The Politics of Pythons

If you read the scientific bloggysphere, you might have come across posts describing how ‘escaped’ snakes–often pet Burmese pythons–are devouring the Everglades’ native wildlife (they’re usually not snakes that got loose, but were let loose by morons who realized that having a large undomesticated ambush predator as a pet is a really stupid idea). Things have become so bad, dogs have been specially trained to find the pythons. By way of Charles Pierce, we learn that Democrats proposed legislation to ban the import of predators that are altering the ecology of a habitat we have spent billions to protect:

Snake breeder and herpetologist David Barker testified at a committee hearing Wednesday that the rule would hurt the livelihoods of people like him.

“It threatens as many as a million law-abiding American citizens and their families with the penalty of a felony conviction for pursuing their livelihoods, for pursuing their hobby, or for simply moving with their pet to a new state,” Barker told the panel.

Barker also warned about the impact of the rule on existing pets. “What’s going to happen to the million or so animals that suddenly are without value?” he said. “The implementation of the proposed action may precipitate the greatest slaughter of pet animals in American history.”

House Democrats scoffed at the idea that snake regulations would be major impediments to job growth.

“With all due respect to our witnesses from the Association of Reptile Keepers, repealing a so-called job-killing regulation to allow more pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas into the United States is not the kind of bold, bipartisan solution Americans are looking for to help the economy,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the oversight panel.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for Nelson (D-Fla.) said that “respectfully, the House Oversight Committee might just be wrong on this one.”

You’ll never guess what the House Republicans did (boldface mine):

But in a report released Wednesday, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee denounced the proposed rule as part of the Obama administration’s “regulatory tsunami.” They said the snake ban could “devastate a small but thriving sector of the economy.”

…But Everglades National Park spokeswoman Linda Friar said in an interview that the python problem is real.

“We’re extremely concerned,” she said. “The real turning point was when we saw that they started to breed in this habitat.”

…Aside from the Burmese pythons, Friar said, some other large, aggressive snake species have been turning up outside the park, including anacondas and African rock pythons.

The African rock python has been known in rare cases to attack and even eat humans. Florida has yet to see any attacks on humans by pythons in the wild, although Nelson has pointed to one case in which a pet Burmese python that escaped from its cage strangled a 2-year-old girl elsewhere in the house.

There’s nothing these bozos won’t fuck up.

It’s like they want to be actual, real-life cartoon villains.

Fucking morons.

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3 Responses to The Politics of Pythons

  1. HCA says:

    In fairness, the constrictor ban is horseshit – it’s based on flat-out incorrect data suggesting that these animals could spread out of Florida, and regulates species that either have NEVER been a risk (Boa constrictors, which are actually native to the extreme southwestern US, and several species never seen in the pet trade). Why, exactly, should we ban someone in Minnesota from owning a species that cannot survive north of Florida’s border? And what of the massive numbers of albinos and similar “morphs” that, if released, would do little more than feed the local predator populations?

    The “keeper releases” is also horseshit – genetic studies show the pythons in the everglades come from a single massive release due to the destruction of an import facility in Hurricane Andrew, with no contributions from Vietnam (the sole source of imported Burms since 1994).

    Additionally, the “danger” of a Burmese Python is far, far less than the danger of a ride to the grocery store (especially in Boston). While they are large, powerful predators, they also have brains the size of a grain of rice and an exceptionally placid disposition. At the moment, as many people in the US own horses as giant snakes, but horses kill over 200 people a year vs less than one per year for pythons. I would rather deal with a pissed-off python any day than a ill-trained dog or unbroken horse.

    I’m not opposed to sensible regulation of the reptile trade, and actually consider Florida an ideal model, with multiple levels of regulation ranging from bans to permits with 10,000 hours of apprenticeship to lesser permits to free-to-own. But when people who clearly know nothing about these animals start trying to legislate out of their fear, it results in bad laws.

    Yes, they became an invasive species, but only in an exceptional circumstance, and at this point the cat’s out of the bag. And keepers *will* work with governments to make sensible laws to prevent further introductions and keep these animals out of unqualified hands. But this law is pure reactionary media posturing, accomplishing nothing to solve the existing problem, not preventing any new problems, and serving only to demonize a group of animals less dangerous than anything you find on a standard cattle ranch.

  2. hipparchia says:

    wolves, bison, alligators, passenger pigeons… the obvious solution is to sic the gun nuts on the unwanted snakes, possibly with the added inducement(s) of a bounty and/or allowing them to sell the skins and meat – voila! pesky pythons hunted to extinction.

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