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Are Rattlesnakes A Threatened Species?

Are Rattlesnakes A Threatened Species?

Yes, says a coalition of conservationists in the south and eastern United States.

AL.com reports that wildlife groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Protect All Living Species and One More Generation have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the eastern diamondback rattlesnake under the Endangered Species Act. The petition seeks to grant the snakes “threatened” status.

Conservationists estimate that the eastern diamondback population has declined from 3 million to about 100,000. The rattlesnakes make their homes in longleaf pine savannas, which have been depleted since the 1930s by logging and development.

The Associated Press reports that only 2-3% of longleaf pine habitat remains. In Tallahassee, FL, researcher Bruce Means told the AP that the rattlesnakes are a “wildlife treasure” that shouldn’t be allowed to go extinct. Mark Sasser, a wildlife coordinator with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in Alabama, agrees.

“[The rattlesnake] is very valuable to the ecosystem, but it doesn’t get a lot of love,” Sasser told the Birmingham News. “They serve a vital role in the environment … Without snakes in general to control rodent populations, we would be knee deep.”

Sasser hopes to reestablish territory for the snakes and told the Birmingham News that the state is working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to preserve their remaining habitat. “We are [also] trying to influence people not to collect the snakes from the wild,” he said.

In addition to loss of habitat, the petition also cites hunting and traditional “rattlesnake roundups” as contributing factors in the species’ dwindling population. For these carnival-style “roundups,” hunters gather upwards of 60 live snakes as attractions. The snakes are milked for their venom, offered to researchers or used to train hunting dogs.

“We turn some of them loose,” said Don Childre, a volunteer with the Rattlesnake Rodeo in Opp, AL. “It depends on the situation at the time.” Childre did not discuss the fate of the snakes that aren’t released.

Take Action

Click here to sign a petition calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

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51 comments

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3:56PM PST on Jan 31, 2013

The only species that is not threatened on the planet is the human one, unfortunately.

10:33PM PDT on Sep 9, 2011

I am not a snake person at all but live and let live.

6:54AM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

I DO appreciate the fact that rattlers have somewhat reliable built-in warning system.

5:08PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

I do often fear stepping on a copperhead in my forest romp, looking for skeletons and turkey feathers.

9:19AM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

I am not really that fond of rattlesnakes but they are here for a purpose and I believe that they need to be left alone.

3:09PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

I used to be soooo scared of rattlers when I was a kid. Not that I really find them any less scary now; it's just that I realize how unlikely it is that I would be bitten by one. Regardless of that, though, they are importnat.

2:21PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

let them live a snake is a primitive animal and misguided people have been killing them through out the ages they need our help now more than ever all repiles are primitive just know your limitations and leave them alone. they are only tring to survive like everything else out there. who are we to make them exstinct

1:42PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Hi,

Rattlesnake round-ups should be illegal. However, if you look at how many people is bitten by rattlesnakes, it is increasing. The chart at http://www.rattlesnakes.us/bites.htm shows that an more and more people have encounters with rattlesnakes that should have been avoided. Are people trekking more and more? Or are rattlesnakes approaching suburbs. I don't know, but bite statistics such as the one shown does not confirm that the population of rattlesnakes is declining.

2:12PM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

there are too few rattlers left and people will of course keep killing them out of fear unless they are educated.

1:22AM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

thanks

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