USFWS to propose listing nine constrictor snakes as Injurious Wildlife under the Lacey Act.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar revealed on Jan. 20 that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will propose listing the Burmese python and eight other constrictor snakes as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act, thus prohibiting the importation and interstate trade of the invasive species.
“The Burmese python and these other alien snakes are destroying some our nation’s most treasured — and most fragile — ecosystems,” Salazar said in a statement. “The interior department and states such as Florida are taking swift and common sense action to control and eliminate the populations of these snakes, but it is an uphill battle in ecosystems where they have no natural predators. If we are going to succeed, we must shut down the importation of the snakes and end the interstate commerce and transportation of them.”
The nine species to be proposed for listing are: the Burmese python, northern African python, southern African python, reticulated python, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, Beni or Bolivian anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, and boa constrictor.
FWS is expected to make the proposal in early February. At that time, the service will also make a draft economic analysis and draft environmental analysis available to the public. Once the rule is proposed, the public will have 60 days to comment.
In the meantime, legislation has been introduced in Florida that also seeks to restrict the importation and interstate sale and transportation of these snakes. More than 1,200 of the snakes have been removed from Everglades National Park since 2000, with others having been removed from the Florida Keys, along Florida’s west coast and farther north along the Florida peninsula, according to U.S. officials.
Supporters of the ban have pointed to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey as justification for restricting the trade of these snakes. The report found that five of the snakes, including Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and yellow anacondas, pose a high risk to the country’s ecosystems. The other four snakes were rated as posing a medium risk.
Nearly a dozen scientists, veterinarians and professors have criticized the report as being “unscientific.”
Many of these targeted snakes are popular pets and are associated with a large domestic and international trade. Over the past 30 years, about one million of these nine species have been imported into the United States, and current domestic production of some species likely exceeds import levels, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Some members of the pet trade, including the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and United States Association of Reptile Keepers, have raised concerns about adding a species to the injurious wildlife list through legislative action, as opposed to the science-based risk analysis as established under the Lacey Act. They have also raised concerns about the possibility of a federal ban pushing the trade underground and potentially causing those already in possession of the snakes to euthanize the animals or release them into the wild. Others have questioned the logic in implementing a federal ban for what they say is a Florida problem.
According to the interior department, the FWS proposal ensures that the issue of whether to list these snakes as “injurious wildlife” will be considered through all available legislative and administrative avenues.
To address the issue of invasive species on a broader scale, Salazar said he has directed the FWS to conduct a comprehensive review of existing and legal regulatory authorities.