Slither On Over to Whigham's Rattlesnake Round-Up

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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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