Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 9, 2015

Contact: Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821,

Wildlife Advocates Defend Fish and Wildlife Service's Ban on Giant Constrictor Snakes

Invasive Snakes From Pet Trade Threaten Wildlife in Florida, Texas, Elsewhere

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and The Humane Society of the United States today defended in court the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new rule designed to prevent widespread introductions of invasive, giant constrictor snakes by making it illegal to import them or sell them across state lines. In a lawsuit brought by commercial snake breeders, the district court last spring blocked full implementation of the ban. The wildlife groups now seek its reinstatement through an appeal.

Burmese python
Burmese python photo by R. Cammauf, National Park Service. This photo is available for media use.

“These exotic snakes pose an unacceptable — and preventable — risk to some of our country’s most treasured natural habitats,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center. “The invasive Burmese python is destroying the Everglades ecosystem. That sad reality shows that it’s absolutely necessary to prevent more invasions of giant constrictor snakes.”

In 2010 scientists identified nine constrictor snakes posing an unacceptable risk of establishing invasive populations. Since then, in January 2012 and March 2015, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed eight of those nine species as “injurious” under the Lacey Act: Burmese python, yellow anaconda, northern and southern African python, reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda. The agency has not yet listed the boa constrictor, which accounts for a substantial percentage of the trade in large constrictor snakes.

Snake breeders opposed adding any snakes to the restricted list. Their lawsuit challenges the ban, arguing that the agency lacks the authority under the Lacey Act to regulate sales across state lines. The wildlife groups filed a brief today that explains that the Lacey Act — since its original enactment more than 100 years ago — has always authorized the Service to regulate interstate transportation of injurious wildlife. The wildlife groups also argue that the snake breeders have failed to prove that they will experience the necessary “irreparable” economic injury from the ban.

After a decade of colonization in the Everglades, Burmese pythons have nearly wiped out populations of small and medium-sized native mammals — one study showed declines as high as 99 percent. Researchers further identified 25 species of birds in the stomachs of these invasive pythons in the Everglades, including four species of special concern in Florida, and a wood stork, which is listed as federally endangered. Global warming may expand the region where nonnative snakes can survive and establish.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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