Pet snakes could be next big eco-menace

Scientists at USGS released a 300-page report today detailing the vulnerability of U.S. lands to invasion by large snakes from other continents. The report finds that Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and yellow anacondas are a high-risk animal for invasion.

The report echoes the unfortunate situation on the America territory of Guam, where introduced brown tree snakes have extirpated most forest vertebrates, including some birds endemic to the island. Released from natural predation pressure, these snakes altered the island’s natural ecology so much that it affected human habitats and business.

The USGS report mentions that the five snake species that could pose a threat are common in the pet trade. These species have been spotted in the wild but have yet to establish detectable reproductive populations.  Which begs the question: Does the presence of one or two neglected pets in the wild thus necessitate the production of a 300 page report?

Absolutely. The reason the brown tree snake story is such a sad one is simply lack of initiative before it became too late.  The report points to animals which, because of their habits, preferred habitats and likely predators and prey items, have the greatest potential to become invasive.  Now is the critical time to circulate this information, so that a hapless Burmese python owner thinks twice about letting his now-unwieldy pet loose in his backyard.

Read the full report (and its abstract) here.

Author: Christine Buckley

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