Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added four constricting snakes to its trade and import ban list: the reticulated python and three kinds of anacondas (DeSchauensee's, Beni, and green). However, in a controversial decision, the boa constrictor was dropped from the list.
The new additions, identified by the agency as potentially injurious to native wildlife, join the Burmese python, yellow anaconda, and northern and southern African pythons on the list.
According to the official release, the rule will hopefully cut back on humans aiding the spread of nonnative snakes in the wild ... because once you have a big-ass snake problem, you're kinda stuck with that snake problem. Forever.
The reticulated python and the green anaconda, considered the two largest snakes in the world, are traded commercially as pets. Some of these powerful snakes have been intentionally released into the wild, while others escape from poorly secured enclosures. Small numbers have been found in the wild in Florida, putting at risk native wildlife unprepared to defend itself against these giant and efficient predators. Prohibiting additional importation and interstate transportation could reduce opportunities for future releases into the wild.
The Beni and DeSchauensee's anacondas are not known to be in the United States. The Service determined an injurious listing now is the most effective way to prevent future problems like those occurring with the Burmese python. In Florida, Burmese pythons are preying on native wildlife species, including those that are endangered or threatened. Scientists have not found any way of eradicating invasive constrictor snakes once they become established in the wild.
As the New York Times notes, "The rules will not ban ownership, only interstate transport or importation."
The paper also points out that the decision to remove boa constrictors (because, as the agency's release states, "the circumstances surrounding the species, which include widespread private ownership and domestic breeding, render importation and interstate transport prohibitions less effective") from was not well-received by conservation group Center for Biological Diversity:
"These exotic snakes pose an unacceptable — and preventable — risk to our nation's most treasured natural habitats," said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center focusing on the protection of reptiles and amphibians. "Unfortunately, it appears that the agency caved to pressure from snake breeders in its decision not to restrict trade in the boa constrictor — a snake that is clearly damaging to U.S. wildlife."
Boa photo by William Warby