Endangered Species Status Considered For Eastern Diamondback
May 13, 2012

Endangered Species Status Considered For Eastern Diamondback

Officials with the US Fish and Wildlife Service are reportedly mulling over whether or not to grant endangered species protection to the venomous eastern diamondback rattlesnake, various media outlets have reported.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the Wednesday announcement is being considered because the creature, which at eight feet is the longest rattlesnake in the world, is being targeted throughout the southeastern US because of their meat and skins. The AP notes that there are no limits for how many eastern diamondbacks can be hunted in several states, including South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has approved additional study into the declining numbers of the eastern diamondback, and will spend the next 12 months completing scientific surveys and soliciting comments from the public in order to determine whether or not the species should be added to the Endangered Species List, Reuters reporter Verna Gates said.

"Eastern diamondbacks are rapidly disappearing all across the southeastern United States, and in some states, they've more or less vanished," Collette Adkins Giese, a reptile and amphibian specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the AP. "They need Endangered Species Act protection to survive."

"We are going to do our best to keep these beautiful animals on the planet with us," added Dan Everson, Deputy Field Supervisor for the US Fish and Wildlife service in Alabama, in an interview with Gates.

Not everyone agrees that those efforts are worthwhile, however.

"I don´t know if you´re going to get a lot of sympathy for putting one of the most dangerous snakes in the world on an endangered species list," South Carolina State Representative Chris Murphy told Sammy Fretwell of The State on Friday.

According to Fretwell, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the 23rd most venomous snake on the planet. They are native to coastal lowlands and longleaf pine forests, Reuters and AP report, and once covered 90 million acres of land throughout the southeast. However, due to hunting and loss of habitat, they have be confined to as little as 3 million acres of habitat, experts told Gates.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking comment from state and federal agencies as well as the public before deciding whether threatened or endangered listing is warranted. If not, no action will be taken," the AP said. "If listing is warranted, the agency then will solicit independent scientific review as well as public comment, a year-long process, before making a final decision. A third option is to find listing is warranted but precluded by higher priorities such as proposals to list species at greater risk. Action then would be put on hold."