Burmese pythons are multiplying and spreading at an alarming rate. There are tens of thousands of them in Florida, alone. They've swamped the Everglades. They turn up in backyard pools. Voracious, mammal-eating reptiles, these slithering behemoths can grow up to 20 feet long. And U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, says it is high time no more of them are allowed to the enter the U.S. or move across state lines.
Dicks, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, says the snakes are a menace to public safety, undermine the government's efforts to restore the Everglades, and that millions of federal dollars are squandered each year to try and control them.
The veteran Washington lawmaker wants the Obama administration to finalize a ban, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, which would bring to a halt all imports and interstate transport of Burmese pythons and eight other types of large constrictors.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that nearly 2 million of the big snakes it wants declared "injurious"" were imported between 1999 and 2008, and that more than 50,000 domestically-bred snakes were sold during the same period.
The ban would not affect zoos and the snakes could still be used for "scientific, medical, educational or zoological purposes."
Reptile breeding, though, is big business. In North Carolina, it's a $25 million industry, according to the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, which opposes the proposed rule. The association has the support of some Republicans, including Rep. Darrell Issa of California -- long a thorn in President Obama's side -- who says the rule is another example of job-killing policies of the Obama administration.
Just before Congress adjourned for the holidays, McClatchy Newspapers reports, wrote Obama a letter saying the federal government "simply cannot afford to additional spending in the billions to control the invasive species.
According to one federal study, global warming would result in pythons spreading to one-third of the country, including Washington, Oregon, and California.