Our state is graced with a remarkable natural heritage. From the mighty American alligator to the rarest snake in North America, the Louisiana pine snake, Louisiana residents are stewards for our reptilian diversity. Aside from the obvious value in preserving native wildlife, many of these animals are integral to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. So it is understandable that I was deeply disappointed to learn that the Lake Providence Snake Rodeo has been revived. This event, wherein participants engage in the indiscriminate slaughter of native species, not only runs contrary to any understanding of environmental sustainability but it is antithetical to the values of conservation and respect for nature that our state upholds.
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Organizers claim that the event is to control the population of “moccasins” in Lake Providence. However, the count from 2016 indicates that 167 nonvenomous diamondback water snakes were killed, opposed to only 85 cottonmouths, meaning that participants butchered about 100 percent more nonvenomous snakes of just one species than their claimed target. In 2018 this ratio was even worse, with about 470 percent more diamondback water snakes killed than cottonmouths. Ironically, the destruction of the nonvenomous water snake species in Lake Providence only creates less competition for cottonmouths. In this way, the snake rodeo is working against its own stated interest.
Even if the rodeo was able to achieve a 100 percent success rate targeting venomous species, these animals still play an important role in our environment. According to Louisiana’s state herpetologist, Jeff Boundy: “the snakes eat diseased fish, and the baby water snakes are a vital food source.” These animals are integral to maintaining healthy fisheries and rookeries in our state.
In short, this event has a negative impact on the local environment and doesn’t even achieve its own stated goals. And to top it off, this year the organizers did not promote the event at all to avoid public exposure. It speaks volumes that the organizers felt the need to keep this event a secret. I ask the organizers to follow the example set by Claxton, Georgia, where they replaced a similar event with a wildlife festival which generates revenue for the local area without a wanton waste of native fauna. Replaced or not, it is clear that this blemish on our state must not be allowed to continue.