Typically, 300-600 rattlesnakes are collected annually for Georgia rattlesnake roundups, but some years have yielded more than 1,000 snakes. Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes make up the vast majority of the collected snakes, although a small number of timber rattlesnakes are also entered. The standard method for collecting snakes is to dig them
In addition to a bounty based on the length of the snake, hunters are awarded cash prizes for the greatest number of snakes collected by an individual or team and for the heaviest snakes. The collected snakes are bought by skin processors, who slaughter them and prepare the skins for use in leather products and curios.
Although the collected rattlesnakes are certainly a focal point of the festivals, such typical community fair events as parades, beauty contests, arts and crafts exhibits, amusement rides, and food vending are the primary attractions for the public. Tens of thousands of people attend rattlesnake roundups in Georgia each year, but usually only a few dozen hunters contribute all the snakes.
In recent years conservationists have noted significant declines in populations of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. Although habitat deterioration is probably the greatest threat to this reptile,
Organizers of rattlesnake roundups claim the events produce several benefits: they cull dangerous snake populations, provide a local economic boost, support charitable organizations, and contribute venom for medical research. Others believe rattlesnake roundups are cruel, harmful to the environment, and promote disrespect for legitimate members of our natural heritage.
Lee E. Fitzgerald and Charles W. Painter, "Rattlesnake Commercialization: Long-term Trends, Issues, and Implications for Conservation," Wildlife Society Bulletin 28 (2000): 235-53.
Manny Rubio, Rattlesnake: Portrait of a Predator (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998).
John Jensen, Georgia Department of Natural Resources
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