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Florida store owner faces charges in probe of python sales

December 29, 2009 | 10:52 am

One of two pythons seized during an undercover operation into the illegal sale of such reptiles.

Pythons have become a huge problem in the Florida wilderness, where it is believed that snake owners released them when they became too large to manage. The reptiles have been thriving and reproducing and have become a threat to native wildlife.

The predicament is so prevalent in the South Florida region that Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials announced that state-sanctioned hunting of the invasive species will be a year-round effort starting in January.

The FWC has also mandated regulations in the care and keeping of pythons. Owners must be licensed annually, and snakes larger than 2 inches in diameter must be implanted with a microchip. There are also specific caging requirements.

Because of this, a Palm Beach County, Fla., store owner is facing charges of illegally selling two pythons to undercover investigators.

An anonymous tip led FWC investigators to Reptiles Plus Inc, owned by Boynton Beach resident Mark Bavosa, where an undercover officer posing as a customer inquired about purchasing pythons.

Officials said Bavosa did the right thing by asking the "customer" if he had the proper permits to possess a python. But when the officer said he did not, authorities said, Bavosa sold him the snakes anyway.

Bavosa reportedly acquired the snakes from an individual who, taking advantage of state's current "reptile of concern" amnesty plan, dropped them off at the store. During the amnesty period owners can turn reptiles over to authorized permit holders with no questions asked.

"The owner of this pet store acted irresponsibly when he failed to report to the FWC that he accepted these unwanted pets in the first place," said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. "Then he let us down by selling the pythons under the table to an unpermitted person."

Bavosa has been charged with two misdemeanors -- illegal sale of a reptile of concern to an unpermitted person and improper caging. He also received a warning for failing to keep proper inventory of such reptiles.

FWC officers turned the snakes over to a permitted wildlife facility.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: One of two pythons seized during an undercover operation into the illegal sale of such reptiles. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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