The public comment period is now open on a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the importation and interstate transportation of the Burmese python and eight other larger constrictor snakes.
Back in January Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called for the prohibitions in a bid to help officials in Everglades National Park, and other areas, combat the spread of these non-native snakes that are a threat to native wildlife. Specifically, he wants the snakes to be listed as "injurious wildlife" under the Lacey Act.
Burmese pythons -- and other non-native species -- long have been a problem in the Everglades; there have been estimates that as many as 10,000 pythons are slithering through south Florida. More than 1,200 of the snakes have been removed from Everglades National Park since 2000, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials.
Last year Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors at John F. Kennedy International Airport handled more than 27, 000 separate wildlife shipments valued at more than $1 billion, or 16 percent of all U.S. wildlife imports.
Last week the Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to designate the snakes as “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act.
In addition to the proposed rule, a draft economic analysis and environmental assessment are available for public review and comment for 60 days. These documents are available at: http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015.
“We greatly value the public’s input and encourage engagement into this rule-making process. The control of invasive species, including pythons and other large constrictor snakes, is a key step in our larger effort to restore the Everglades and protect other vulnerable areas of the country,” said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould.
Under the Lacey Act, the Department of the Interior is authorized to regulate the importation and interstate transport of wildlife species determined to be injurious to humans, the interests of agriculture, horticulture or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources of the United States.
The Burmese python (Indian python) is currently established across thousands of square miles in south Florida, and a population of boa constrictors is established south of Miami. In addition, evidence strongly suggests that a population of northern African pythons is reproducing on the western edges of Miami. The other species being considered in the proposed rule are the reticulated python, southern African python, yellow anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. None of the nine species of snakes is native to the United States.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service jointly funded a U.S. Geological Survey assessment that highlighted the ecological risks associated with the establishment of the nine large constrictor species. All were shown to pose a high or medium risk to the health of ecosystems in the United States.
Burmese pythons and other large constrictor snakes are highly adaptable to new environments and prey on a wide variety and size of animals. Burmese pythons threaten many imperiled species and other wildlife. Two Burmese pythons were found near Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge with the remains of three endangered Key Largo woodrats in their stomachs. As a result of these threats, more than 1,300 Burmese pythons have been removed from Everglades National Park and vicinity since 2000. Others have been removed from the Florida Keys, along Florida’s west coast and farther north along the Florida peninsula.
For Service information on injurious wildlife and how to send a comment, as well as links to partner agencies, visit: http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/index.cfm?method=activityhighlights&id=11.