WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has banned importation of four species of pythons and the yellow anaconda to the United States after adding the snakes to its list of "injurious" reptiles.
The South Florida Water Management District petitioned the agency in 2006 to ban import of the Burmese python after large numbers of the snakes, which had escaped or been released from captivity, began to establish wild populations in the Everglades National Park.
The USFWS barred the Indian and the Northern and Southern African pythons and the yellow anaconda after finding that large numbers of the nonnative constrictors were escaping or being released, and posed a threat to native wildlife, and occasionally to human beings.
The USFWS admitted that the problem with Burmese pythons in south Florida might have been prevented had it acted sooner to ban their import as pets.
Under the Lacey Act, a species may be labeled as "injurious" if they are likely to prey on and compete with native species, there are areas in the U.S. climatically suited to the animals, they are likely to escape captivity, and it would be difficult to prevent, eradicate, or reduce large populations.
According to the USFWS, the problem with the snakes is that they get much bigger than their owners anticipate. In captive conditions, being fed chickens and rabbits, a Burmese python can reach 25 feet in length in just five years.
As a result, overwhelmed owners release the snakes, or given their size and the need to soak for long periods of time, usually in their owner's bath tub, the snakes escape.
Pythons can live for up to 25 years, and adult females can produce as many as 107 eggs per mating season.
The ban goes into effect on March 23.