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For Immediate Release, April 5, 2011

Contact:  Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681
Dr. Bruce Means, Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy, (850) 681-6208
Jim Ries, One More Generation, (678) 491-6222
Bill Matturro, Protecting All Living Species, (229) 872-3553

Georgia Wildlife Officials Criticized for Rattlesnake Roundup Permit

ATLANTA— The Center for Biological Diversity and allies today sent a letter to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources denouncing a state wildlife exhibition permit issued for the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup held on March 12 in Evans County. In January the groups sent a letter to the agency pointing out that state law requires a permit to display wildlife in public. The law states that the permit can only be issued if the display is solely for educational purposes. The Wildlife Resources Division issued the permit anyway, even though the display of rattlesnakes at the controversial roundups is not solely for educational purposes. Today’s letter urges state wildlife officials not to issue permits for roundups in the future.

“Roundups, which persecute and exploit Georgia’s wildlife, are obviously not solely for educational purposes,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center, which has opposed rattlesnake roundups in part because they harm eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, a once-common species in the Southeast that in recent years has seen its populations decline.

“Rattlesnake roundups” are annual contests where hunters bring in as many snakes as they can catch in a year to be milked for venom, butchered, then sold for meat and skin. Two roundups take place every year in Georgia, one in Whigham in January, the other in Claxton in March. The letter was sent by the Center, One More Generation, the Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy, and Protecting All Living Species.

“The Department of Natural Resources is charged with protecting Georgia’s resources for future generations, not with endorsing the unlimited hunting of one of our state’s rare species,” said Jim Ries, community director at One More Generation, which was founded by two elementary students in Georgia.

“The Georgia legislature never intended for this law to be used to justify the removal of animals from the wild for entertainment purposes. By issuing this permit the agency is contributing to the impending destruction of this species,” said Bill Matturro, founder of Protecting All Living Species, based in south Georgia.

A recently published study shows that rattlesnake roundups have depleted populations of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in the southeastern United States. This once-common species is being pushed toward extinction by hunting pressure, habitat loss and road mortality. 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. In response to dwindling rattlesnake populations, public pressure and environmental concerns, the town of Fitzgerald, Ga., replaced its rattlesnake roundup with a wild chicken festival, which organizers report has been an enormous success.

“All rattlesnake roundups should be replaced with festivals celebrating wildlife and offering educational programs on the importance of saving native species,” said Dr. Bruce Means, author of the recent study and executive director of the Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy.

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