City of Opp retracts bounty on snakes
Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar announced Monday the city is rescinding its offer of a bounty for Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.
City officials offered a bounty last month of up to $1,000 in order to collect snakes for the 51st annual Rattlesnake Rodeo, which is slated for April 1 and 2.
Edgar said the decision was made following criticism and concerns voiced by conservationists that offering a bounty was cruel and could create problems.
“Considering these criticisms, we immediately retracted any bounty for snakes,” Edgar said. “We probably did not consider all issues as we should have before posting a bounty.”
Edgar said no snakes have been turned in to the City of Opp, and it would appear the bounty had no impact on the environment.
“There did, however, appear to be a lot of unfounded criticism from people who obviously have never attended a rodeo in Opp,” he said. “I have always been willing to admit it when I am wrong. We have retracted all offers or bounties on rattlesnakes. I do not believe, based on the letters to the editor though that I am the only person misinformed about our Rattlesnake Rodeo.”
Edgar said since the city began sponsoring the rodeo six years ago, the focus has been on education about the snakes.
“There is no cruelty or mistreatment of these creatures,” he said. “During the past six years since, the City of Opp has collected no more than 40 snakes. These snakes were caught using nothing but a water hose to listen in the gopher holes and a small hook to pull them and pin them. This method is harmless to other indigenous species that may be endangered. Gasoline has not been used to flush the snakes in many years.”
Still, Edgar said the snakes were sold or used to contribute to science and research after the rodeo was over in order to provide further education, research and medicine for snake-bite victims.
Edgar said the rodeo places emphasis on education.
“Throughout the day, our handlers and emcee provide educational programs to young and old alike in attendance,” he said. “These programs include teaching about the snakes themselves and their native habitat, how to avoid snake bites, how to recognize poisonous versus non-poisonous snakes, what to do in the event of a bite, and how anti-venom is produced and uses. Snakes are not slaughtered at the rodeo.”
Additionally, Edgar said the city has not seen a decline in any way in the rattlesnake population in the Opp or Covington County area.
“We have seen a decline in the number of snakes turned in, though because there are now only a few snake hunters and handlers in the area, whereas 10 years ago, there were two or three times as many,” he said. “In the future though, to eliminate any misconceptions about the purpose of the rodeo, we will severely limit the number of snakes we display and use at the rodeo.”
Edgar said the city will continue to expand children’s educational programs and fun activities at the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo, and to provide quality musical entertainment and arts and crafts for folk of all ages.
“We welcome Colt Ford and Rodney Atkins for the 2011 rodeo,” he said.