Injuriousss: Proposal to Restrict Nine Invasive Snakes
Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did the right thing. He announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will formally propose early next month the listing of nine large constricting snakes, including the Burmese python, the green anaconda, and the boa constrictor, as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act, forbidding the interstate transport or import of the animals as pets. Once that proposal is published, there will be a 60-day comment period for members of the public, and then we hope final adoption of the rule will happen soon thereafter.
National Park Service
A Burmese python in Florida's Everglades National Park.
In his statement, Salazar focused on the ecological impact of the trade in these snakes, underscoring how Burmese pythons have colonized South Florida by the tens of thousands and this invasive species is now a dominant predator in the Everglades and surrounding land holdings. These snakes can threaten Florida panthers and a raft of other threatened and endangered species. Three months ago, the U.S. Geological Survey published a comprehensive survey and identified these nine species as high or moderate threats to the environment.
In addition to the ecological impacts, there are also compelling humane and public safety arguments. Last year, a two-year-old girl was strangled and killed by a pet Burmese python who escaped from his enclosure. There have been a string of other fatalities, with reticulated pythons involved in many incidents.
The trade is dangerous for people, but also for the snakes. Snakes may die during the capture and transport process. They may be housed inhumanely and mistreated by pet owners who have no idea what they are getting into when they obtain a snake that may grow to be 200 pounds, with the animals languishing in small aquariums or other inadequate enclosures. And all for what? You don’t take snakes for a walk or play with them in a field or let them sleep in your bed at night.
Wild animals belong in the wild, and in their native habitats. Kudos to Salazar and the other leaders at the Interior Department for taking this action. The Congress is considering similar legislation and we’ll work with House and Senate leaders to determine if final federal legislative action is also needed. We are particularly pleased with the determined leadership of Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to address this serious problem.
I’ll be updating you on the comment period, and I hope you’ll join me in letting the Department know we support this action. If you’d like to thank Secretary Salazar today, please email him to register your views.