Pet Snake Trade Threatens Florida Panthers
Feds must move to end trafficking of snakes
November 18, 2011
Another python devours wildlife in the Everglades, another photo goes viral. And in Florida, we get another reminder of just how destructive those giant constrictors running amok are to our native habitat.
Floridians, of course, may not need reminders. Like the infamous 2005 photo of the gluttonous 13-foot Burmese python whose gut split open after swallowing a 6-foot alligator whole, last month’s story of a 15-foot python captured and killed — with a 76-pound deer in its belly — tells us what we already know: Florida has a serious problem with exotic snakes. Especially in our beloved Everglades National Park.
Last year, the Legislature sought to wrestle some control by banning the import, sale, breeding and possession as pets of six species of large constrictor snakes. The problem, though, is that breeders can still possess, breed and import the slithery troublemakers for their business.
That leaves Florida, and its wildlife and habitat, still vulnerable. It’s people, too — as we saw with the tragic 2009 death of a Sumter County 2-year-old, crushed to death in her crib by a starving family pet python that tried to eat her.
It’s time the Sunshine State get an assist from a more authoritative source — the White House. The Obama administration has been sitting on a proposed rule to ban the interstate transport and importation throughout the country of the most harmful constrictors, those identified in a 2009 U.S. Geological Survey as posing the most risk to America’s natural resources.
The rule was proposed in March by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which wants to target nine species of large pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas, including some not banned under Florida law. Two of the targeted species have already made a home in Florida and are reproducing in the wild, putting the state’s endangered Florida panther and Key deer, among other treasured wildlife, at peril.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the review process on rules like these typically takes about three months. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has been weighing this one for more than seven months.
There’s merit in giving important policy changes a thorough vetting. But the menace of large constrictor snakes is not news, to Florida or to Washington. We’ve dragged our feet on this issue long enough.
The exotic pet trade has had its say. Now, it’s time to do the right thing. Stop the interstate movement of large snakes so we can stop them from being viewed as pets — then discarded in the wild to the ruination of our environment.