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Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Photo by D. Bruce Means
The Center for Biological Diversity and other concerned parties have presented a petition with 48,000 signatures to the Whigham Community Club in an effort to end so-called rattlesnake roundups
in Whigham, Ga. The groups hope that the club, which has been holding eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus
) roundups for more than 50 years, will convert the roundup to a wildlife-friendly festival that doesn't butcher rattlesnakes.
According to a press release put out by the Center, the Whigham roundup is the lone holdout in Georgia. At least three other states (Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama) hold roundups where the rattlesnakes are killed. Claxton, Ga last year held its first Claxton Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival. No snakes were killed at the festival and it received a boost in attendance and praise from environmental groups, biologists, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for ending the practice of killing rattlesnakes.
“When 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, elementary-school-aged founders of a Georgia-based environmental group called One More Generation. “There is no reason to kill these rare snakes. We’re sure that most people that go to the roundup just want to see some amazing snakes and have a fun day.”
“The eastern diamondbacks targeted by the Whigham roundup are rapidly disappearing all across the southeastern United States, and in some states they’ve more or less vanished,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a biologist and attorney at the Center who works to protect rare reptiles and amphibians. “I’m hopeful that Whigham roundup sponsors will soon realize that they don’t need to kill imperiled snakes to have a successful community festival.”
In 2011 the Center and biologist Dr. Bruce Means and others petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake as an endangered species. The USFWS announced last year that it had initiated a full status review. Four states currently still hold rattlesnake roundups and analysis of the rattlesnakes captured show a steady decline in the weights of the so-called prizewinning rattlesnakes as well as the number of snakes collected.
A 2009 study published in the journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology, took a look at data from four roundups that spanned 50 years and found that the number of rattlesnakes collected and the weights of the largest snakes had declined over the last 20 years. The number of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes peaked in 1990 and started to decline thereafter. After looking at all the data, Means concluded that so-called rattlesnake roundups are having a negative impact on the populations of this species of rattlesnake. The study was authored by Dr. Means.