch snakes, but in January 2010, wildlife officials in Georgia apprehended four men who had gassed 50 tortoise burrows to collect snakes for the rattlesnake roundup in Whigham.

Although roundup organizers claim that the events provide environmental education, no meaningfulwildlife education — emphasizing the importance of saving native species — is provided. Handling venomous snakes in front of the public and then killing the snakes is the opposite of wildlife education.

Nor do roundups protect public health. Roundup sponsors like to claim that the purpose of the events is to extract venom to make antivenin to treat snake bites, but producers of rattlesnake antivenin have stated that they don't purchase venom from roundups. There are many more annual fatalities in the United States from dog bites, lightning strikes and bee stings than from venomous snake bites. And in fact, the majority of snake bites occur when humans try to capture or kill snakes — so rattlesnake roundups themselves endanger public health by encouraging the public to do just that.

Finally, roundups are far from necessary to generate community revenue. Many communities that used to hold roundups have successfully changed the focus of their revenue-generating annual events. For example, Claxton, Ga., transformed its roundup into a Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival, which includes no collection contest or snake killings. And the town of Fitzgerald, Ga., replaced its roundup with a Wild Chicken Festival, which organizers say has been an enormous success.

CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY'S CAMPAIGN

The Center is working to protect rattlesnakes, gopher tortoises and the 350 other wildlife species that are harmed by rattlesnake roundups. In early 2010, we asked Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to outlaw roundups throughout the state, as well as requesting that Georgia’s attorney general investigate the gassing and destruction of tortoise burrows for rattlesnake roundups. The next year, we and allies sent letters to law-enforcement officials in Grady and Evans counties, Georgia, calling for enforcement of state wildlife laws at rattlesnake roundups and sent letters to wildlife officials in Georgia and Alabama urging them to stop rattlesnake hunters from using poisons that harm imperiled gopher tortoises. We saw success in early 2012 when the Evans County Wildlife Club in Claxton, Ga., decided to change its rattlesnake roundup to a wildlife festival where snakes would be celebrated instead of collected by the hundreds and butchered for their meat and skins.


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