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For Immediate Release, January 28, 2010

Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue Called on to Ban Rattlesnake Roundups

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— In a letter sent today to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, the Center for Biological Diversity is urging the state to outlaw rattlesnake roundups. Roundups are annual contests in which hunters bring in as many snakes as they can catch in a year. A recently published study shows that roundups have depleted populations of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in the southeastern United States.

“Indiscriminate killing of wildlife has been banned for most animals for decades, but not for rattlesnakes,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center. “This abhorrent practice is harming rattlesnake populations and should be stopped.” 

The eastern diamondback was once a common species, but is now being pushed toward extinction by hunting pressure, habitat loss, and road mortality. An analysis of 50 years of roundup data shows that both the total number of snakes and the size of individual snakes have declined over a 50-year time span, and that hunters must now drive hundreds of miles to find snakes for the event. The snake hasn’t been seen in Louisiana since 1980, and is now uncommon throughout its range in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and the Carolinas.

“Rattlesnakes serve an important role in the food chain by controlling rodent populations and should be respected,” said Curry. “With populations in decline, rattlesnakes need protection.”

Two Georgia towns still hold roundups. The Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup is Saturday, January 30. Some claim that the roundups protect public health, but eastern diamondbacks rarely bite, and more people are killed in the United States each year by dog bites, lightning strikes, or bee stings than by venomous snake bites. The roundups are not necessary to obtain antivenin, as major producers of antivenin only purchase it from approved suppliers under sterile conditions and have stated that they do not purchase it from roundups.

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