The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Rattlesnake Roundups Should Be Banned: Change My Mind

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/12/2018 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 712 times Debate No: 115400
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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In my opinion, rattlesnake roundups should be changed severely, or else banned entirely. The reasons I am not totally for banning them is because they do have positive economic effects. Also, when the roundup is just catch-and-release, it makes sense and seems fine. However, when talking about the traditional event of rounding up rattlesnakes in the hundreds or thousands, and killing them in a public display as a "family-friendly" event, things need to change.
First, let's talk about rattlesnakes. These are a widely famous and feared pit-viper. Now, the whole point of the round-up is to extirpate(wipe out a species in a local area) rattlesnakes of the area because they are dangerous. Yes, it is true that rattlesnake venom is dangerous, and around 7-8,000 people are bitten by them a year. However, very few die thanks to living in a century of great technology and anti-venom being produced. Next, rattlesnakes are not aggressive animals. They are not out to get you! The reason they have a rattle is to warn predators that they will bite if approached. They see you as a predator. They would rather save their venom for food they need to eat than waste it on you. In fact, rattlesnakes may even get what are called dry-bites, which is where a rattlesnake has given a bite without venom to serve as a warning. When someone gets bitten and injected with venom by a rattlesnake, it's a mutual loss. The reason people get bit is either if they accidentally step on it, or attempt to catch or kill it. Rattlesnakes, along with other snake species, are also beneficial, as they keep down rodent populations. Rodents like rats and mice breed in the masses, and although not directly dangerous, can spread dangerous illnesses, and rodents like rabbits, moles, and voles can destroy crops and gardens. Despite being seemingly threatening, rattlesnakes are actually helpful. Now, some people defend the
roundups as keeping the populations down. However, most rattlesnake populations are stable, with none overpopulating, and some are actually endangered. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is currently close to becoming an endangered species, but guess what, is targeted in many rattlesnake roundups.
Next is the roundup itself. Competitions are set for whoever can catch the most snakes. The process of rounding them up is unnecessarily harmful to the environment, with gasoline being poured down holes to drive them out of their dens. After hundreds or thousands are gathered, the event occurs. Snakes' mouths are stitched up to prevent them from biting. Children are brought in as well as adults to partake in this festival of fun. The snakes are then killed, skinned and gutted. Now, you may argue that the snakes are used for food. That is true. It is good that they are not wasted. However, these roundups occur in southern states, and no offense to southerners, but they don't exactly look like they are running low on food. The skin is also not necessary to use, but at least the snakes are not just being dumped away. The most disturbing part, though, is that children use the snake's blood to make handprints! In short, the threat of rattlesnakes is completely exaggerated, and it is just wrong to round up and publicly kill thousands of animals just because they are capable of defending themselves, and sometimes people make the mistake of forcing these animals to do so.


First of all, I should thank Pro for offering a significant wildlife issue currently under deliberation in legislatures and the media across the USA. Crafty to favor unconditional legal prescription for these reptiles, as I can see no reason, personally, to kill one. I live in Utah, where the Great Basin rattler (Crotalus viridis lutosus), a Western subspecies, is reasonably common and occasionally seen enjoying sunshine atop rocks in the cool of the day. With skill, binoculars aid observation of rattlers sunning many yards off the trail. In defense of critter, my first-round links (bottom) simply describe them, describe the medical consequences of their bites, and give related safety tips.

Although they are dangerous only at close ranges of 1 to 3 feet depending on body length, make no mistake: I'm arguing the Con position against a total ban on hunting rattlesnakes. Instead, I believe this activity should be closely regulated by wildlife departments, with killing of endangered rattler species prohibited but seasonal or situational hunts and roundups allowed for other species under a permit system. Of course we recall that all wildlife in National Parks is protected, a status I do not favor changing. The Great Basin and Mojave (Crotalus scutulatus) rattlers currently belong to the "least concern" conservation category, meaning they'll likely stick around for generations to come.

