Friday, November 5, 2010

Announcing the Poise and Dignity Campaign

             Philosopher Alain de Botton has lamented the role of the pervasive advertisements we confront throughout each day of our modern lives.  These advertisements are conscious efforts to pervert and distort not only what we find valuable but what we should aspire to achieve and acquire in life.

            The media accosts us with stories and photographs they feel would be interesting to the general public.  They may not be deliberate attempts to guide our thought process, but are they not also conditioning us?   When we see, over and over, rattlesnakes killed or maimed and hoisted into the air as some macabre trophies, do we learn this is the appropriate way to interact with these animals (perhaps leading to event such as this)?

What happened to the animal that Dr. Robert Mount, in his seminal book, The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama, described as conducting itself with, “poise and dignity”?  Are they destined to serve simply as a thing to run over, hack with a shovel, and thrust towards the camera in some display of bravado?           

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is one of the top predators of the southeastern United States.  Their massive forms lay in wait around tussocks of wiregrass for potential prey like cotton rats.  Huge male snakes intertwine their bodies and reach towards the sky at right angles from the ground, engaging in ritual combat for mating opportunities.   As the weather begins to warms in the spring, snakes emerge from their winter refugia, such as a gopher tortoise burrow, the black and golden diamonds running down the length of their body appear in stark contrast to the sandy soils and sparse understory which typify their habitats.

Since I started this blog in April of 2009, my blog detailing commonly circulated pictures of dead rattlesnakes has received nearly 33,000 visits.   I’ve received 410 visits from people who have searched for the term, “large rattlesnake in florida”, 257 looking for information about a “giant rattlesnake”, 158 from those who’ve searched for, “largest rattlesnake ever killed”, 153 from those who typed “giant rattlesnake florida” into their search engine and 149 from those looking for information related to the “huge rattlesnake killed in georgia”.  Cumulatively, there are a lot of people interested in big rattlesnakes and when they look for information about these snakes, they find trophy shots of dead animals.

With this in mind, I announce the Poise and Dignity Campaign.  Let’s give all these people searching for information about giant rattlesnakes something to look at other than a mutilated corpse.  I’m soliciting high quality photos of rattlesnakes (of any species) demonstrating the poise and dignity these animals possess.  Photographs should not have evidence of human presence or interference and be accompanied by one to three paragraphs describing the encounter.  Once I have a number of stories submitted I will compile them (properly credited) and create a blog post to counter the dozens of trophy shots with which we’re bombarded.

            If you have an anecdote or story you’d like to share, please indicate your interest in the comments below and I will know to expect something from you.

12/10/10 Update: The compilation of stories has been published.  Now I'm collecting more for volume II!


Todd Pierson said...

David- I'd love to contribute. Shall I email you?


David Steen said...

Todd, that's great! Yes, anyone that's interested should leave a comment here and e-mail the actual material to


Miguel said...

Have you seen the release from SCDNR/Steve Bennett? I didn't agree with 100% of what was stated in the article, but gets the main idea across:

Carol said...

I've been lucky enough not to have big rattlesnakes at my place..did have a pygmy once..even a few coral snakes...I try to let everything that comes into my area live peacefully. I move them if they get too close to the bird houses etc.

David Steen said...

Hi Miguel,
No I hadn't seen that press release so thanks for sharing it. What didn't you agree with?

I think you've got the right attitude, but be careful moving around those snakes.


Fingerprince Prints said...

Dave - We will be happy to contribute. We will email you soon.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should begin by removing your tab marked "Dead Rattlesnake Pictures" and then refuse to continue showing dead rattlesnake images on your blog from now on?

David Steen said...

The point (and necessity) of displaying those pictures is to debunk outrageous claims about them while removing their mystique. Thanks for your comment.


Herping Michigan said...

Hey Dave,

I'd love to help out. Any account of a species encounter you're particularly interested in?


David Steen said...

Nick, great! I'm interested in the stories you want to contribute, regardless of species. I posted volume I today (there's a link in the above blog) but I'm getting a lot of interest for VII so I'm looking forward to hearing from you.