Big Snakes Get Squeezed

Well, it may be goodbye big pythons and boa constrictors.  This morning a US Senate committee approved S373, a ban on the import and interstate trade of 9 “giant” constrictor snake spp.   Too bad the python industry could not control itself at some point over the past 30 years (I loved my boyhood Burmese python, Socrates).  Boa constrictors would be a real and unnecessary loss.  As for the truly giant pythons and anacondas, their sale and keeping should have been controlled by the industry years ago.  Common sense says that unlimited sales of 30 foot reticulated pythons was going to bite the entire trade one day.  Not only did some leading dealers sell as many retics and burms as they could, many knowingly imported their giant pythons from the world’s biggest international illegal wildlife traffickers (and still do). 

My prediction:  the reptile trade will shift in disastrous and unforeseen ways that make all involved regret they could not address the issue through strong ownership controls.  Giant pythons are big, slow, and prolific.  They will be replaced by smaller, faster snakes caught in the wild, which means many more escapes, and greater damage to ecosystems here and abroad. 

To watch: Will the industry learn its lesson and do anything pre-emptive on giant monitors, alligators and venomous snakes/lizards.   

From the HSUS Website:

Senate Panel Approves Large Constrictor Snake Trade Ban

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund applaud the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for approving S. 373, a bill to add certain constrictor snakes to the list of injurious species that cannot be imported or moved in interstate commerce as pets. The committee amended the bill to cover nine species of large constrictor snakes identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing high or medium risk to the environment. The amendment was supported by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Sen. Bill Nelson and The HSUS. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration….Read the rest.

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3 Responses to “Big Snakes Get Squeezed”

  1. Donovan Winterberg Says:

    I don’t understand your prediction about giant pythons being replaced with “smaller, faster snakes caught in the wild…” Countless species of colubrids (ratsnakes, kingsnakes, gophersnakes, etc) have been captive-bred for decades. I, and several other breeders, produce tens of thousands of cornsnakes every year, and that is just ONE species.

    I also do not understand why they will escape just because they are smaller? Even if they did, your fears of ecological damage are extremely exaggerated. Even the Burmese Pythons in the everglades have not caused any damage.

  2. Bryan Christy Says:

    Hi Donovan. Thank you for your note. Here’s why I made the prediction: One reason giant pythons have been so popular in the pet trade is that they are such prolific breeders. An 85 egg Burmese python clutch is a good return for somebody who breeds them for money.

    Many Burmese pythons in the pet trade were bred in Asia. If we take away giant pythons, Asian exporters will have to find a replacement to sell to the U.S., and American importers and wholesalers will have to find other species to sell. You are right that captive bred corn snake-type U.S. colubrids would be a good replacement but importers and wholesalers already sell those and I suspect dealers will still want to fill that demand for “exotic” snakes vacated by giant pythons.

    Asian colubrids don’t breed like giant pythons so it seems likely Asian exporters will increase the number of wild-caught snakes they offer to US importers, such as Asian red-tailed green rat snakes, which are fast and harder to keep.

    It is common sense and experience that says a smaller, faster species is more likely to escape than a larger one–and harder to find once it’s out.

    Your comment that the Burmese pythons in the Everglades “have not caused any damage” is itself “extremely exaggerated” and, frankly, irresponsible.

  3. Donovan Winterberg Says:

    I was not considering things from the exporters perspective, but even the asian ratsnakes, while much more expensive than the new world species, are still bred by many breeders.

    As far as the ecological destruction in the everglades you claim is caused by burmese, what specific examples are you referring to?