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More Snakes Added To U.S. Banned Species List


All right, let's hear about another rapidly proliferating creature. More snakes have been added to the list of species banned for import and sale in the U.S. First it was Burmese pythons. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added three anacondas and another python species to the list. Some reptile breeders are angry, as NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Federal officials banned the import and sale of Burmese pythons and three other species of exotic snakes three years ago to halt their spread in the U.S. Burmese pythons have become established in South Florida and are a particular problem in the Everglades. The head of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Dan Ashe, came to a wildlife refuge in the Everglades to talk about the problem.

DAN ASHE: We've seen the Burmese python threatening 41 federal and state-listed threatened and endangered species. In Florida, we have seen the virtual eradication of small mammals.

ALLEN: Ashe announced that the Fish and Wildlife Service is adding four more exotic snake species to the ban. One species not being added is the boa constrictor. A population has become established in South Florida, but Ashe said the service decided against putting boa constrictors on the list because it's a popular snake that's bred widely in the U.S. So an import ban may have had little impact. Fish and Wildlife did decide to ban a species that may be the runner-up in the most popular exotic snake category, the reticulated python. That came as a blow to West Palm Beach breeder Matt Edmonds.

MATT EDMONDS: Well, I have $60,000 invested in personal animals that I can no longer sell to make a living for myself.

ALLEN: Edmonds was one of several reptile breeders who came to Ashe's news conference to challenge him on a decision they say is a government overreaction that will cost their industry millions. Ashe was unmoved. He said the Fish and Wildlife Service heard the same charges that it was overacting 20 years ago about the Asian carp.

ASHE: People saying these carp can't survive in the Mississippi River. So go to the outskirts of Minneapolis. Go into the Ohio River system, and tell me now that those predictions were true.

ALLEN: Phil Goss, a breeder and president of the industry's trade group, says reticulated pythons are notoriously difficult to hatch and are unlikely to be able to reproduce in the wild in this country. And they're valuable.

PHIL GOSS: There are certain color morphs, such as albino and other genes that go into it, that animals are worth $10,000 or $15,000 as a single animal.

ALLEN: Like it or not, the new rule is final. In 30 days, people can own and breed reticulated pythons and the other species; they just can't import them or take them across state lines. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: March 9, 2015 at 9:00 PM PDT
In this story, we incorrectly state that new rules announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ban the sale of reticulated pythons and three other snake species. In fact, the rules ban importation and interstate sale and transport.
Greg Allen
As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.