USFWS restrictions on snakes should worry us all

fluxlizard

Avid Member
At first glance USFWS new restrictions on large snakes don't appear to effect many of us. Most of us (myself included- although I do have a pair of boas that I keep around for educational presentations that came super-close to being restricted this time around along with retics and anacondas) do not keep big pythons or anacondas and such.

However, the logic and procedure applied to these snakes could restrict our ability to keep virtually any animal. And there seems to be a special animosity towards herps reflected in the new laws.

Consider for a moment- the stated rationale behind these nation-wide restrictions are not that these snakes being restricted are large and dangerous. USFWS does not have that authority- they are restricting them nationwide under the logic that they can live and breed in the wild.

Next consider that they only locations these snakes can live and breed and multiply are in the deep south- locations like south florida.

OK, so far seems a little "iffy" for chameleon lovers to get concerned. But now consider this- how many chameleon species could live and breed and reproduce in certain limited wild places such as florida, or california, or texas? How about other lizards common in the trade that many of us enjoy- leopard geckos and bearded dragons could survive and breed in many locations- perhaps more than most keepers realize- my bearded dragons can survive light freezes here and shake it off like it was nothing the next day in the sunshine- I've even seen them breeding at sunny mid-sixties after a frosty night where a thin layer of ice formed on a puddle in the drive.

Now consider species that have similar requirements to these snakes- some species of which are already running around breeding loose in Florida like veileds and oustalets. Panthers could do very well there too I think in the south.

USFWS is picking on the big constrictors the past several years because they know that the public will be behind them politically if they select "scary" species- not because these species are especially unique in the the herp trade for their ability to propagate in the wild in certain fairly unique locations in the country. But the ability to propagate is the legal excuse they are using to restrict them- they cannot restrict them simply because most people find them repulsive- they have to have the legal reason, but they use the emotional reason to ensure political will to start these restrictions rolling.

I don't see how it will end- they have been slowly working on adding new species now for several years. If they cannot do something like boas this year, they simply come back next year and the next and the next until they get what they want.

If you believe your other herps such as your chameleons or ball pythons are safe because they are not on this year's list- wait 20 years and then see.

I'm not saying we should be able to keep anything and everything anywhere and everywhere in the country. I'm just saying the restrictions are not logical and in most locations, the logic behind them should not be legal. If many of these animals can thrive in south Florida, then the restrictions should apply to florida but not minnesota where these animals cannot survive. This is already being done with certain species- dubia roaches for example are illegal in florida and legal elsewhere for exactly this logic.

And finally- consider why they aren't attacking dog and cat ownership on the same logic. These animals can breed and survive in virtually every location in the US. And they do. And they kill far more wildlife than the snakes are killing. Not only that, but fools feed the feral population of cats and help them reproduce and multiply in the wild. Every dumpster around here for miles has simple-minded but kind hearted humans leaving cat food out in tins for the feral population. (simple-minded because I don't think they consider the fact that they are making more of these cats who will live diseased lives in an environment they do not belong in).

2010- over 480 million birds killed by the US feral cat population. By that time, these cats had already caused the extinction of 33 species of birds in this country.

By 2020 it is estimated that over 70 species of birds will have become extinct because of these cats.

So, think about it- why the nationwide crackdown on snakes and not cats?

How "safe" does this kind of legal action by a handful of un-elected "officials" make you as a chameleon owner feel knowing the pursuit of your happiness can be restricted eventually because of a situation in south florida? (if you don't live there, if you do, this all makes a little more sense in your state).
 

Montium

New Member
They will try to ban everything eventually, that is the goal of HSUS and PETA to include dogs and cats. Banning is the easy way out for the government, they don't have to do inspections or create permits. Folks should donate to USARK.ORG to help them fight these lazy bans.
 

laurie

Retired Moderator
What both of you are saying is completely true. USARK has been saying this for years at all the big reptile shows, and people are just not paying attention to the fact that it may be their reptile next. We all need to step up to the plate and help out while we still have a chance to stop this stupidity.

Please consider helping even small amounts help.
USARK.org
 

Lizardguy1

Member
The USFWS asked for public comments on the "constrictor rule" over a year ago. When the comment period closed a few weeks ago, they had received only 2500 public comments, and that likely included both pro and con opinions. I don't know how many boa/Python/anaconda owners there are in the U.S., but it's certainly at least 100 times that number, probably more. FWS are public officials and are required the receive public comments and consider it as part of their decision-making, so constrictor owners have no one to blame but themselves.

Unfortunately herp owners are their own worst enemy- largely apathetic, but when suddenly confronted with the new rules can be subject to sudden bursts of outrage that are inarticulate and crude. We are experiencing that here in Las Vegas- the county commission is considering some strict rules on pet owner/breeders. It's aimed primarily at dogs and cats, but animal advisory made it clear the same rules apply to exotic pet owners and home breeders. While HSUS written comments were articulate and rational sounding (but based on inaccurate facts), a large number of exotic pet owners wrote degenerative rants and even some threats.

