The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) praised the March 6th announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that it is banning import of four species of large constrictor snakes that pose a serious risk to America’s wildlife and their habitats. Large non-native constrictors, such as the Burmese python, are devastating native wildlife in places such as Florida’s Everglades.
The announcement is intended to prevent or limit further destructive invasions by listing the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda as “Injurious Species” under the Lacey Act. Such listing prohibits import of the animals into the United States as well as interstate commerce.
“Banning the import of these large and deadly snakes is a common-sense decision, especially given what we know about the devastating effects these constrictors can have on America’s already fragile ecosystems and vanishing wildlife,” said Dr. Bruce Stein, the National Wildlife Federation’s Senior Director of Climate Adaptation and Resilience.
In 2006, the South Florida Water Management District first petitioned the USFWS to regulate Burmese pythons and other large constrictors, in response to ongoing invasions in south Florida. In 2012, USFWS regulated four species—Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas, and northern and southern African pythons—but it took three more years to regulate these additional four species.
“Florida’s unique and diverse ecosystems have been the epicenter of many recent invasions,” said Manley Fuller, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation. “While we welcome import bans of these constrictor snakes, we are increasingly concerned about exploding populations of other escaped exotics, such as black and white tegus,” giant lizards that can reach four feet in length. “We clearly need an expedited ability to list such species as injurious, as well as additional resources for federal and state agencies to control these harmful species.”
A fifth snake species, Boa constrictor, was proposed by USFWS for listing as injurious, but unfortunately not included in the announcement despite the serious ecological risks it poses. This constrictor species already has become invasive in Puerto Rico, and if released in Hawaii—either intentionally or by accident—could be devastating to that island chain’s unique and endangered wildlife.
“The fact that it took nine years to get import of these high-risk snakes banned, highlights the need to modernize laws to keep out species—whether pests or pets—that pose clear threats to the nation’s ecological and economic well-being” said Dr. Stein. “For that reason, NWF and its partners in the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS) support federal legislative actions, such as the proposed “Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act,” that would update and strengthen the nation’s rules for designating injurious species and keeping harmful animals from invading U.S. ecosystems.”