Rattlesnake Groundups

More evidence that rattlesnake roundups, beyond their cruelty, should be banned on conservation grounds.

3 September 2009


by D. Bruce Means
2009. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 4(2): 132-141

Abstract: I analyzed the data on size and numbers of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) for four rattlesnake roundups in the southeastern U.S.(Opp, Alabama, and Whigham, Fitzgerald, and Claxton, Georgia) spanning a period of 50 years (1959-2008). Both numbers of snakes and weights of the largest snakes that participants turned in annually declined in the last two decades. Statements by roundup officials and rattlesnake hunters support that roundup hunting has depleted local rattlesnake populations and forced hunters to travel further to collect snakes in recent years. Declining maximum size of snakes reflects possible age-class truncation, whereby collectors cull older, larger individuals of this long-lived species. Roundups perpetuate negative attitudes about venomous snakes and reduce their populations, whose skins and flesh are subject to high commercial demand. Before the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake becomes threatened throughout its range, state wildlife agencies should either ban the taking of individuals or regulate their taking by developing bag limits and seasonal harvest guidelines. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake would further benefit by refocusing extant roundups as wildlife festivals in which participants celebrate rattlesnakes and other wildlife rather than exploit them, or alternatively changing their theme entirely (such as one roundup that became a Wild Chicken Festival).

***** A pdf of this article is available from the CNAH PDF Library at http://www.cnah.org/cnah_pdf.asp

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