For Immediate Release, March 3, 2010
Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681
Georgia Attorney General Called on to Investigate Gassing and Destruction of
Threatened Tortoise Burrows for Rattlesnake Roundups
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— In a letter sent today to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies urged the state to investigate the extent of gassing and destruction of gopher tortoise burrows to collect snakes for rattlesnake roundups. Hunters commonly catch snakes by pouring gasoline or ammonia into burrows or by digging out the burrows. The groups have called on the state to increase monitoring and enforcement of the state law that prohibits the destruction of gopher tortoise burrows, and to investigate whether other state wildlife laws are broken in conjunction with the roundups, which are held annually in Whigham and Claxton.
In January, four men who were hunting snakes in tortoise burrows before the Whigham roundup were apprehended by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The Claxton roundup will be held March 13 and 14. Pouring gasoline into burrows sickens or kills the animals inside, makes the burrow unusable for tortoises and the hundreds of other wildlife species that use tortoise burrows, and can contaminate groundwater.
“Roundup sponsors claim that gasoline is no longer used to catch snakes, but the evidence clearly shows otherwise. It is time for these harmful contests to change their focus and become community events that celebrate native wildlife,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center.
The gopher tortoise is listed as threatened by the state of Georgia and is under consideration for federal Endangered Species Act protection. Other groups that sent the letter included Gopher Tortoise Council, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy, and the Wild Classroom. In January the Center and allies called on Georgia Governor Perdue to amend state law to ban rattlesnake roundups and to work with communities to replace the roundups with wildlife festivals, which has been successfully done by the towns of Fitzgerald, Georgia and San Antonio, Florida.