Slither On Over to Whigham's Rattlesnake Round-Up

By: Caroline Gonzmart Email
By: Caroline Gonzmart Email

On most days, Whigham, GA is a pretty quiet town ... but come January, excitement levels skyrocket for the area's Rattlesnake Round-Up, an event complete with all types of vendors, held to benefit the community's civic club.

Says snake ring coordinator, Berry Strickland, "The snakes are the star attraction ... people are interested in snakes, they're curious about them, and we try to educate them a little bit."

Though the Round-Up can seem like fun and games, snake handlers say safety is their number one priority, and the snakes are kept in pens to make sure visitors don't get too close.

But not everyone is thrilled about the Round-Up: some Georgia- and Florida-based animal advocates say Whigham needs to shift from hunting a rapidly-declining species to focus more on celebrating its place in nature.

Dr. Bruce Means has studied the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake for decades, and is considered to be one of the world's foremost experts on the animal. He says through data he's collected from the Round-Up over the years, there is proof that Whigham's event impacts the number of Diamondbacks in south Georgia.

Says Means, "I'm against over-exploitation of nature. I'm not a bunny-hugger -- animals and plants that have value to human beings, it's fine with me if we exploit them, but we need to do so in a sustainable way."

Animal rights group 'One More Generation', created by sibling duo Carter and Olivia Ries, says round-ups encroach on the rights of all animals to be around for future generations.

"We'd like different people to bring rattlesnakes and show people, instead of killing the rattlesnakes .. and they can learn about them more."

Event coordinators maintain they treat the snakes humanely, and every animal is captured live.

For now, the Round-Up slithers on as it has for the past 50 years.

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  • by kuu Location: nj on Mar 5, 2011 at 05:13 AM
    if these were canines or horses people would want blood. but because they are snakes. I doubt very few people "care". more people care if wolves are gassed more people care when mustangs are rounded up and stolen from their "traditional homelands" but people think snakes are icky/evil(yes they still do) so, I don't think Defendersofthewild, will fight, nor will have 40 petitions to stop it
  • by the other sam Location: beachton on Feb 3, 2011 at 07:47 AM
    Mom, I too have heard of these snakes being gassed out of their holes. Around here it is gopher tortoise holes that the turtles share with the snakes. The gas vapor is heavier than air, so the tortoises can't breath and die. They will also put treble hooks on a hose and listen for the rattles through the hose and then try to snatch the snake with the hooks. This whole festival serves no purpose as the venom needed for anti venom can easily be obtained by other methods, captive snakes etc. Whigham should just pick something else to celebrate.
  • by Sam Location: Cairo on Feb 1, 2011 at 05:46 AM
    I don't mean to get into a one-on-one argument with another commentor, but when I see rattlesnakes (and other wildlife) equated with domestic animals which are raised for meat, I have to cry "Foul!" In no way are the two similar. Every single species of wildlife serves a purpose somewhere in the food chain--either predator or prey. Snakes in nature hold down the rodent population, among other things. I also would point out that even if "not all" snakes are gassed, many--perhaps most--are. Again, it is not so much the loss of one snake at issue. It is the harm to other species (all of whom serve a purpose in the scheme of things) and the habitats that are ruined in the process. I don't villianize the farmers who catch the occasional snake in their fields; I just think they should be educated to the damage their actions might be causing. It is undeniable that some snakes are gassed. Last year a couple of men hunting specifically FOR the Whigham Roundup were arrested for that very thing.
  • by GV Location: Ga on Jan 31, 2011 at 09:58 AM
    They need to kill as many as they can.I know I do.Anyone who defends killing a rattlesnake is very ignorant or pure stupid.Ever been around one?Why on earth would someone want to save a rattlesnake?This ain't even God's creation,it is 100percent satan.They need to be gassed out while they are sleeping before they wake up and start traveling and killing.
  • by Whigham Mom Location: Whigham ga on Jan 31, 2011 at 07:17 AM
    Really, not all of the snakes are "gassed out of their burrow" Some of these men catch these snakes all throughout the year, most of them are farmers and they find them in their fields. I know because I have grown up here and have seen it all my life. And for those of you against it remember your words here next time to walk in to the grocery store to pick that pack of ribeyes or that chicken, that animal was slaughtered for you satisfaction. So get down off your pedestal we don't want to hear it. If you don't like it do go.
  • by Sam Location: Cairo on Jan 30, 2011 at 05:15 PM
    It is true that the proceeds go to help the community and that is a wonderful thing. However, that would also be true if the round-up were changed to a festival that celebrates wildlife. The problem is that the snakes are gassed out of their burrows, and other species which ARE protected--including the gopher tortoise and indigo snake, are killed or damaged as well. The Whigham event could so easily be changed to a positive event because the people who put it on are not dumb. They can do better, and it's time they did. There's a reason that so many of the round-ups have been discontinued or changed. And yes, venomous snakes do bite a certain number of humans, but they're acting out of animal instinct, not malicious intent. I'm not sure that the same can be said about humans who pour gas down a burrow to catch the snake. Oh, and to those who think that the snakes are on decline because of habitat destruction: Pouring gas down that burrow is a pretty good way to destroy habitat.
  • by dusky Location: wetumpka on Jan 29, 2011 at 06:01 PM
    ever seen a fat guy die of a heart attack?if protecting lives is the goal then lets sponser a cheeseburger roundup
  • by Georgia Mom Location: Whigham on Jan 29, 2011 at 05:08 PM
    81 rattlesnakes were brought in by snake hunters. Given the wide area that these snakes were collected from, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. FYI, there were educational programs during the event as well as at the local school during the week of the roundup touting the benefits of snakes in the environment and in our day-to-day lives. Do you have a problem with hunting or just snake hunting? Because unless you are a vegan, you can't be against the slaughter of animals for your food, clothing, cosmetics, or sundries. Robin, sometimes it is best to keep quiet and let folks assume you are dumb, ditto on herpie. Robin, there is an old saying about keeping your mouth shut and folks may think you're dumb but open it and....yeah, that would be you.
  • by animal lover Location: ga on Jan 29, 2011 at 01:34 PM
    if there are a animal that will never go extinc that is a rattle snake and cotton mouth. what we need to worry about is the human race. it would be a terrible thing if we were to go extinc. YEA RIGHT then the wourld could restore itself some. but we have done alot of irreversal damage. there are probly hundred's of thousands of animals we have made to go extinc.
  • by Jay Location: Florida on Jan 29, 2011 at 10:49 AM
    The snake's ARE KILLED after the roundup. They are sold to the skin dealer who is one of the presenters and he slaughters them for their skins. This is a fact. They present false information at these events. The snakes a gassed out of their winter burrows by ignorant individuals with no regard for the damage they are doing. There are only two GA roundups left. The rest stopped because of the devastation and negative message they were sending.
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