The annual Rattlesnake Roundup in Claxton, Georgia has changed into a wildlife festival that will celebrate the increasingly rare reptiles instead of killing them. The Evans County Wildlife Club recently announced the switch; for 44 years, hunters would bring in rattlesnakes to the Roundup to show the attendees, milk them for their venom, then butcher them for their meat and skin. At the renamed Claxton Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival, snakes will still be on hand, but brought by conservation groups to educate the public. The club’s head noted, “”It’s nothing but education and conservation, which is what our club was intended for in the beginning. We hope it’s going to be a bigger, better festival and everyone will benefit.”
“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.”
Hunters, habitat loss and road mortality have imperiled the reptiles. Conservation groups the Center for Biological Diversity, Protect All Living Species and One More Generation last year began the multi-year process of requesting protection as “threatened” for the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake under the Endangered Species Act. The Eastern Diamondback is the largest rattlesnake in the world, and is now absent or rare across large portions of its former habitat.
While Claxton has made the switch, Rattlesnake Roundups still happen in the U.S. across the Midwest and South (see a list of Roundups here.) Sign One More Generation’s petition to stop Rattlesnake Roundups here.
Photo: © D. Bruce Means via Center for Biological Diversity