The two snakes I mentioned are protected in Utah as non-consumptive game, a legal status which should be continued. As dry climates back of the Rocky Mountains won't support dense populations of any kind of snake, much less one that preys on mammals, I foresee no need for roundups in my home statewe'll have to import our rattler steaks from Texas and I'll forego that food item at the prices prevailing. By the way, we're dealing with an elusive vertebrate. I've bumped into just a single live rattler directly in my path on hikes since 1991 despite having witnessed dozens of tracks and cast-off skins, or snakes going Tropicana through binocs. However, the roundup scene in plains states east of the Rockies may be different. Here's why:

More rainfall means more snakes; more railroads mean more pastures, feedlots, horses and farm animals all at more chance of getting bit than a human is. I wear high-top boots in snake country, but Mr. Ed, the talking TV horse from the 1950s, does not. Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois in particular have a lot of cows running around with those bare legs in the shortgrass where, even given livestock"s wariness of snakes, cryptic coloration and motionlessness render rattlers difficult to spot before they're stepped on. "Shortgrass" is a bit of a misnomer because if not the 8 feet of tallgrass, such brush is plenty high enough to conceal a coiled hazard.

I now plan to dispute one of Pro's round 1 claims and the premise he derives from a second claim. As he says, despite 7000+ biting incidents each year, the USA no longer sees many fatalities, usually fewer than 5. You're more likely to die falling out of bed. But death's not the sole concern. Venomous snake bites are painful. They can damage nerves in the affected limb, compromising future use of that limb or quality of life post-treatment or both, or lead to amputation. Hospital bills can soar to six figures, a nasty debt obligation even if one's insured at >70% of costs. Outright livestock losses from bites run at low levels, but the animals' defensiveness costs them calories they could use to grow fatter. If a horse does get bit and the wound turns out envenomed, it will have to be put down in a tragedy for its owner.

Unfortunately, few studies on snakebite incidence and sequelae have been done. A highly-esteemed paper from the 1960s, which has a primer on snake identification as well, circulates on the National Institutes of Health web site today (NCBI link below). About 1800 victims were referred for inpatient stays in 1959. Hospital treatment, based mainly on antivenin and supportive care, hasn't changed much since then, but first aid has: In 2018, tourniquets and incisions for sucking venom at the wound site are verboten; the priority to get the victim to a hospital quickly, keeping him or her as calm as possible en route. One thing we do know, however, is that bites are on the rise lately, by copperheads, up 137% between 2000 and 2013 (CBS News, link below).

Roundups, contra Pro's advice, are not undertaken with the purpose of extirpating rattlers. They merely aim to control populations in states like Arkansas where massive dens ensure concentration of snakes in certain local areas. Under state license, roundups could be authorized one at a time where problems crop up. Hunts provide recreation and pleasurable food, remembered by snakeskin items including boots, quivers for arrows, and mounted trophies on walls. States will limit the harvest by issuing a tag for every rattler killed. Anti-wasting laws will punish those who, even with tags or roundup allotment in hand, throw rattler carcasses on the ground to rot. I doubt this practice too frequent, the effort required to find that snake placing value on its remains: pride, something to eat, something to wear, ribs to embroider into a buckskin jacket, a skull to display behind glass. Pro has acknowledged this.

Should we impose our values on other citizens in a free country anyway? I'm not a hunter, much preferring tough cowhide for my own sorry cadaver-to-be to be shod. I've never taken a wild animal"s life. But I do eat meat. While chewing, I suddenly realize that values legitimately become social norms or mores when harm to human beings, or to society as a whole, would result from their violation. We have laws against murder, child abuse, willful environmental pollution, all grave insults to humanity or to human, plant and animal habitat, the animals, including game, being necessaries to our well-being. I support such laws. But not an absolute ban on rattlesnake kills.

In general, I concur with the bulk of Pro’s narrative outside the two major claims I objected to. Particularly regarding its non-aggressive nature and rodent control services we can see the pit viper as friend. Yet severe policies such as catch and release aren’t warranted for most rattler species. I don’t know how Eastern diamondbacks are faring, but Westerns are doing fine, and timber rattlers or canebrakes are the most common species on the Piedmont, more oft encountered by children in shorts and sneakers that don’t shield them from the strike. Whether states ought to countenance gasoline on regulated hunts is doubtful amid forest fire risk, but CO2 can be used to clear a den.

As for Pro's lurid strawman of kiddie handprints in snake blood, I demur. Watch Moustapha Akkad"s Halloween II (Universal Pictures, 1981) for your fill of gore and flames.

Given research will take me a day or two (that brief, 48-hour deadline worries me), I'll post fuller citation for my previous paragraphs' arguments in round 2, where I must also rebut any counterarguments Pro has advanced by then. Round 3 will of course present the wrap-up and conclusion. Now I invite Pro to show why my position on rattlesnakes is unreasonable.

