Get the Facts About Rattlesnake Roundups

Each year, tens of thousands of rattlesnakes are taken from the wild to be displayed and slaughtered for entertainment and profit at rattlesnake roundups. Professional hunters, not bound by ‘bag’ or ‘take’ limits, remove snakes from their native habitats and are awarded with cash prizes for bringing in the most and biggest snakes.

Roundups are Unsustainable

There is no monitoring to assess the effect of the roundups on rattlesnakes, their predators, or their prey.

Most snakes are caught by pouring gasoline into their dens, polluting land and water, and impacting up to 350 other wildlife species.

Roundups have contributed to the decline of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes (proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act).

Roundups are Unnecessary

Roundups are not required to prevent rattlesnake overpopulation – their populations are maintained by native predators, prey abundance, and disease.

Rattlesnakes are shy, gentle creatures that want nothing to do with us. There are fewer than five deaths in the US from snakebites annually, including people who refuse treatment. Most snake bites happen when people handle, approach, or try to kill the snake. Respect snakes, keep your distance, and watch where you put your hands and feet — this would prevent virtually ALL snakebites.

Venom needed for research and antivenom production is collected from captive colonies of rattlesnakes. Unsanitary conditions at roundups make their venom unsuitable for reputable medical companies.

The USDA’s Cattle Death Loss report has logged zero deaths from snakes in more than two decades. Anecdotally, ranchers report that snakes are not a threat to livestock, who usually recover from snakebites, even without treatment.

Melissa and Henry, a western diamondback rattlesnake
Melissa and Henry, a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

Stop Snake Slaughter at Rattlesnake Roundups

Rattlesnake roundups are important to the local culture and economy. Many have evolved into festivals that celebrate, rather than harm, rattlesnakes. And unlike the myths and unsafe handling techniques presented at Sweetwater, evolved festivals are focused on education and safety. Attendees learn about the natural history and conservation of their wild neighbors, as well as how to coexist safely with them: respect the snakes, keep your distance, and watch where you put your hands and feet.

Rather than losing money, reformed festivals often have greater attendance and income, and instead of condemning the festival, local and national conservation organizations promote and participate in these events.

Giving up snake slaughter does not mean losing tradition or harming the local economy. New traditions celebrating our natural heritage without slaughter are more successful than ever.

Research on Rattlesnake Roundups

  1. Adams, C.E., J.K. Thomas, K.J. Strnadel and S.L. Jester. 1994. Texas rattlesnake roundups: implications of unregulated commercial use of wildlife. Wildlife Society Bull. 22(2): 324-330.
  2. Arena, P.C., C. Warwick, and D. Duvall. 1995. Rattlesnake round-ups. Pages 313-324 In R. L. Knight and K. Gutzwiller, editors. Wildlife and Recreationists. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  3. Campbell, J. A., D.R. Formanowicz, Jr., and E.D. Brodie, Jr. 1989. Potential impact of rattlesnake roundups on natural populations. The Texas Journal of Science 41: 301-317.
  4. Fitzgerald, L.A. and C.W. Painter. 2000.  Rattlesnake commercialization: long-term trends, issues, and implications for conservation. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28:235-253.
  5. Franke, J. 2000. Rattlesnake roundups: uncontrolled wildlife exploitation and the rites of spring. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 3: 151-160.
  6. Means, D.B. 2009. Effects of rattlesnake roundups on the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 4(2):132-141.
  7. Pisani, G.R. and H.S. Fitch. 1993. A survey of Oklahoma’s rattlesnake roundups.  Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter 92:7-15.
  8. Warwick, C. 1990: Disturbance of natural habitats arising from rattlesnake round-ups. Environmental Conservation 17:172–174.
  9. Warwick, C. 1991. Observations on collection, handling, storage and slaughter of western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). Herpetopathologia 2: 31-37.
  10. Warwick, C., C. Steedman, and T. Holford. 1991. Rattlesnake collection drives—their implications for species and environmental conservation. Oryx 25(01): 39-44.
  11. Weir, J. 1992. The Sweetwater rattlesnake round-up: a case study in environmental ethics. Conservation Biology 6(1): 116-127.

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