|Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus),|
the world's largest species of rattlesnake (maximum 8'3")
|Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox),|
the species targeted by most roundups these days
|Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus), the species |
by which most Americans are bitten—about 1,500 a year1
|Dead snakes, mostly homalopsids, for sale at a market in|
Indonesia. One cylindrophiid is visible in the upper right.
Photo by Nurcholis Anhari Lubis, National Geographic.
|Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), the species whose|
former range overlaps with the most densely-populated areas
of the USA. Even so, most people will never see one.
since 1971, in 2012 the Evans County Wildlife Club|
decided to discontinue their annual rounding-up of wild
rattlesnakes and now hosts the Claxton Rattlesnake Festival,
which features live captive rattlesnakes which are provided by the
Georgia DNR and displayed but not killed. I took this photo
along Interstate 16 in Georgia in 2009.
- The second annual Texas Rattlesnake Festival, coming up on April 11th and 12th 2015 at Dell Diamond’s United Heritage Center in Round Rock, Texas
- Claxton Rattlesnake Festival in Claxton, Georgia, hosted by the Evans County Wildlife Club on March 14th & 15th, a former rattlesnake roundup
- Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival on March 20th & 21st in Fitzgerald, Georgia, also a former rattlesnake roundup
1 It's tough to estimate this number because not all snakebites are reported and the species is not reported or may be incorrectly identified in all reported snakebites. To get 1,500, I used data from southern California suggesting that 80-90% of snakebites in that region are from C. oreganus, and extrapolated to the figures reported in the most recent review that ~4,700 human exposures to native venomous snakes occur each year, about half of which are to rattlesnakes. I assumed that half of the 48% of bites from unidentified venomous snakes were also from rattlesnakes. Although the actual figure might be anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000, I'm fairly confident that C. oreganus is the species of rattlesnake by which most Americans are bitten every year, because it's among the most common and widespread. Probably slightly more people are bitten by Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) each year.↩
2 Herpetologists and physicians claim that venom collected at roundups is unsuitable for use in the manufacture of antivenin, because it is not sterile. Both venom dealers and antivenom producers are quite guarded about the sources that they use, so it is difficult to evaluate this claim or that made by the organizers of rattlesnake roundups that the venom that they collect is put to some useful purpose.↩
|Data from Adams & Thomas 2008 (p.69)|
3 Interviews conducted by the same authors found that claims that area hunted has increased or that roundups are importing snakes from far away to sustain themselves are apparently unfounded (except, see the Pennsylvania comment below). At least, snake hunters at Sweetwater and other Texas roundups reported hunting the same dens year after year, and the lower prices paid per pound of snake (see graph) suggest that importing snakes or hunting them over a wider range is not a viable economic strategy. In 1991, 83 of 111 Texas counties within the range of the western diamondback were hunted for roundups, with much of the effort clumped around the communities holding the roundups and at dens adjacent to roads, because the equipment used for pumping gasoline fumes into dens is heavy. It's likely that much less of this land is hunted today, given the number of roundups that have shut down, new TX state laws prohibiting the collection of any snakes from roads, the increased price of gas, the decreasing price of rattlesnake meat & skins, and liability concerns of landowners.↩
4 It seems that most Pennsylvania roundups have converted to catch-and-release events as per Pennsylvania state law, while a minority import (and kill, and eat) a limited number western diamondbacks from the southwest each year. The state legislature is reluctant to ban the events completely, as they are mainstays of firehouse fund-raisers in almost a dozen rural communities, but they have instituted bag and size limits and a two-day season, restricted collection to male snakes, and mandated that all snakes be marked and released where they were captured (although enforcement is understandably quite challenging). [Edit: Melissa Amarello helped me confirm the truth of this.]↩