Great Basin Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis lutosus)
Bryce Canyon National Park
Nat'l Park Service

Incidence of Treated Snakebites in the United States
(The number of patients treated, 1,812, is on p. 271)
Henry Parrish
Public Health Reports 81(3), March 1966

Snakebites are on the Rise
Don Rauf
CBS News, October 20, 2016

Rattlesnake safety tips
Wildlife News
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, June 16, 2017
Debate Round No. 1


First off:
Yes, guests of rattlesnake roundups do use the animal's blood to make handprints.
Second off, yes, rattlesnake hunting seems fair. The main reason I am against rattlesnake roundups is because of the methods used to acquire the snakes, which is by pouring gasoline and propane into dens, as well as the treatment they are given. If you are hunting them, you could probably just kill them with snake shot right in the head. Bang. Done. However, with roundups, the animals are caged and put under severe stress, before being beheaded. Because of their biology, rattlesnakes can survive for up to an hour without their bodies, so they may still be conscious after beheading. This is why people get bitten by rattlesnakes even after killing them. Despite not being fully sentient, they still feel pain. Third, it is perfectly fine to kill a rattlesnake on your property, especially if you have livestock, pets, and family to protect. It is not okay to gather them in the masses to be executed in a festive manner. Also, before you argue that they are used to gather venom to produce anti-venom, lots of snake keepers already harvest venom in a humane manner without killing the snake. It is a great source of business for them. Also, it is relatively easy to avoid rattlesnakes. The key is to just pay attention and listen to the rattlesnake's distinct warning, and watch where you step while in rattlesnake country. Most people don't bother to pay attention, or actively seek out the snake, and I hate to say it, but at that point it's their fault they got bit. I also apologize for the misleading title. I am not against roundups completely because they do support the economy, but I am saying that they take it down by several notches in intensity. First, kill the snakes more humanely. Second, lower the amount killed. Third, for the love of god, don't make handprints out of their blood and try to glamorize killing them. I actually don't think your position is unreasonable, and is quite agreeable. Honestly, I was expecting a redneck to debate me and throw in religious crap about how snakes are the devil's spawn.


Subjective sensation, consciousness and intelligence in nonhuman animals is a slippery issue Thomas Nagel scraped when discussing the private nature of such phenomena. That is, no one can directly experience what another mind does, except that mind’s owner; outsiders are denied access. Human languages acknowledge this boundary by having first-person pronouns which speakers use to talk about their own mental states, desires and sensations such as pain or the sight of a rose’s red color. We then use 2nd- or 3rd-person pronouns to reference these experiences in other people. Because of the complications, I must spend my entire reply on it, for it’s relevant to the ethics of hunting and animal slaughter.

By reason that we have a thing called “empathy,” we make pretty accurate guesses on what another person is feeling, even when our contact is entirely nonverbal, through gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice. We do this by assuming our subject’s experiences are like our own. The red you see in a rose is the same red I see, goes the theory, although I have no way to verify if that’s true. Maybe you see what I’d call “blue,” but we both agree the color is red because we see it in the same rose.

Nagel pointed out the difficulty of applying concepts of empathy when we analyze the feelings of a bat. We’ve never echolocated moths in total darkness, so we have no idea what it’s like to do so, even if totally informed of the mechanical details—such as the fact that bats’ brains have two-dimensional maps of direction to target which resemble our own maps of the visual field. Is echolocation therefore like eyesight? Nagel said we’ll never know; the mechanics is as far as we’ll get. He opposed reductionism for this problem, declaring it intractable.

Animal behaviorists have devised a test for consciousness that requires only painting a dot on an animal’s forehead while it is anesthetized and then putting the critter in a cage with a mirror to check whether it notices the dot. So far, only apes, elephants, dolphins—and curiously, magpies—pass this test, with certain ants being candidates. Yet we can ask how appropriate the test is. It certainly measures an aspect of consciousness, the kind of self-awareness involving a vision of one’s own body as an outside observer would see it. Pain, however, is a fully conscious experience that doesn’t invoke any faculty of displacement. Rats hurt when their tails are clipped.

At least we think they do. We must base that conclusion by external signs such as vocalization, widening of the eyes, or the rat’s seeking to escape the person who injured it. We have no more “insider” access to its mind than we have into Colonel Sanders’s, or even less, as they smell pheromones in rat urine which are odorless to us.

