800 rattlesnake

Animal Planet — Fact or Fiction?

Since we don’t subscribe to cable, we rarely see Animal Planet.  However, we have been under the impression that this channel promotes educational and factual information regarding the natural world.  Recently, however, we watched a program called “Rattlesnake Republic” on Animal Planet while visiting friends.

The program portrayed several so-called snake handlers wrestling snakes in order to collect “nasty” rattlesnakes before they (the snakes) conquered the world.  Or at least that’s what the illiterates on the show would like you to think.

Disturbed and thoroughly disgusted by the sensationalism portrayed on this program, we sent the following email to the president of Animal Planet, Marjorie Kaplan.  Her contact information is below, should anyone feel moved to write to her, followed by our comments on her program:

Marjorie Kaplan
Current President of Animal Planet Media
Discovery Communications
1 Discovery Place
Silver Spring, Maryland   20910





Ms Kaplan:

We don’t subscribe to cable and consequently are not often able to watch “Animal Planet.”  We had been under the impression that Animal Planet is an educational channel that teaches and promotes welfare and respect of all wildlife.  After having the opportunity to see Rattlesnake Republic last Sunday while visiting friends, we were shocked and disgusted to witness the treatment of an important predator and member of the food chain and ecosystem.

As educators who promote respect for all wildlife, especially misunderstood creatures such as snakes, we take exception to the vilification and misrepresentation offered on that program.  Camera tricks employed to portray rattlesnakes as aggressive, scary critters only serve to further myths and misconceptions harbored by many.  And while possibly entertaining to the few thrill seekers who watch such shows, it serves neither as educational information nor as factual material.

Having been involved with reptiles (especially snakes), as well as working with a rattlesnake project in Colorado and using non-venomous snakes for educational programs for the past 20+ years, we feel that this program does nothing to further education, but merely glorifies the toothless hillbillies who mistreat an innocent animal.

We often visit schools and libraries with our snake program and are/were impressed by some of the knowledge children have acquired from your channel.  This program, however, has done much to unravel the respect we encourage for an animal that has no interest in attacking humans and would much prefer being left alone.

“The continent’s most dangerous predator,” by the way, is NOT the rattlesnake.  It’s the human race.  We will never again recommend school children to watch Animal Planet.

Betty and Chuck Mulcahy
Volunteer Interpretive Naturalists



4 Responses to Animal Planet — Fact or Fiction?

  1. Charlie Radcliffe February 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    Hi Chuck,

    What an offensive program on rattlesnakes. I sent the message below. Thanks for providing contact info for them.

    Dear Ms. Kaplan:

    I just saw much of a program you aired called “Rattlesnake Republic”. I was appalled at the blatant exploitation and attempts to appeal to the worst instincts in humans that you exhibited in this program. You present a group of uneducated hicks displaying their macho personalities by catching and killing these “dangerous animals” so that we can have rattlesnake belts. Yes they can be dangerous, but with all the rattlesnakes you implied were infesting Texas, there were probably more deaths due to lightning strikes than due to rattlesnake bites in Texas. The vast majority of rattlesnake bites in the US are inflicted on idiots like these that are capturing, mishandling, and displaying them crudely. Nowhere in your program did I see anything educational about rattlesnakes. I have spent my life studying these animals and their behaviors in captivity and in the wild, while working in the reptile departments at the San Diego and Denver Zoos and doing research at the University of Colorado. These snakes are one of the most interesting and specialized predators that have ever evolved, with their elaborate venom system, heat sensors, and tracking ability. All of this was ignored for another chance to stimulate your viewers adrenal glands and to boost your viewer numbers. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Charles W. Radcliffe, Ph.D.
    Supervisor of Tropical Discovery at the Denver Zoo, Retired

    • Chuck March 1, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      Thanks for your comments both to Betty & I as well as to the mis-guided program producers. Hopefully, more readers of our blog will echo your well thought out feelings.

  2. Zorita Basnight March 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I can’t bring myself to write a letter to them. Mainly because I get so mad when I think of how snakes are treated, but also because I gave up hope of Animal Planet being an “educational” channel when they aired “Lost Tapes”, which were nothing but a bunch of fictional stories based on creatures of lore (the one I watched was about skinwalkers if that gives any hint). That series never presented facts, just made up a story to tack onto a creature of legend and aire it. It even opened with a saying something along the lines of “The events depicted are fictional”.

    And I have never been able to bring myself to watch Rattlesnake Republic. Just by the commercials, I would wrinkle my nose and hiss. I wanted to believe it was a good program, but never brought myself to watch it, because deep down, I had a fear the episode would villainize snakes (my favourite animal, two of which I consider my scaley babies; Gucci the ball python and Carmi the anery cornsnake), and I deal with that enough here in Redneck county. I love snakes to the point I ran towards two strange men who picked up a rough-green snake, begging “Don’t kill it don’t kill it, please don’t kill it, it’s not venomous, it would sooner musk than bite.” (I learned from experience.) “Please don’t kill it, please!” Needless to say, a weird short crazy girl running at them and begging for the snake’s mercy kinda freaked them out. They called me a crazy (bad name for a dog) and promised to put it in the woods.

    It irritates me to no end how people can be so cruel about snakes. I’ve managed to make some people who first recoiled go ‘aww’ with stories of my scaley ‘chicken’ Gucci, who tries to hide under my shirt collar when we go to the vets, and only ever uncoils in my hands. Silly thing is even scared of water unless it’s perfectly still. She’ll wipe drops off her head with her own coil if she gets splashed. I look at my scaley babies and can’t figure out how anyone could hate snakes~

    • Chuck March 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. I wish more people looked at the benefits that snake provide. Don’t let the snake haters get you down! Not sure if you’re in the US or elsewhere, but keep up the interest!

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