Snake lovers are telling the federal government not to tread on them Saturday following a ban on four large species of constrictors. The ban, announced Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will prohibit importation and interstate transport of the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda and the Beni anaconda, all of which were declared “injurious wildlife” under the Lacey Act of 1900.
The move is meant to help stop the spread of large snakes in the wild where officials say they are threatening endangered species. In a statement Friday, Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said large constrictors are costing the American public millions of dollars in damage and “placing at risk” 41 protected or endangered species in Florida alone.
But breeders and sellers of the snakes say the new rules will destroy their livelihoods while owners say the ban is unnecessarily restrictive. Following the announcement, two competing petitions were launched on Change.org, calling for a reversal of the decision. Collectively, the petitions have drawn nearly 2,000 signatures in less than a day.
Some signatories, identifying themselves as constrictor owners or hobbyists, characterized the issue as a “Florida problem,” saying pet owners in the rest of the country should not be punished for it. “I keep these [animals] and I believe they are misunderstood and are falsely listed on the Lacey Act because of an isolated problem in Florida,” one commenter wrote, adding the government should consider regulating the snakes “instead of a ban.”
In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Matt Edmonds, who makes his living breeding and selling reticulated pythons, said the agency should have limited the ban to Florida.
However, the Center for Biological Diversity said Friday the ban doesn’t go far enough. In a statement, the organization criticized the government for not restricting the widely traded boa constrictor, which the group said is displacing native reptiles in Puerto Rico and threatening wildlife in the United States.
“These exotic snakes pose an unacceptable -- and preventable -- risk to our nation’s most treasured natural habitats,” Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist for the center, said in a statement. “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.”