We therefore apply a conservative ethical principle which assumes experience in nonhuman animals resembles a person’s as closely as observational constraints permit. Under this conservatism, we needn’t believe that rats can read Tolstoy’s Crime and Punishment, but we must take it that the blue of the sky is as different from the red of a rose for them as these are for us—and that painful stimuli evoke the same feelings of anguish and fear in rats they do in people, given they’re noticeably sensitive to them.

Unfortunately, the fact that a rattler’s disembodied head can bite tells us nothing about whether it’s conscious. This might be a reflex action. The human arm-withdrawal reflex relies on a spinal nerve circuit bypassing the brain, so it functions in persistent vegetative states, or when the arm’s sensory nerves are numbed by lidocaine. In the latter case, test subjects report no pain when their fingers are briefly touched by hot probes, but their arm jerks back toward the body nonetheless.

Generally accepted practice in hunting forbids the infliction of unnecessary pain on prey. I confess I don’t know how or where to draw this line. We can legally shoot a buck, but we cannot use a foot trap to catch it because prolonged agony follows. Yet again, we allow archery hunts despite the slower death from an arrow wound, as opposed to gunshot. Approval of hunting method depends more on aesthetics and custom than on the animal’s feelings. All agree, however, that death must occur promptly. While bear and beaver trappers once operated in Utah, foot traps, now considered inhumane, are no longer a permissible way to take any wildlife in this state.

Killing venomous snakes we discover in yards or houses is paradoxically less urgent than controlling their overall populations on a hotspot basis; for it’s the snake you don’t see which might strike. Animal control departments handle snakes on private property by catching them for release into the wild. Pain is definitely a concern with any vertebrate, so snakes are often dispatched by breaking their necks with heavy, elbow-length gloves on. Shooting one is surprisingly tough; the target is small and moves rapidly from side to side. Birdshot is sometimes used, followed by delivery with a .22 fired point-blank at the head.

Just as you said, amateur attempts to kill or capture rattlers are dangerous. It’s best to call police non-emergency or animal control if you find one in an area where people or livestock could encounter it. I’m a bit unsure here, but I think venom is today obtained mostly from captive rattlers. Species and freedom from disease must be ascertained before the venom is administered to horses for the manufacture of antivenin. It’s an expensive product in limited supply. Many hospitals don’t stock it, and those which do will refrain from using it if at all possible, due to price and risk of adverse side effects.

What is it Like to Be a Bat?
Thomas Nagel
Philosophical Review 83(4), October 1974, pp. 435-450
University of Warwick

Neurobiology of echolocation in bats
Cynthia Moss and Shiva Sinha
Current Opinion in Neurobiology 13(2003), pp. 751–758
University of Maryland

List of Animals That Have Passed the Mirror Test
Animal Cognition blog;

A final aside: The bloody handprints are a strawman even if they do exist. Serial killers haunt the city, yet their infrequency makes comparison of ordinary homicides to the acts of Ted Bundy misleading. Motive, the experience of killing itself, is different for the “average” murderer who lashes out in anger than it was for Bundy. Serial killing is a type of addictive behavior offering a pleasure and a sense of frustration when it goes unfulfilled which the average murder doesn’t face. I take it finger painting with snake blood is relatively rare, too. I’ve never tried it, nor seen anyone else’s work in this medium.

In other words, organizers of the Sweetwater Miss Snake Charmer contest CNN reported on aim to make their event a sensation unique to rural West Texas. We don’t have similar parties out here in Utah. But we don’t have as many rattlers, either—they’d go extinct if we destroyed them at the rate the CNN piece shows.

Unfortunately, rattlers don’t always rattle before striking and the whirr is soft as well, a thing my aging ears can’t hear unless background noise is absent. Copperheads, cottonmouths and coral snakes lack rattles.
Debate Round No. 2

This article proves they are still conscious after their head is cut off, and are not just snapping on impulses. The way snakes are treated in roundups is cruel and unethical. The snakes are forced into a high stress environment, and then killed as people celebrate and enjoy the festivity. The point is not to stop the hunting of these animals just because they are non-game, but to stop roundups or take a more ethical approach to them. Population control is okay, but a glamorized massacre is wrong. If the goal of roundups is rattlesnake education, there is no reason to kill and gut them in front of children. If you are going to make it a "family-friendly" roundup, do it more like the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by ArguingPerson123 3 years ago
Great Debate
Posted by hatshepsut 3 years ago
Unfortunately, Family obligations prevented my continuing this discussion. Thanks to Pro for responding to me twice.
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