Wildlife Slaughter Persists at Rattlesnake Roundups Despite Conservation Efforts

Photograph by Jo-Anne McArthur

Each year, tens of thousands of rattlesnakes are taken from the wild to be displayed and slaughtered for entertainment and profit at rattlesnake roundups. Promoted as folksy, family-friendly fun, these events foster disrespect for native wildlife and the natural world, and the result is an unsustainable and dangerous predicament for iconic and uniquely American species.

Roundups, which occur throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama, primarily target western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes (C. adamanteus). Professional hunters, not bound by ‘bag’ or ‘take’ limits like other game hunting, remove snakes from their native habitats and are awarded cash prizes for bringing in the most and biggest snakes.

Most snakes are caught by pouring gasoline into their winter dens, which pollutes surrounding land and water and may impact up to 350 other wildlife species. Snakes can be kept for weeks or months until the roundup, often crowded together without food or water. By the time they arrive at the roundup, many are weak, bruised, bleeding, dying, or already dead before finally meeting the bolt gun and machete.

Photograph by Jo-Anne McArthur

The most famous, Sweetwater Jaycee’s World’s Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up, is held every March in Sweetwater, Texas. At the same time, a very different snake festival will be put on in Claxton, Georgia. For more than 40 years, Claxton held a rattlesnake roundup much like Sweetwater, but due to pressure from conservationists — led by a group of forward-thinking children — Claxton stopped slaughtering snakes in 2012 and started a new tradition.

In sharp contrast to the myth-riddled presentations and risky handling techniques demonstrated at Sweetwater, there are no rattlesnakes striking balloons or draped across visitors’ shoulders at Claxton, and snakes are not kicked or decapitated. Instead, captive wildlife are displayed, and local conservationists and professionals teach natural history and safety in the —> Read More