Thursday, May 10, 2012

Eastern Diamondback May Gain Protection Under Endangered Species Act

There may be light on the horizon for the largest rattlesnake species in the world, the Eastern Diamondback. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced yesterday that the snake may qualify for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. This response occurred after a petition for the protection of the snake was submitted in late 2011 by the Center for Biological Diversity with several biologists being on board, particularly Dr. Bruce Means who was worked with the species for his entire life. You can read more about the announcement in the article posted via the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This snake has and continues to experience drastic declines across its range in the southeastern United States and none of the states in which it has found have offered it legal protection.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake - Crotalus adamanteus

A denizen of the longleaf pine forests of the southeast, this snake is easily one of the most impressive that is found in North America. Unfortunately, a mere 2-3%  of its former habitat still exists and many of these snakes that are still hanging on today are living in an extremely fragmented landscape. This makes them extremely susceptible to road mortality and persecution by humans. Many are hit by motorists intentionally when seen crossing roads and others that are encountered in the field are usually shot or killed on sight. With an adult length of 4-7 feet in length they are certainly a formidable snake to meet in the field, but the Eastern Diamondback would rather get away than hold its ground and fight. Unfortunately, ignorance and old wives tales have given this snake a nasty reputation to the people who live in and around its habitat in the southeastern United States. This coupled with habitat loss has caused drastic declines for this snake and it is likely extirpated in Louisiana and North Carolina where it was formerly found. Some states such as Mississippi and Alabama still hold yearly rattlesnake roundups where snakes are collected for skins and meat every year in the hundreds.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other partner organizations made a push for federal protection last last year when they submitted a large proposal and petition for the snake to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, you can read the entire petition here via the Center for Biological Diversity. Because of the extremely conservative political cultures in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina, the snake would never be listed at the state level protection. The announcement from the USFWS yesterday is a step in the right direction in the conservation of this species. A decision must be made within a year, and hopefully the Eastern Diamondback will get some much needed help in the fight for its future, stay tuned.

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