Meanwhile other animal rights activists here (cat people) have been able to get the county commission to authorize legal feral cat colonies, and to FUND a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program. They didn't do this overnight, it took a lot of time and hard work. While I disagree with it as a matter of policy, I respect their determination. The herp community could learn a thing or to from such efforts, as we have a long way to go-
 

odduc748

Member
Not to get too political here, but..........

This is what happens when an overreaching government tries to control every aspect of our lives. This proposed ban could apply to anything. Some unelected official decides they don't like something and, singlehandedly, begin their personal crusade to ban whatever.

Most of these proposals come out of fear and those who write the proposals rely on the ignorance of their audience to further their cause.

I agree that we all ought to be paying close attention to this and all foolish government proposals.

After all, we are entitled to 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness'. Of course, as long as while in pursuit of said endeavors you're not hurting or affecting anyone else's ability to same.

I'm John and I approve this message.
 

laurie

Retired Moderator
Not to get too political here, but..........

This is what happens when an overreaching government tries to control every aspect of our lives. This proposed ban could apply to anything. Some unelected official decides they don't like something and, singlehandedly, begin their personal crusade to ban whatever.

Most of these proposals come out of fear and those who write the proposals rely on the ignorance of their audience to further their cause.

I agree that we all ought to be paying close attention to this and all foolish government proposals.

After all, we are entitled to 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness'. Of course, as long as while in pursuit of said endeavors you're not hurting or affecting anyone else's ability to same.

I'm John and I approve this message.
John you get my vote.
 

Lizardguy1

Member
Not to get political either, but there was no ban John, and under the Lacey Act USFWS is limited in what they can do- all they did was restrict importation and transportation across state lines. Within each state the respective legislature or local municipalities make the rules. And FWS could not apply this rule to "anything"...there has to be a connection to the protection of native wildlife.

And it wasn't "singlehandedly" either- multiple biologists and wildlife managers worked on the rule. In the end they left boa constrictors alone. And, if they had received 50,000 letters in opposition instead of 2500, I'm sure we wouldn't be having this conversation. And finally I'm glad it was biologists working on this and NOT our elected officials- half of congress doesn't even believe in science, if they were the ones working on this rule it would have been really jacked up....
 

Carlton

Chameleon Enthusiast
Not to get too political here, but..........

This is what happens when an overreaching government tries to control every aspect of our lives. This proposed ban could apply to anything. Some unelected official decides they don't like something and, singlehandedly, begin their personal crusade to ban whatever.

Most of these proposals come out of fear and those who write the proposals rely on the ignorance of their audience to further their cause.

I agree that we all ought to be paying close attention to this and all foolish government proposals.

After all, we are entitled to 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness'. Of course, as long as while in pursuit of said endeavors you're not hurting or affecting anyone else's ability to same.

I'm John and I approve this message.
Sorry to wade into this a bit late, but as a career biologist who's worked for USFWS and other federal agencies, a couple of thoughts to add...

Many times a proposal to pass new legislation does not originate with the government agency, but is presented through a petition from an outside organization (including groups such as HSUS, PETA, state or local gov'ts). The agency must consider the merits of the proposal if its within their jurisdiction. And, the squeaky wheel gets the grease! Lobbyists can and do overwhelm elected officials with some pretty bizarre information, but if it isn't counteracted, it has a life of its own.

Most of us who work for federal agencies don't have any interest in controlling more aspects of any citizen's life...far from it. I have never met a USFWS employee who would have proposed such a regulation based on personal fear or ignorance! Far from it. If USFWS is handed supported information that big constrictors (nonnative introduced predatory species) pose a threat to native wildlife in the Gulf states they must consider ways to deal with them. The problem was not contained within one state because of interstate commerce either, so that triggered the federal level regulation under the Lacey Act instead of individual state restrictions or ordinances. The ban was just one method, and I agree it isn't the best one. But, even though it is draconian, it can also be somewhat effective because it is enforceable and has some teeth!

Don't get me wrong. I disagree with the ban and did send in my comments on the proposal. I can understand why the ban came into being, but you have to remember that such proposed regulations require comment from the entire US public, not just agency staffers. I also suspect most of my colleagues in the USFWS agree with me. The darned ban was a reaction to a bad situation resulting from human ignorance and carelessness (and partly due to those freedoms we all demand). Consider the brain trust who decided it would be fun to release exotic hogs to the SE so there was something different to hunt??? Pig wars are reality. What about the guy who wanted to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's plays to the US? Like those flocks of 5 million starlings do you? Oh, and all the pet owners who let their cats roam free to kill over 3 million songbirds every year in the US. The businesses who create those easy "wildflower mixes" and the gardeners who scatter them anywhere they want because they are pretty, and spread nonnative plants farther. Choices like this give dedicated biologists nightmares.

