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The Burmese Python Scam

Updated on July 15, 2012
The Burmese Python
The Burmese Python | Source

Can you imagine the feds making the interstate transport of your family dog a federal offense. This is exactly what has happened to millions of reptile owners in the United States. The US Fish & Wildlife decided to restrict four species of large constrictors under the LACEY Act. The Burmese Python, Northern and Southern African Rock Pythons, and the Yellow Anaconda. Now if an owner of one of these species carries them across state lines they are subject to a $250,000 fine and prison.

The Banning of The Burmese Python

So how did this come about? Well most of us have heard the stories of the Burmese Python invasion in the Everglades National Park. We’ve the shows on the History and Discovery channels about monster snakes in the swamp. The sensationalism of this situation has allowed members of congress and the animal rights movement to aggressively pursue this ban. Initially US Fish & Wildlife estimated the population of Burmese Pythons in the Everglades to be 1-3K. In one year’s time that estimate increased to 10,000 then to 30,000 and then finally to 100,000 or more. Wow! That’s some pretty good reproduction. Yet the US Fish & Wildlife Service only finds an approximately 350 Burmese Pythons in the Everglades each year. How can that be with these numbers? According to the USF&W Service they are to elusive to be found!

Some things don’t add up here. With all the resources at their disposal they only find 350 Burmese Pythons each year? So how did they come up with their population estimate? Is there a financial incentive behind this? The first answer is who knows. The second is that by declaring the Burmese Python as an invasive species USF&W receives funding to combat the problem. This could add up to billions of dollars if they play their cards right. Most of which will not be spent on the Everglades.

Other Key Players

The US Geological Service (USGS) wrote the book on large constrictors, as misguided as it was. They are the folks who determined that the Burmese Python would invade the lower 1/3 of the United States as well as the east coast all the way to Connecticut. Now if you know anything about the Burmese Python you realize that this is a tropical snake that requires a wet habitat. This is why they thrive in the Everglades. Why in the world would one think that they could survive in the deserts of the southwest or in the frigid temperatures of the northeast? Well for starters they skewed they’re data so that the climates match. They included data from the range of the Indian Python which is not found in the US as it is on the extinction list. They also included a high altitude mountain range in Asia, because two specimens were found in a valley at the north end of the range. Of course one specimen was found dead in a parking lot and the other was preserved. In a city of 5 million people one would anticipate a few pet Burmese pythons would be present accounting for these dead animals.

The perplexing part of the determination that USGS made is that the Reticulated Python (another large constrictor) shares the same range as both the Burmese Python and the Indian Python. Why then is their predicted range isolated to the Everglades. So is the Burmese Python just a super snake or is funding the source of this indiscretion?

The USGS was put in charge of the eradication of Brown Tree Snake on the Island of Guam. This snake was brought to the island by our military and as it has no predator it flourished. I flourished to the point that it has devastated the songbird and small mammal populations of the island. They are everywhere. The USGS was given $100,000,000.00 to handle the problem so why did they fail? They used the monies to fund other projects. In fact, the USF&W Service spent less than $500,000.00 on the problem. Thinking about this, if they would have put a $10 bounty on Brown Tree Snakes I guarantee there wouldn’t be many left.

If this track record holds true, USGS will be the benefactor of millions of US dollars that will not be spent on the Burmese Python, but will fund other USGS projects. As Florida has already banned the ownership of the Burmese Python, and recent cold studies prove that they are isolated to the southern tip of Florida I guess we can afford to waste millions of dollars on a fake invasion.

Another player in this farce has been the animal rights groups. They have come up with all sorts of numbers to prove that the Burmese Python is a danger to the American people. They pull newspaper articles from years gone by to instill fear in the American people. It’s easy to make people fear big, scary, snakes. Let’s look at the numbers.

There are approximately the same number of large constrictors in private ownership as there are horses. Yet large constrictors account for one death every other year. Horses account for hundreds of deaths each year. Dogs kill appx. 30 people every year and cause serious injury to 800,000 more, mostly children. In fact, you are more likely to be killed by an angry cow than you are by a large constrictor in the US.

So where does this leave us. Our government seeks to shut down a $104,000,000.00 Python industry that supports thousands of reptile breeders in the US. They want to fund the eradication of this invasive species, an invasion that is isolated to southern most Florida. Whom I might add has already addressed the problem. And last but not least our government is kowtowing to the animal rights movement, which makes up less than 3% of all Americans.

And we wonder why our country is in financial distress!

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    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I have to say first, that I love snakes... I think they are beautiful...but as someone who trapses throughout the wilderness in search of insects, I have had some interesting encounters with non-native species. For instance, I once encountered a 3 foot alligator in a Northern California Marsh. Also, one time I had driven about two hours to continue a project along highway 101 but was not premitted to enter the designated area beacuse someones LION got out. I think when pet owners are more responsible for care and disposal of unwanted pets, that the powers that be can relax the standards somewhat. Dealing with invasive species is a nightmare that drains federal and state budgets...at least her in California. We have many invasive species such as the zebra muscle, walking stickes, pike, and now some kind of spider that may be lethal... like I said earier, I don't mind snakes... but pet owners who release unwanted pets should be... dumped in the middle of an African Desert for a week.

