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  1. #1
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    Snake Owners See Furry Bias in Invasive Species Proposal

    Until recently, Jeremy Stone lived happily in Lindon, Utah, with his wife and four children, and an annex full of baby ball pythons and boa constrictors.

    Mr. Stone’s animals, raised in captivity, pose no threat, he says.
    The Stone family shares a passion for slithering pets. Mr. Stone’s son Zach got his first boa, a specially bred variety that glows yellowish orange, as a reward for doing his summer chores at age 6.

    But like many snake lovers, Mr. Stone has been seething at the American government since early last year, when it sought to ban the importation and interstate transportation of nine species of foreign snakes. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service said the animals, if freed, posed a serious risk to native ecosystems across the southern United States.

    “It is a joke,” Mr. Stone said of the science behind the government’s decision.

    Mr. Stone makes his living breeding snakes with genetic mutations, like albinism, that make them attractive to buyers. His animals, raised in captivity, pose no threat, he said. They would be picked off in an instant in the wild and would have no idea how to fend for themselves. And if they escaped from their warm annex in Lindon, he added, they would die from the cold.

    When the Fish and Wildlife Service moved to ban trade in the snakes, which include boas and species of anacondas and pythons, it argued that they met the legal criteria for being both injurious and invasive. Invasive species — from Asian carp, which threaten the Great Lakes, to zebra mussels, which spread exponentially — are a serious environmental concern, one that is often not dealt with until a species has become firmly established. The Fish and Wildlife Service argues that in the case of the snakes, they are trying to get ahead of the problem.

    But it is the first time the government has tried to list animals so widely held as pets. Roughly one million Americans are believed to own snakes of the types listed by the Interior Department, according to the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, and 31,000 were imported in 2008, the most recent year for which the government has data. Trade in these species is big business: more than $100 million annually. Those with rare colors can fetch upward of $75,000.

    The move to ban the snakes has set off a swell of anger among aggrieved snake owners and breeders, who have the most to lose financially, as well as a smattering of academic herpetologists, zookeepers and representatives of international conservation groups. When the regulations came up for public review, they flooded the government with objections.

    At the heart of their arguments is a critique of the emerging science of invasive species risk assessment. And their response has highlighted the challenges that the government faces as it increasingly moves to protect native flora and fauna not just from current invasive species but also from future threats.

    The reptile keepers group, which claims 12,000 professional breeders and sellers as members, has filed formal objections with the Interior Department and is threatening a lawsuit based on what it says is the government’s poor scientific evidence.

    Andrew Wyatt, the president of the association, argues that the government is now promoting a native-species-only agenda favored by environmental groups.

    “This has implications for every animal interest out there, right down to family pets,” he said, adding that by such standards, “all amphibians are injurious and cats and hogs can’t be far behind.”

    The battle goes back to 2006, when the South Florida Water Management District petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the snakes under the Lacey Act, which would make it a crime to transport them into the United States or across state borders.

    Burmese pythons — some thought to be dumped by pet owners and some that escaped — were establishing themselves across the Everglades, where they were swallowing up everything from endangered Key Largo wood rats to alligators. The population has been expanding northward at roughly three and a half to six miles a year — Indy 500 speeds in reptilian terms.

    In recent years, Florida officials had taken significant steps to limit ownership of invasive snakes within the state but still wanted more to be done. What was to protect the Everglades from a snake bought in Georgia and carried across state lines?

    To ban the snakes under federal law, the government would have to show that they posed a threat to native plants, crops or animals. With very little science available about how reptiles that come from distant places like subtropical Asia and Africa might fare in America, the United States Geological Survey was asked to assess the risk.

    The agency looked at many factors, including the damage in the Everglades. It also turned to a computer model to determine what parts of the country might have a hospitable climate for the species. The scientists looked at variables including mean monthly temperatures and rainfall at a wide range of elevations in the native habitats of the animals and matched them to patterns in the United States.

    They estimated that suitable climates for the Burmese python in particular might include the 11 southernmost states from California to North Carolina. If global warming continued apace, the geological survey added, the snakes might even be at home in New York City by 2100. The national news media gave gleeful attention to the prospect of a snake invasion.

    But soon after, biologists at the City University of New York did their own modeling, using more factors and different ones like precipitation during the wettest periods of the year, and came up with only Florida and South Texas as possible habitats for the snakes. Independent studies of snakes captured in the Everglades and taken north to Gainesville, Fla., and South Carolina found that most of the animals died when left outside in winter in those regions.

    These findings were further bolstered when an unusual cold snap in the Everglades last January left a large number of Burmese pythons dead on canal banks and levees.

    The studies have fired up the snake industry, which sees them as proof that the government is pursuing a hostile and unwarranted agenda. Mr. Stone, the breeder, said that the government regulations, which do not prevent breeding and owning but do prevent transportation across state lines, would ruin his business and thousands like it.

    “The reptile industry would suffer a crushing blow, over something that does not make sense,” he said.

