Snake Lovers Leery of Laws; the State Wants to Control the Reptiles' Presence in the Wild

By Turner, Kevin | The Florida Times Union, January 27, 2010 | Go to article overview

Snake Lovers Leery of Laws; the State Wants to Control the Reptiles' Presence in the Wild


Turner, Kevin, The Florida Times Union


Byline: KEVIN TURNER

Sellers and advocates of large snakes as pets say state efforts to control the environmental impacts when those snakes are freed into the wild have added some red tape to Florida's exotic snake business.

But if U.S. congressional efforts to ban the importation and interstate transportation of nine large snake breeds succeeds, the effect on business could be worse, they say.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., recently introduced the ban legislation in Congress, and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has recommended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list the Burmese python and eight other large constrictor snakes as "injurious wildlife." Over years, snake owners have released their pets into the wild, particularly in South Florida where the alien species have adapted and bred, taking spots at the top of the food chain and disrupting fragile ecosystems, state wildlife officials say.

Since January 2008, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has branded the Burmese python, Indian python, reticulated python, African rock python (northern and southern), amethystine python and green anaconda as "reptiles of concern." They now require a $100 license and some an identifying microchip; officials may opt to inspect where buyers will keep the pets to make sure they meet standards, according to the FWC.

Stephen Brezil, co-owner of Blazin' Reptiles, a Jacksonville pet store near San Jose Boulevard and Interstate 295, said he hasn't sold any of the affected snakes to Florida customers in the two years since the state permit program took effect, he said.

"We used to sell 40 Burmese pythons a year," he said.

But he sold at least 200 boa constrictors in 2009, he said. That popular snake is not one of the FWC reptiles of concern, but is one of the nine on the proposed federal "injurious wildlife" list Nelson and Salazar back. Those snakes are the Burmese python, northern African python, southern African python, reticulated python, green anaconda, yellow anaconda, Beni or Bolivian anaconda, DeSchauensee's anaconda, and the boa constrictor.

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