IMHO this was not a case of "overreaching government seeking to control every aspect of our lives". Not at the federal level anyway. Hype on all sides of the issue bent it around and the media doesn't help. I also think that local or state level restrictions will create more of the lack of "freedom" for exotic species hobbyists and that's where our attention should focus. Now there are some bizarre and unreasonable proposals folks!

Just thought you'd like to hear a re-direct from a career federal public servant.
 
Last edited:

Carlton

Chameleon Enthusiast
Not to get political either, but there was no ban John, and under the Lacey Act USFWS is limited in what they can do- all they did was restrict importation and transportation across state lines. Within each state the respective legislature or local municipalities make the rules. And FWS could not apply this rule to "anything"...there has to be a connection to the protection of native wildlife.

And it wasn't "singlehandedly" either- multiple biologists and wildlife managers worked on the rule. In the end they left boa constrictors alone. And, if they had received 50,000 letters in opposition instead of 2500, I'm sure we wouldn't be having this conversation. And finally I'm glad it was biologists working on this and NOT our elected officials- half of congress doesn't even believe in science, if they were the ones working on this rule it would have been really jacked up....
You are CORRECT! Thanks for a reasonable explanation! You know, the content of the comments they received mattered more than the number. Its not a vote folks. 100,000 knee jerk printed postcard comments issued by PETA doesn't have nearly the effect that a few with substantiated facts or new information does. If those few factual comments don't appear (or the information just doesn't exist) then the agency ends up using what it has already. Believe me, I have served on teams that have to analyze and summarize public comment on hot button issues so I know about that. When the USFWS was considering whether to list the spotted owl, the desert tortoise, the Stephen's kangaroo rat, and several others as endangered, the agency was flooded with comments for and against. Most of the comment is emotional, ranting, non-specific, with nothing factual or helpful. It can be maddening for agency folks trying to make a decent decision.
 

Lizardguy1

Member
Thanks for the information and clarification. So based on your experience I have a hypothetical question- if an outside group petitioned USFWS to list feral cat colonies as injurious, and provided sound scientific evidence (not anecdotal stories) of their adverse impact on native wildlife, then they would have to consider a ban on interstate transport and sale?
 

fluxlizard

Avid Member
I think it is kind of silly that public opinion plays much if any role.

I would insist that I'm not trying to be too political, but this entire situation is as far as I can tell, political.

Just a quick reminder that we live in a country that was unique and different in the world because it was founded on the principle that the liberty of an individual should have more weight than the changing whims and opinions of the collective masses.

Either there is a scientifically proven problem that requires law to make corrections or there isn't.

If there was enough public uproar in favour of allowing no restrictions and if public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of mass liberation of these animals in south florida, then does it make it OK?

So why then should public opinion bear weight when making necessary corrections into law?

Those making these laws are not elected representatives of the people. In this case they are a panel of people who in theory should be using science to determine the steps necessary to make the correction, not the opinion of those who did not elect them anyway, and because we live in our particular country, they should be making these corrections with the founding principle of allowing as much liberty as possible while still taking needed steps to fix the problem.

In other words, if there isn't any chance whatsoever that these snakes could establish in the wilds of my state and the majority of the other states, then the states where it is a problem should have the restrictions and those where it is impossible for it to be a problem should not. We are talking about 1 state where it is a problem, and maybe a handful of others where it could be a problem, yet we are going to prevent transport across state lines in all states.

This is unnecessary- florida and california both already have a history prohibiting certain species which are legal in other states. Actually, most states already do this, including my own (no alligators, and about a dozen other herp species, whereas alligators are legal to own in some of the surrounding states). And new federal laws are not going to prevent those who would already break those state laws. Enforcement is going to be difficult anyway until the law accomplishes it's secondary effect of destroying the herpteculture of these species in all states to the point that they become extremely rare, at which time it will be easier to question the origin of individuals. If federal law brings greater threat of stronger punishment and that is the motivation then federal law could still limit restriction to those few states where the animals could actually establish.

As for threat to wildlife- wildlife could be threatened by most any herps.

This kind of illogic could be applied so easily to bearded dragons- they could potentially establish in places like california, new mexico, arizona, texas, etc. They happily eat all kinds of other lizards and other small wildlife.
 
Last edited:

Carlton

Chameleon Enthusiast
Thanks for the information and clarification. So based on your experience I have a hypothetical question- if an outside group petitioned USFWS to list feral cat colonies as injurious, and provided sound scientific evidence (not anecdotal stories) of their adverse impact on native wildlife, then they would have to consider a ban on interstate transport and sale?
I suppose they could, as they are technically an exotic species that is sold and transported from state to state, but it might depend on whether you were talking about the "domestic" cat (which is so widespread already and more of an ordinary housepet) or one of the more exotic breeds. It may come down to the definition of injurious species.
 
Top Bottom