    Dr. Elliott Jacobson, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Florida and a specialist in reptiles, also sees the government’s science as skewed. He loves snakes so much that he keeps 140 as pets and houses them in a guest cottage and in the bedrooms once occupied by his sons, now grown. But he said he suspected that the government was less sympathetic to his pets than to more cuddly creatures.

    “The impact of feral cats, for example, on wildlife is much greater than what the Burmese pythons can do,” he said, noting that a cat eats much more than a snake of the same size.

    But Thomas Strickland, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, said that the government was not going to back down and that it would approve the regulations by next summer. The science is solid, Mr. Strickland said, and the geological survey will soon publish a peer-reviewed answer to its critics.

    Like other invasive species, snakes are a real and growing problem, he said. “You are not dealing with hamsters here,” he said. “I was down in the Everglades, and it took four people to hold a 19-foot Burmese python. These things wreak havoc.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/sc...=1&ref=science
    Last edited by ER12; 01-09-2011 at 02:16 PM.
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  3. #2
    Registered User Slyther83's Avatar
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    While I disagree with the majority of anti-snake sentiment, the Burmese issue in Florida is legitimate. There are always people with every type of pet that are bad owners and resort to letting them free in the wild- ranging from cats and dogs to fish and reptiles.

    The Burmese angle is a bit more serious than smaller pets, which for the most part are typically far less dangerous to the ecosystem and humans. A snake in the umpteen foot margin is exponentially more powerful than a 9-10 footer, which still requires multiple people to control if necessary. While domestication is a great thing, it speaks nothing for those breeding in the wild. Admittedly, given the right circumstances any type of medium sized animal has the potential of injuring someone. When animals get to a certain size however, accidents that would normally cause injury can be fatal.

    A 100-200 pound apex predator comprised of pure muscle should require a potential owner to have at least attended a few safety courses, where they work with snakes of comparable size. This would hopefully weed out a large percentage of non-commited ownership.
    Last edited by Slyther83; 01-15-2011 at 08:31 PM.
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  5. #3
    BPnet Lifer angllady2's Avatar
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    While they do have a somewhat legitimate grievance as far as pythons in the Everglades, they make it sound like it is only Pythons that cause damage and present problems.

    Feral cats do thousands of times more damage, and they don't have to spread, they are already everywhere. Every city, every town, even most places that could almost be called a village has populations of stray/feral cats. They consume millions of birds and small animals, and it has been proven they are directly responsible for the endangered status of many species of birds across the country.

    But let's face facts; cats, even feral ones, are seen as cute and cuddly. While snakes are seen as monstrous and evil and dangerous.

    And what about the invasive fish ? This info comes from River Monsters:

    The giant snakehead has been sporadically sighted in U.S. waterways from Maine to Arkansas. Given its extremely aggressive nature and willingness to attack people, this is a huge cause for concern for the United States. The government is spending millions to fight this and other invasive snakehead species, mainly the northern and bullseye snakehead species, which have a much stronger foothold. These fish will eat anything that comes close — fish, frogs, lizards, rats, small ducks, snakes and even other snakeheads — and are causing massive environmental damage wherever they're found. They have no predators in the United States and, alarmingly, a female snakehead can produce over 100,000 young in a year.

    These fish are found all over Florida, and in their precious Everglades, only few small canals separate these fish from being able to spread throughout the Everglades National Park. One good flood, and they can kiss their Python problem goodbye and say hello to a viscous, people attacking garbage disposal with fins.


    They need to get their priorities straight and stop worrying about what makes good headlines, and instead worry about actual threats.

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    Last edited by angllady2; 01-15-2011 at 10:54 PM.
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  7. #4
    Registered User Slyther83's Avatar
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    Snakeheads are also apex predators, however their threat to human life is near non existant compared to a wild Burmese. Snakeheads wreak havoc on an ecosystem equally as bad if not worse. I would also like to add that a snakehead is very, very unlikely to attack humans. I would be willing to bet that there isn't even a single near-death snakehead attack on anyone in US history. The same cannot be said for large constrictors, which is why I imagine they are so concerned about them establishing a foothold in the wild (aside from the obvious ecological aspect of their invasion). Snakeheads are comparable to piranhas in that they are made out to be a lot more dangerous than they really are. Even though they can have very aggressive feeding behavior they are just as skittish as any other fish and would flee from our presence.
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  8. #5
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    Re: Snake Owners See Furry Bias in Invasive Species Proposal

    Quote Originally Posted by Slyther83 View Post
    Snakeheads are also apex predators, however their threat to human life is near non existant compared to a wild Burmese. Snakeheads wreak havoc on an ecosystem equally as bad if not worse. I would also like to add that a snakehead is very, very unlikely to attack humans. I would be willing to bet that there isn't even a single near-death snakehead attack on anyone in US history. The same cannot be said for large constrictors, which is why I imagine they are so concerned about them establishing a foothold in the wild (aside from the obvious ecological aspect of their invasion). Snakeheads are comparable to piranhas in that they are made out to be a lot more dangerous than they really are. Even though they can have very aggressive feeding behavior they are just as skittish as any other fish and would flee from our presence.
    All those things could be said about Burmese as well. I've never heard of anyone being killed in the US by a wild Burmese. "Their threat to human life is near non existant compared to" an escaped dog. Snakes "are made out to be a lot more dangerous than they really are. Even though they can have very aggressive feeding behavior they are... skittish... and would flee from our presence".

