Sustainability Environment

Activists praise first rattlesnake roundup free of catching, killing

(Dan Rieck/iStock)

Story at a glance

  • The Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup in Georgia held its first “wildlife-friendly” roundup on Saturday, March 5, including educational displays and presentations instead of catching rattlesnakes.
  • The initiative was welcomed by environmentalists and animal rights activists, who applauded the educational and conservation efforts that replaced the roundup’s usual rattlesnake catching, and often, killing.
  • However, activists also acknowledge there is still a long way to go as rattlesnake roundups without such conservation efforts still take place, such as the “World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup” in Sweetwater, Texas.

The Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup in Georgia held its first “wildlife-friendly” roundup last week, marking a new initiative that celebrates conservation efforts and snakes – instead of catching andkilling them.    

“The Whigham Community Club took this time to make exciting and creative changes for the Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup 2022,” the event’s site announced. This year’s event on March 5 featured educational displays and presentations instead of catching rattlesnakes. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Quail Forever, and Southeastern Reptile Rescue partnered together to fundraise for the community and provide games, food, and additional activities and entertainment were also provided.   

The change was welcomed by environmentalists and animal rights activists, who applauded the educational and conservation efforts that replaced the roundup’s usual rattlesnake catching. The snakes were often killed for their skin and meat.  

“We’re delighted that Whigham’s event now celebrates these awe-inspiring snakes and recognizes the importance of respecting and protecting them,” Elise Bennett, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “It warms my heart to think of so many people coming together to connect with the natural world and maybe gain a new appreciation for rattlers.” 


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However, the center also acknowledged there is still a long way to go. Some rattlesnake roundups, such as the “World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup” in Sweetwater, Texas, still skin, butcher, and “milk” rattlesnakes for their venom.

The center has called the Sweetwater Roundup “notorious for openly killing and skinning western diamondback rattlesnakes by the hundreds in front of crowds,” and that the event is “inhumane and environmentally harmful.” 

Going on this week, the Sweetwater Roundup includes hunting and catching rattlesnakes, a Miss Snake Charmer pageant, a snake eating contest, and a carnival. The Sweetwater Roundup has countered the accusations, stating that milking the snakes for their venom can be used to create anti-venom and the snake skins are used for boots and clothing, while the meat can be consumed, utilizing all parts of the snake.   

But the center has cited studies that highlight how U.S. rattlesnake roundups and hunting have depleted rattlesnake populations, most notably that of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which is under consideration as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2021, the Sweetwater Roundup caught 3,682 pounds of rattlesnakes.  

Activists hope that change such as those made by the Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.   

“Whigham’s new vision emphasizes how cruel and antiquated the few remaining roundups are, including the largest one left, in Sweetwater, Texas,” Bennett said. “It also shows that it’s possible to have a change of heart and make compassionate changes for these really misunderstood animals.” 


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