WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to ban the importation and interstate trade of nine species of constrictor snakes harmful to human health and native species in areas where they have escaped captivity.
Acting on a petition from the South Florida Water District, where large numbers of exotic reptiles have been released into the wild and are taking to the pools and backyards of houses abandoned during the recession, the agency proposes to add the Indian python, reticulated python, Northern African python, Southern African python, boa constrictor, yellow anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda to the list of injurious reptiles. Florida also HAS seen the spread of exotic reptiles into the Florida Everglades National Park where they are displacing native species.
If the proposed rule is made final, live snakes, gametes, or hybrids of the nine species or their viable eggs could be imported only by permit for scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes, or without a permit by federal agencies solely for their own use.
Constrictor snakes most often enter the U.S. through the commercial pet trade, where 22 inch hatchlings are typically sold for as little as $35. The snakes grow rapidly, are adept at escape, and are very powerful so can break out of cages. Because the snakes need to bathe in water, once they get large, owners often remove them from their cages to put them in bathtubs, and from there they can escape through heating ducts and crawl spaces.
The constrictors are large and expensive to maintain, and they live for a long time. An Indian python, for example, can grow to more than 20 feet long, weigh 200 pounds, live more than 25 years, and must be fed rabbits and other large animals. As a result, many snakes are released by their owners into the wild when they can no longer care for them.
Once in the wild, Indian pythons quickly move beyond eating rabbits and have been known to eat alligators, antelopes, dogs, deer, jackals, goats, porcupines, wild boars, bobcats, pea fowl and great blue herons.
The agency is taking public comment on the proposal and is interested in the life histories of the nine species and evidence of their impact on indigenous species.