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July 16, 2009

The HSUS Urges End to Python Trade

But Says Proposed Hunt Would Be Ineffective, Inhumane

The Humane Society of the United States

While deeply concerned about the trade in pythons and the dramatic expansion of populations of this exotic species in the Everglades and in other parts of Florida, The Humane Society of the United States considers it wrong-headed for the state or federal government to authorize a program to allow the hunting and killing of Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park. Instead, policy responses should focus on passing a ban on the import and interstate trade in pythons and other large constrictor snakes, so that populations do not get established in the South or in California.

The private ownership of large constrictor snakes is a prescription for threats to public safety and the environment. A 2-year-old girl was tragically killed by a Burmese python kept as a pet in her Florida home on July 1 – the fourth person killed by a pet python in the United States since 2006. From a small number of animals escaped or released from the pet trade, there are now tens of thousands of Burmese pythons established and reproducing in the Everglades. These snakes have been found elsewhere in the state and have the potential to inhabit the southern one-third of the country, according to U.S. Geological Survey scientists.

"Because of the reckless practices of the pet trade, and the foolish decisions by people who want to own exotic animals, Florida has a major problem on its hands," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "While the problem is severe, we should not pursue wasteful and futile strategies like bounty programs and public hunts in Everglades National Park. They won't work, and could do more harm than good."

The number of snakes removed could not possibly keep up with the reproduction of the snake population. The snakes have enormous reproductive capabilities and are also very difficult to find. One female was reportedly captured with 85 developing eggs.

Bounty hunting won't help, but it could do significant damage. Bounty hunting could put people at risk of injury or death and cause environmental damage from increased human traffic and improper collection. Hunters could mistakenly remove non-target snakes from the ecosystem.

For decades, members of the public have been strictly prohibited from hunting or removing wildlife from national parks. This prohibition should not be hastily overturned. Instead, action is needed to address the problem at its source.

The HSUS applauds U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's proposed legislation (S. 373) and the companion bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (H.R. 2811) to add pythons to the federal injurious species list, prohibiting their importation and interstate commerce for the pet trade. This legislation will close a major introduction pathway, help prevent Burmese pythons from becoming established in other areas and stop species such as the reticulated python from becoming the next Burmese python. The need to stop the trade in large constrictor snakes has never been more urgent.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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