The United States is banning the import of Burmese pythons and three other species of giant constrictor snakes due to the danger they pose to local wildlife.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement Tuesday as he visited the Everglades National Park in Florida, saying the ban will take effect in about 60 days. The move will make it illegal to import the snakes or transport them across state lines. In addition to the python, the new policy refers to the yellow anaconda as well as the northern and southern African pythons as injurious wildlife.
Salazar said in a statement that the nonnative, invasive snakes pose a real and immediate threat to the Everglades and other ecosystems in the United States. He said the Burmese python has already gained a foothold in the Everglades.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe says the pythons have already caused substantial harm in Florida. He said Tuesday's action will help prevent further harm from these large constrictor snakes to native wildlife, especially in habitats that can support constrictor snake populations across the southern United States and U.S. territories.
Authorities say people who own these reptiles as pets will be allowed to keep them if state law allows, but cannot take, send or sell them across state lines. Officials say people who wish to export the snakes have to do from a designated port within their state and obtain the appropriate permits.
Five other nonnative snakes remain under consideration for listing as injurious. They include the reticulated python, boa constrictor, DeSchauensee's anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda.
It is estimated that the Everglades is now home to thousands of Burmese pythons, which have preyed on everything from small mammals to large wading birds. The pythons are native to Southeast Asia.