We were driving an ATV along sandy roads in Coastal Georgia searching for Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes, the world’s largest rattlesnake. Turning a corner, we saw a large marsh rabbit in the middle of the trail but, unlike all the others, it did not run. We stopped the vehicle and slowly crept closer on foot. Finally, within a few feet, we noticed that its eyes were blood shot and the fur on its shoulder was matted and wet. We wondered if it had been bitten by a rattlesnake, and thus we searched the shrubs in the area for a snake. We eventually gave up and resumed driving the trails. Over an hour later, we returned and found the rabbit hopping slowly towards us on the trail. About 15 feet behind the rabbit, a 5-foot Diamondback Rattlesnake followed its trail, tongue flicking as it gained ground on its prey. We quickly turned and left the area so as not to disturb the snake’s meal. When we returned the next day, there was no sign of either the rabbit or the snake, but we knew that the rabbit had died and served as an important meal for the Diamondback. Standing there thinking about how lucky we were to experience such an event, it reminded me of how important wild places are for preserving rare and endangered reptiles, such as the iconic Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.
Coastal Georgia is one of the few remaining regions where Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake populations remain strong. It is time that we start thinking about the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake as a species that we need to conserve. It is difficult for most people to get past their fears, but if we do not begin acting more proactively, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake populations will continue to decline towards extinction. Diamondback populations have declined significantly across their range and in many areas they are becoming difficult to find. We all need to change how we view the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake; instead of fearing them, we need to respect them and admire them as a symbol of wild places in Southeastern North America. Having the opportunity to experience one in the wild is a rare and special event. Join us in helping to protect America’s Greatest Viper or they will continue to decline, even in strongholds such as Coastal Georgia.