Albany - It happens every year in two Georgia towns. Snake hunters round up rattlesnakes to show off to the public. Department of Natural Resource experts want the roundups in Whigham and Claxton to go away before the sound of the rattle disappears. They say roundups are contributing to the decline in population.
The Crotalus Adamanteus. Commonly known as Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake--the most venomous snake in North America. Gene Beck with Wildlife Solutions says, "I've been catching snakes since I was 9-years-old. I don't see nearly as many, especially Diamondbacks as we used to."
Wildlife conservationists like Beck want to save the dangerous species. He says Diamondbacks are disappearing from Georgia soil. He admits, "We don't know what would happen if species was totally eradicated, what the consequence would be."
Rattlesnake Roundup celebrations like in Whigham are being criticized by Department of Natural Resource experts. Beck wished DNR had more money to research. He says, "I think if DNR puts a protection on Diamondbacks we could have these people licensed, find out where and when they catch the snakes. It will give us an idea how many are coming in this year as opposed to year before."
The DNR admits the roundups are not a major contribution to the decline, but don't help. The main problem is habitat loss. However, some snake hunters often damage the burrows of the protected Gopher Tortoise while trying to roundup rattlesnakes. Beck says, "When they go and disturb dens for gophers, they're not only harming the gopher, but all other wildlife that use those burrows."
The Eastern Diamondback is already endangered in North Carolina and almost extinct in Louisiana because of the loss of habitat.
The DNR convinced Fitzgerald to stop their rattlesnake roundups in 1999. Now they have a wild chicken festival.
The Rattlesnake Roundup in Whigham is this Saturday. The event president says they do not promote the use of gas, the snakes come out on their own to get warm from the sun. After the roundup, the live snakes are sold to a company in Tennessee for the meat and skin and the venom is used to make anti-venin.
According to the Alabama Wildlife Federation, the eastern diamondback ranges along the coastal lowlands from southeastern North Carolina to eastern Louisiana, including all of Florida. Once common, today it is only occasionally encountered.
Some people wrongly believe the diamondback must rattle before striking, says the Online Guide to the Snakes of Florida. This is not true. It can lie silent and motionless, and then strike without the usual nervous buzz from its rattle.
The Whigham Rattle Snake Roundup website states that the snakes are collected: “ Very Carefully! Any method that does not injure the snake.”
However, The Humane Society of the U.S. takes a much different position on the topic of rattlesnake roundups. “Rattlesnake roundups are among the most deliberately cruel public events existing today in the United States.”
According to the BioPark Foundation,“ there are clear indications that this magnificent creature is most beneficial to humanity.