  9. #6
    BPnet Veteran BPelizabeth's Avatar
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    Not sure I know of an experience with a burmese killing anyone other than that poor little girl and quite frankly I have my doubts the snake did it. Meanwhile ....there are many more deaths due to other animals...wild hogs, dogs, cats, horses....

    Bottom line are burmese causing problems in the everglades ...ok...yes! Though not sure what type of impact they are having since the cold snap. Is it caused from pet release.....I don't think so. Most of that problem was caused during a hurrincane. You have to be careful as to what regulations you allow as it just will be able to open the door to more and more and more. It is really the same with any of our freedoms...once they are gone it is nearly impossible to get them back. That is why it is so important to try to hold onto all the freedoms we have.
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    ill try to keep my anti-liberal rant relavent and on topic..

    here we go.. the goverment is full of a bunch of (lol) who are trying to "protect us"... this burm topic is just a stepping stone mark my words... next will be cats because they eat all the pretty birds, then dogs becaause (i kid u not) of the number of dogs kept by the populaton adds up to a uncontrolable level of methane as with all the cows we eat... this is a joke, if it wasnt for usark they would have passed this forever ago.. a burm cannot read it again cannot survive ANYWHERE other then the southern most tip of florda.. theres no exceptions or rules it as a species cannot survive the winters or falls.

    oh and as for burms being harmful to people.. there are more people attacked by little dogs and labs/retrievers every year then the bigsnakes/pittbulls our goverment so hates.. snakes dont "hunt" people unless they have no choice in the case of the little girl where the snake was darn near starved to death.. its ALWAYS the keepers fault if they get bite, the snake is to primal to beable to caculate right and wrong.. it only knows reflex/instincts

    i personally believe the less goverment the better, however since we as a population cannot seem to make good choices i think there should be limitations set in place (within a regular normal persons reasoning) do not try to take away my things.. but make me work for them.. and set guidelines in place that i must follow in regards to having it such as microchipping and vet visits. i feel as a owner of giant that he was to easy to obtain.. i feel one should have to pass a test and hold a permit for any giant boid/dog/child lol.. dont let 10 year old little jimmy get his hands on a 15 foot snake.. thats where your problem is, the number of responsable keepers far outweighs the dumb ones, but thats not good for the media image trying to be portrayed..

    so in conclusion dont ban them.. compermise and regulate them.. make them harder to obtain and make those who want them work for it. ya know like the good ol days before all the bailouts and goverment aid... lol

    i also appolagize for spelling its late and this is right before i go to bed lol..
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  11. #8
    BPnet Veteran BPelizabeth's Avatar
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    Muddy while I agree whole heartedly with what you are saying...even if we comprimise and let them regulate it will get them one step further to what they want which is to ban all things. Again its so dangerous to give up any rights at all as there is typically NO turning back. When it comes to regulation the old saying is so true....you give them an inch and they will take a mile.
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    Re: Snake Owners See Furry Bias in Invasive Species Proposal

    Quote Originally Posted by ER12 View Post

    Like other invasive species, snakes are a real and growing problem, he said. “You are not dealing with hamsters here,” he said. “I was down in the Everglades, and it took four people to hold a 19-foot Burmese python. These things wreak havoc.”
    So because it takes 4 people to hold it, it wreaks havoc?

  13. #10
    Registered User Slyther83's Avatar
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    Re: Snake Owners See Furry Bias in Invasive Species Proposal

    Quote Originally Posted by Clear View Post
    So because it takes 4 people to hold it, it wreaks havoc?
    I think because they are an apex predator they wreak havoc. Once they get to a certain size they have no natural predators.

    As a side note, they are significantly stronger than any animal in their weight class. They are 1/10 the weight of a 2000 pound Bull and yet they possess comparable strength. I am not claiming that wild Burmese are a major threat to humans, however no one wants a foreign animal with that type of potential wandering around outside. When someone buys a cute baby Oscar for their fish tank and it grows too big they either keep it, try and give it to a pet store (who are generally not interested in adopting large fish as this is an ongoing issue), or worse case scenario they toss it. When this happens with a very large constrictor it is not quite so simple.

    I don't want any more ridiculous laws to worry about just as much as the next guy. By the same token I don't think someone without legitimate experience should be in possession of an animal this size. To hope/assume that someone purchasing this type of animal will exercise the proper responsibility is not enough in my opinion.

    Its illegal to own a wolf and yet we own dogs. It is also illegal to own large cats, yet we own small domesticated ones.

    Alternatively, we are pretty much able to own any constrictor, including anacondas and retics. I don't see how people complain about biased laws in this case when it is clear that the bias is currently in favor of our beloved reptiles.
    Last edited by Slyther83; 01-18-2011 at 05:56 PM.
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