On January 26, 2011, Congressman Tom Rooney of Florida introduced H.R. 511, to amend title 18, United States Code, to prohibit the importation of various injurious species of constrictor snakes. This bill, if passed, would add nine constrictor snakes to the Injurious Wildlife list of the Lacey Act.
H.R. 511 has been assigned to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. This is a reasonable committee that needs to be educated to the facts surrounding this issue. This is a committee the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) is familiar with. USARK CEO Andrew Wyatt provided expert testimony to this committee in 2009.
It is clear that there is little justification for a Lacey Act listing which would kill thousands of jobs while failing to have any real world effect in south Florida where a population of pythons is struggling to survive. The few pythons that are left are still limited to the three southern most counties and have never demonstrated an ability to move farther north. The state of Florida has already banned many of these animals from private ownership. Congressman Rooney stated that Florida needed Lacey Act protection to keep pythons out of the state. But it is already illegal to bring these pythons in from out of state because the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) put a statute in place last summer. State law has already done what Congressman Rooney states he wants to duplicate with H.R. 511.
The FWC has estimated that as many as 90 percent of the feral python population in south Florida has already died due to the cold winters of 2009, 2010 and early 2011. Cold weather studies done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Florida, and the Savannah River Ecological Laboratory have confirmed that pythons exposed to cold die unless kept warm artificially. The USDA is on record stating that they don’t believe pythons can exist for any length of time outside of south Florida.
Mother Nature and the Florida FWC are doing what the Lacey Act could not do in south Florida; address the small python population in an effective way. At stake is a $1.4 billion industry in captive bred reptiles. USARK feels confident that once Congressman Rooney and Committee members understand the job-killing nature of this bill proposal, coupled with the ineffectiveness of Lacey Act to address invasive species issues in a meaningful way, they will do the right thing and KILL H.R. 511.
View the text of H.R. 511. http://www.usark.org/uploads/HR511.pdf