The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization, is calling on the Whigham Community Club to end the annual rattlesnake roundup in Whigham, Ga. and instead follow the compassionate lead of other communities by hosting an event that will celebrate, rather than destroy, rattlesnakes and promote stewardship of Georgia's wildlife and ecosystems.
"The Humane Society of the United States strongly opposes rattlesnake roundups," said Cheryl McAuliffe, Georgia state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "These senseless events are not only detrimental to threatened species and the environment, but they also perpetuate false, negative myths about rattlesnakes and other reptiles."
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the federally threatened indigo snake and other animals live in the burrows of gopher tortoises — also a federally threatened species. In the months prior to these events, hunters are known to use gasoline and other toxic substances to flush rattlesnakes from burrows, injuring and killing rattlesnakes and a variety of non-target animals in the process.
"Gassing" is illegal in Georgia, but because the law is difficult to enforce, state wildlife officials admit that gassing is still the primary method of collecting snakes for roundups. Not only does gasoline harm animals in the burrow, it also makes the burrow uninhabitable to other animals in the future. In addition, gasoline may contaminate the soil and nearby groundwater.
Following capture, the snakes are typically piled on top of one another and left in crowded crates or trash cans without food or water for weeks or months. As a result, many snakes are crushed to death or slowly suffer and die from overheating, starvation or dehydration prior to these events.
For these reasons, The HSUS urges the Whigham Community Club to accept its offer to work with event organizers to transform the roundup into a community festival designed to raise revenue for charitable causes while promoting appreciation for rattlesnakes and other native Georgia wildlife.
Community organizers in Fitzgerald, Ga. and San Antonio, Fla. have successfully transformed their traditional rattlesnake roundups into festivals that promote co-existence and wildlife stewardship.
Rattlesnakes play a vital role in Georgia's native ecosystems. These animals keep rodent populations in check and are an important source of prey for raptors and other animals.
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