It’s a slithery slope.
Florida could soon prevent people from owning several snake species, as the Florida Wildlife Commission seeks to ban personal or commercial use of 16 “high-risk” reptiles.
The new rules are expected to pass at the commission’s Feb. 25 meeting, Florida Today reported. Unsurprisingly, people whose businesses rely on these animals, including iguanas and tegus, have blasted the proposed regulations.
“The approach to dealing with the wild population of iguanas and tegus, especially here in Florida, and Burmese pythons, should be a completely separate item from the regulation or banning of commercial industries,” Michael Cole, an advocate with the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel when the rules were first publicized in November.
The FWC has argued the “high-risk” pythons, iguanas and tegus wreck havoc on Florida’s infrastructure and environment after escaping from their owners.
Currently, the green anaconda, the Nile monitor and six python species are regulated as conditional species in Florida, meaning they can be used for research, education or commercial purposes. The new FWC rules would make them, along with the green iguana and seven species of tegu, prohibited species, which can only be used for research and education.
Some people could be grandfathered in, but traveling skakeman Cyliss Harrington told the Sentinel his business model would be entirely defanged.
“That completely kills my business,” Harrington said. “This isn’t just a hobby for me. This is my life. This is what I do.”
The FWC defended the rules by citing numerous studies showing how the reptiles snake and burrow their way through Florida’s infrastructure, destroying seawalls, roads and canals, among other structures, according to Florida Today. Pythons in particular are known to eat native species, even chowing down on the occasional deer.
The commission says it spends $8 million yearly to repair the damage caused by the 16 species it has planned to ban.
However, previous attempts to control snakes in Florida have been defeated in court, including a 2017 ban on interstate python trade that was struck down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Only four snakes, and zero iguanas, currently sit on the FWC’s prohibited list.