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The conservation group Advocates for Snake Preservation is trying to stop the mass killing of rattlesnakes at roundup festivals each spring across the South and Southwest. (Wikimedia Commons)

Group Seeks to Halt Rattlesnake Slaughter at Roundups

SWEETWATER, Texas – A group of conservation biologists is working to stop the wholesale killing of rattlesnakes each spring at numerous roundup festivals across the South and Southwest.

The nonprofit Advocates for Snake Preservation has argued that there is no science to support the belief that roundups prevent overpopulation and that, in some areas, the species is becoming endangered. Melissa Amarello, the group’s co-founder and director of education, said that reviled though they may be, rattlesnakes are important to the balance of nature.

“Rattlesnakes are a very important predator,” she said. “Now, they’re not what we would call the top of the food chain, because they do have a host of predators themselves – a lot of animals that depend on them for food – and there are a lot of species that they help to maintain the balance of, as well.”

Early spring is prime time for most roundups, Amarello said, and her group is focusing on this weekend’s Sweetwater Jaycees Rattlesnake Roundup in West Texas, which bills itself as the world’s largest. Her group documented last year’s event in Sweetwater, where professional hunters gather thousands of snakes, put them on display and then slaughter them for their skin, meat and rattles.

She said her Arizona-based group does not want to end the roundup festivals but to stop the unnecessary killing of huge numbers of snakes, mostly for entertainment. Amarello said several festivals have become even more successful by not killing snakes but celebrating their area’s local wildlife.

“We recognize that these festivals happen in small towns. It’s a really important source of revenue for the local economy. It’s part of their culture and their tradition, and we don’t want to take all that away from them,” she said. “We just want them to stop killing snakes at the roundup.”

The Sweetwater Jaycees have reported that their annual spring festival brings more than 25,000 visitors each year with an economic impact of more than $8 million to the farming and ranching community of more than 10,000 people.

The group’s report is online at rattlesnakeroundups.com. Information on the Sweetwater Roundup is at rattlesnakeroundup.net

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

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3 comments

  1. David Sager told the New York Times in 2014. “The rattlesnake roundup is our ways and means.” Well Texans–as would any American in any of the great States of America become upset and angry when someone tries to take-away or otherwise end one of their primary “ways and means” of putting food on the table and a roof over their head. But what most Americans do find agreeable is when ‘other’ Americans share their way of doing the same thing in a better way all around. In this instant it is Claxton, Georgia, with a third way that may appease both rattlesnake handlers and animal rights advocates while increasing the tourist attraction and proceeds received. Since 2012, Claxton’s rattlesnake roundup has involved no killing; instead, handlers teach visitors about snake safety while rattlesnakes and other wildlife are available for viewing and local conservationists and professionals teach natural history and safety in the outdoors. Claxton’s new festival has proven more popular and financially successful than ever — proving it’s not the slaughter that brings people in, it’s the snakes themselves.

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