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Python Imports Banned by U.S. After Harming Everglades Habitats

Imports of Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas and northern and southern African pythons are being banned by the U.S. Interior Department, which said the constrictor snakes threaten endangered native U.S. species.

The department classified the four varieties as injurious species, a designation that also prohibits owners from transporting the animals across state lines.

“The Burmese python has already gained a foothold in the Florida Everglades, and we must do all we can to battle its spread and to prevent further human contributions of invasive snakes that cause economic and environmental damage,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today in a statement.

In 2010, the department said it was considering restrictions on the importation and interstate transport of nine types of constrictor snakes. Florida lawmakers including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, have sought a ban on sale of the animals.

Snake breeders lobbied against the proposed rule, saying it was overly broad and would force small businesses to close.

Valerie Fellows, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service, said in an interview that five varieties remain under consideration as injurious. The four types of snakes being banned were determined to have a high overall risk potential for disrupting sensitive ecosystems, warranting quicker action, Fellows said.

Burmese pythons have killed and eaten “highly endangered” Key Largo wood rats. Other pythons have preyed on endangered wood storks, the department said.

While snake owners are allowed to keep their reptiles under the ban, they can’t take, send or sell them across state lines.

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