Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the Everglades on Tuesday morning to announce a ban on four species of big snakes from being imported into the U.S.
Salazar and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson announced the constrictor snake ban complete with a slithery photo op with a snake. In 60 days, people will no longer be able to buy or transport the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda or the Northern and Southern African pythons in the U.S.
"The action we are taking today is a milestone for us in the protection of the Everglades," Salazar said.
"These giant constrictor snakes do not belong in the Everglades, and they do not belong in people’s back yards," said Nelson.
The legislation was introduced by Nelson four years ago but was held up by the exotic pet lobby.
David Leibman is a licensed python hunter. He says the ban doesn’t come without some painful economic side effects.
"I have a lot of friends in the pet industry, and it is going to hurt a lot of my friends, their businesses and their families. However, we need to protect our ecosystem in the Everglades," Leibman said.
It is estimated there are more than 200,000 of these nonnative species already established in the Everglades, and some conservationists said an additional five other species that were recommended to be banned should have been included on the list.
"The problem is really with these four species, and that is where we ought to focus our attention on today," Salazar said.
Officials will continue to monitor and study those snakes.
A Burmese python could grow to 13 feet and 90 pounds in about five years if it was living in the Everglades. One python that size was found in a swimming pool in Palmetto Bay.
Not only do the snakes multiply and grow quickly thriving in the wild, but they have no known predators, and everyone agrees that is a major problem.
Leibman helped the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission catch a 17-foot, 164-pound python last year. He said when the snake’s stomach was opened up, the remains of an alligator were found inside.
"We need the gator to remain the king out here," he said.
For more information on injurious wildlife and efforts to list the four species of snakes as injurious under the Lacey Act, visit: http://www.fws.gov/invasives/news.html.