Proponents of rattlesnake roundups defend the snake slaughter with many of the following myths.
MYTH: Roundups are needed to keep rattlesnake populations in check.
FACT: Science does not support claims that roundups are required to prevent rattlesnake overpopulation. Like other wild animals with natural predators, snake populations are maintained by prey abundance and levels of predation and disease.
MYTH: Roundups do not have a negative impact on rattlesnake populations.
FACT: There are no data or studies to support this claim; unlike traditional game hunting, there is no monitoring or reporting to regulate this slaughter of snakes. Anecdotally, many hunters assert they have to go farther every year to find snakes.
MYTH: We need venom collected at roundups to make life-saving antivenom.
FACT: Most antivenom is produced from venom collected from captive colonies of rattlesnakes. Unsanitary conditions at roundups make their venom unsuitable for reputable medical companies.
MYTH: Without roundups, livestock loss from rattlesnakes would put ranchers out of business.
FACT: The USDA’s Cattle Death Loss report has logged no 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.
MYTH: Police would be too busy answering snake calls to do real police work without roundups.
FACT: Arizona has more rattlesnakes than any other state in the US and no rattlesnake roundups. The police spend very little of their time managing rattlesnakes.
MYTH: Roundups are focused on education and safety.
FACT: Roundup presentations are laden with myth and demonstrate unsafe handling techniques and showmanship. The safest way to behave in rattlesnake habitat is to respect the snakes, keep your distance, and watch where you put your hands and feet — none of which is discussed or demonstrated at roundups.
MYTH: Rattlesnakes are dangerous vermin and people cannot coexist with them.
FACT: 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.
Research on Rattlesnake Roundups
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fitzgerald, L.A. and C.W. Painter. 2000. Rattlesnake commercialization: long-term trends, issues, and implications for conservation. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28:235-253.
- Franke, J. 2000. Rattlesnake roundups: uncontrolled wildlife exploitation and the rites of spring. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 3: 151-160.
- Means, D.B. 2009. Effects of rattlesnake roundups on the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 4(2):132-141.
- Pisani, G.R. and H.S. Fitch. 1993. A survey of Oklahoma’s rattlesnake roundups. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter 92:7-15.
- Warwick, C. 1990: Disturbance of natural habitats arising from rattlesnake round-ups. Environmental Conservation 17:172–174.
- Warwick, C. 1991. Observations on collection, handling, storage and slaughter of western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). Herpetopathologia 2: 31-37.
- Warwick, C., C. Steedman, and T. Holford. 1991. Rattlesnake collection drives—their implications for species and environmental conservation. Oryx 25(01): 39-44.
- Weir, J. 1992. The Sweetwater rattlesnake round-up: a case study in environmental ethics. Conservation Biology 6(1): 116-127.
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