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FWC Chairman: Let's remain tough on pythons

News Release

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Media contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chairman Rodney Barreto directed staff on Wednesday to develop tough measures for dealing with pythons in South Florida.

"The state of Florida has taken the lead on this issue," Barreto said. "We should be considering an outright ban. It is paramount that we keep doing everything we can to keep these animals out of the wild."

Barreto's comments came after the Commission approved draft rules for reptiles of concern. Under the proposed rule, all reptiles of concern would be required to be permanently identified by a microchip when the animal reaches one inch in diameter. Most reptiles of concern reach that length shortly after birth. The current rule requires microchipping at two inches in diameter for any reptile of concern, which includes Burmese pythons, Indian pythons, reticulated pythons, African rock pythons (northern and southern), amethystine or scrub pythons, green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards.

Reptiles of concern must be licensed by the FWC's Captive Wildlife Section in order to be kept as a pet. The license costs $100 per year and mandates specific caging requirements as well as requiring microchipping.

Col. Jim Brown, the FWC's director of the Division of Law Enforcement, said the proposed change was recommended by the Reptile of Concern Technical Assistance Group that has been meeting since December. The group, made up of reptile experts, animal rights advocates and FWC staff, concentrated its discussion on ways to ensure all reptiles of concern can be identified. They also recommended the 24/7 amnesty rule, which went into effect under executive order in December and was approved as a draft rule on Wednesday. As laid out in the executive order, licensed reptile-of-concern owners may adopt unlicensed reptiles of concern without penalty to prevent the illegal release of nonnative species into the wild.

"The issues addressed by this group will help the FWC in determining the best possible solutions for dealing with all nonnative species in Florida," Brown said. "They will continue to address the listing procedures so species can be removed or added to the list of reptiles of concern as needed."

The FWC has instituted several programs to deal with reptile-of-concern issues recently, including opening up the take of reptiles of concern to hunters in specific wildlife management areas in South Florida. Brown said current rules and laws have drastically reduced the trade in reptiles of concern, but it is time to consider stricter rules.

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