Rounding Down Rattlesnake Roundups
Our most recent Conservation Blog introduced some of our amazing reptile-centric conservation partnerships (if you missed it, check it out here), including one of our most collaborative partnerships- the eastern indigo snake reintroduction project with the Orianne Society, Auburn University, and Central Florida Zoo.
We get it, snakes give some folks the creepy crawlies (or creepy slitheries?). But snakes are the unsung heroes of their ecosystems, helping to maintain balance in the food web and keep local pests under control. The eastern indigo snake takes this a very metal step farther, helping to control populations of venomous snakes by eating them. Unfortunately this species, native to south Georgia and Alabama, is classified as threatened by the Federal Endangered Species Act due to habitat destruction and human interference. We’re incredibly proud of the progress we’re making to reintroduce eastern indigo snakes to the Conecuh National Forest, but, as always, there are a handful of things you can do as an individual to bolster our efforts.
Raising awareness about the detrimental effects of rattlesnake roundups is one such action that has a big impact on protecting eastern indigo snakes. Stopping rattlesnake roundups helps not only the eastern indigo snake, but all the species that reside in these habitats.
Rattlesnake roundups are contests calling for hunters to bring in as many snakes as they can catch in a year, their catches often being sold for skin and meat. A common (although illegal) tactic during rattlesnake roundups is spraying gasoline into tortoise burrows, often killing any number of the more than 350 species that depend on tortoise burrows for food and shelter- including the eastern indigo snake.
The good news is that roundups are on the decline. Many roundups have pivoted the focus of their events towards education-forward wildlife festivals (that still generate revenue for their host towns). However, a number of rattlesnake roundups are still widely attended across the south. You can find a list of current roundups, as well as some action items here.
Even if you’re not personally a fan of snakes, the ecological contributions of our slithery pals are undeniable. Don’t forget you can visit eastern indigo snakes in person here at the Zoo and that your support of the Zoo helps us continue our conservation efforts to get their numbers back on track!
Sources and Further Reading:
- Cummins, E. (2019, March 8). Rattlesnake roundups are a southern tradition. They’re also an ecological disaster. Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/rattlesnake-roundup-ecology-gassing/
- OUTLAWING RATTLESNAKE ROUNDUPS. Center for Biological Diversity . (n.d.). https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/outlawing_rattlesnake_roundups/index.html#:~:text=Roundups%20are%20driving%20some%20species,roundup%20pressure%20and%20habitat%20loss.
- SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: THE EASTERN INDIGO SNAKE. Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida. (n.d.). https://wildlifeflorida.org/species-spotlight-the-eastern-indigo-snake/