    • collegedad profile image
      Author

      collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      I agree davenmidtown. There are many invasive species that need to be dealt with. If you've ever had to deal with Kudzu you know what invasion is about. That said, responsible pet ownership should not be denied.

      USGS and USF&W would have everyone believe that pet owners were the source of the Burmese Python in the Everglades. Genetic research done by Florida researchers disproves this. They have sampled the Florida captive born populations, the have sampled the Vietnamese genotype, and they have sampled the Burmese Pythons found in the Everglades. They do not share a common ancestry. This is important, because after 1994 Burmese Python were imported exclusively from Vietnam. Before this they were imported from other undisclosed location. When hurricane Andrew devastated the Everglades in 1992 the result of which was the destruction of several reptile facilities that contained freshly imported, wild caught, Burmese Pythons. Though the USF&W Service and USGS will refute this, many experts believe that this was the true source of the seed population of Burmese Pythons in the Everglades.

      I could go on all day about this topic.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      saddly we are not honored for being responsible... only when stupid people dump their animals... etc. until that changes responsible pet owners will be denied and burdoned with trying to take care of animals that should never be released... etc...

    • Jill Larson profile image

      Jill Larson 4 years ago from Financial Freedom!

      College Dad, Thank you for the education. That is ridiculous that you would not be able to take your pet snake across state lines. It seems silly because responsible pet owners will be punished and those who do wrong will continue to do wrong without regard for the consequences. There has to be a better solution such as requiring strict registration of the animal.

      -Jill Larson

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      registration and chipping could work... it might also help to reduce black market trade. If people were made aware of the fines if their pet was released into the wild....

    • collegedad profile image
      Author

      collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      I hear ya Jill. davenmidton, Florida implemented chipping and permitting several years ago. USF&F, USGS, and the Department of Interior, ignored any strides that the State of Florida made in controlling the Burmese Python. They threw their research and findings out the door and replaced it with "bought data". Chipping does have its' place, but first we have to control the government agencies the are trying to benefit from this monetarily.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I say through the government out the door and chip them to the curb... FL should have sued in federal court.

    • collegedad profile image
      Author

      collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      I agree and the is a federal lawsuit pending, but not by Florida. Politicians like Ben Nelson pushed to ban Burms and Florida did it.

      Now what's sad is that the federal government blames pet owners for the burms in the Everglades. Yet there has never been a morph of the Burmese Python found in the Everglades. Breeders and hobbyists keep albinos, greens, labrinths, calicos, and other pattern/color morph. If pet owners are releasing these why haven't they been found. Albinos would be preyed upon, but the rest would blend right in like a normal Burmese Python.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      It is likely that snake may have been introduced as far back as when the Europeans were exploring the world and that conditions were favorable for them to survive but not thrive... those condition may have changed and the population of wild snakes began to thrive and breed. The natural world is held in balance and when something go extinct whatever it held in balance is free to thrive... considering the degree of damage caused by the Oscar Cichlid in the tropical waters of FL... I am surprised that pet stores can even sell those fish within the state.

    • collegedad profile image
      Author

      collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      They breed oscars in Florida, which is unfortunate. The two most destructive invasive species in FL are the feral hog and the feral cat. They actually issue permits to people who feed feral cat colonies in the keys!

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Feral hogs are a problem almost everywhere.... as are feral cats and here in CA... feral dogs. It is sad to me to see abandoned animals that then populate feral colonies.

    • Becky Bruce profile image

      Becky Bruce 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Funny, I actually have horses and you're right they are very dangerous. Considered one of the most dangerous sports to ride horses and yet I would be terrified to go near a python... who injures and kills far less people! It's all about what popular media tells us.

    • collegedad profile image
      Author

      collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      Amen Becky!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Have long been an opponent of government restrictions regarding reptiles. Didn't do much good as the public forums attended proved to be a farce. The AZA has done its best to keep private ownership at minimum in the guise of public protection, but under the reality of creating a monopoly. In addition, municipalities and states are limiting their liabilities by forbidding ownership, thus, putting the blame on the private sector if an escape were to occur. Lost the ability to keep any venomous a few years back. The sensationalism you've discussed, as well as, TV creates, has only added to one thing...a fear factor. Fear has been used for years to control the masses, be it fear of nuclear war, fear of hostile aggression, fear of code yellow, red, purple or whatever, and fear of exotic animals. HSUS has also done its best to promote propaganda in this area. So sad, but so true. Good Hub! Voted Up!

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