The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared four nonnative constrictor snakes as injurious species under the Lacey Act. Injurious species cannot be imported or transported over state lines without FWS-issued permits. The reticulated python (Python reticulus), DeSchauensee’s anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei), green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), and Beni anaconda (Eunectes beniensis) were included in this ruling.
Four other species of snakes, the Burmese python (Python bivittatus), yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), northern African python (Python sebae), and southern African python (Python natalensis) were listed as injurious species in 2012. FWS reopened public comment in 2014, which lead to the development of this final rule.
FWS Director Dan Ashe made the announcement at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. He stated, “Large constrictor snakes are costing the American public millions of dollars in damage and placing at risk 41 federally and state-listed threatened or endangered species in Florida alone. Today’s action will help prevent humans from contributing to the spread of these snakes.”
Currently, none of the four listed species in this new ruling are confirmed to be breeding in the wild within the United States or its territories. The purpose of the listing is primarily to prevent the establishment of populations in the wild, as the four species share traits with the previously listed Burmese python, which threatens small and medium-sized mammals as well as the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow, Florida panther, and American crocodile.
FWS considers peer-reviewed scientific documentation from the U.S. Geological Survey and other independent sources to evaluate likelihood of escape and wild establishment as well as potential risk of a species’ impact on wildlife, forest, agriculture, and human health and welfare.
The boa constrictor was also considered for listing as an injurious species but was not included in this ruling. FWS is currently allowing the pet industry to coordinate with states and FWS to voluntarily address prevention of boa constrictor release as an alternative to Lacey Act restriction.
The ruling was included in the Federal Register on March 10th and will take effect 30 days after.
Source: FWS Press Release (March 6, 2015), FWS Lacey Act Injurious Species Fact Sheet
|Colleen Hartel is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.