Locals: ‘For goodness snakes, leave Rodeo alone’

Published 12:01 am Friday, March 22, 2013

Wildlife enthusiasts are once again speaking out against the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo – calling for it to be a “wildlife friendly festival where no snakes are killed.”

On Thursday, Collette Adkins Giese, a biologist and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, issued that statement, calling the rodeo “a lethal and cruel contest in which prizes are awarded to hunters who capture the greatest number of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes.”

“The eastern diamondbacks targeted by the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo are rapidly disappearing all across the southeastern United States, and in some states, they’ve more or less vanished,” she said. “I’m hopeful that sponsors of the Opp event will soon realize that they don’t need to kill imperiled snakes to have a successful community festival.”

The same group moved in 2011 to place the Eastern Diamondback on the endangered species list.

Rodeo officials have forever defended Opp’s biggest event of the year.

Rodeo event planner Don Childre has said numerous times that he disagrees with the numbers the organization used as a basis for their claims of declining numbers.

“Some of the data (these organizations) have pertain to the Rattlesnake Rodeo,” Childre said. “It says that we had close to 400 snakes in the 1970s, and then said we only had 25 the first year the city had the rodeo. That’s because I told the (former) mayor that I didn’t want to deal with 300 to 400 rattlesnakes. We could get 300 if we wanted them.”

Snakes are coming in for this weekend’s event.

Star-News’ Facebook friends weighed in on how they feel about rattlesnakes and the rodeo, and the majority didn’t share the same views as the Center for Biological Diversity.

“They are dangerous and should be killed if you approach one, but I wish attention could be brought to our state for something other than what the rednecks do,” said Missy Smith.

Marie Bass agreed.

“There’s always some group that has nothing better to do than try to start trouble and change perfectly good traditions,” she said. “To those groups, I say, get a grip; get a hobby; or just live and let live for goodness sake.”

Travis Kilpatrick said he thinks the event’s premise is “stupid and dangerous, but I don’t think we should stop them from holding the event.”

“It’s a huge tourist event, too,” he said. “A wildlife festival sounds like a neat idea, though, so I’d recommend having one of those, too.”

Karen Copeland said the animal rights group must not have seen a family destroyed by rattlesnake bites.

“Those people undoubtedly have never watched what it does to a family that has lost a loved one to a rattlesnake bite,” she said. “The Rattlesnake Rodeo has always been very much education and not just about the festival aspect of it, and I personally don’t see it as something rednecks do.”

The rodeo starts today at 3 p.m., at Opp’s Channell-Lee Stadium.

Snake shows, races and more will be held Saturday.