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Federal officials move to ban imports of nine species of constrictor snake

A boa constrictor sits in its cage during a press conference at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar speaks announced a proposed ban on bringing Burmese pythons and eight other kinds of large snakes in the country, saying they threaten the environment.

NEW YORK — Federal officials want to keep nine kinds of constrictor snakes out of the United States, saying they belong to invasive species that pose the single biggest threat to the nation's environment.

"This is the story of the invasion of the snakes in the United States of America," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday, standing near a live python at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

He said the Burmese python and the other "alien snakes" are destroying some of the nation's most treasured -- and most fragile -- ecosystems.

New York is the biggest point of entry in the U.S. for imported wildlife, the secretary said. The ban covers any kind of import of invasive snakes into the U.S.

In 2009, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Inspectors at Kennedy handled more than 27,000 wildlife shipments valued at more than $1 billion, or 16% of all U.S. wildlife imports.

Last year, 54,000 live reptiles entered through the New York airport.

The proposed ban covers nine species of giant constrictor snakes including the Burmese, North African and South African pythons, the boa constrictor, and the anaconda -- green, yellow and Bolivian, as listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

About 1 million such snakes have been imported in the last 30 years and more have been bred domestically.

The snakes are popular as pets but destructive when released into the wild, especially in sensitive ecosystems like Florida's Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys. Having no natural predators, the adaptable snakes feed on alligators and other imperiled species whose remains have been found in their stomachs.

"This is an important day for conservation in the United States," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton.

He joined Salazar at a news conference in a Kennedy customs warehouse where the live python was on display along with an intercepted collection of snake skins.

Teams opened and examined shipments of snakes and other animals, wearing gloves and using crowbars to open crates containing potentially dangerous creatures.

The ban proposal will be open to public comment for 60 days before a final decision is made.

An invasive species can be any kind of nonnative living organism that causes harm.

The legislation to ban the snakes was introduced in Congress by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.).

The Burmese python thrives in South Florida and there are boa constrictors south of Miami. Recent evidence suggests that northern African pythons are reproducing on the city's western boundaries.

Hamilton said he hopes the nine snake species will soon join the list of illegal wildlife trafficking that includes poisonous snakes.

At Kennedy, inspectors handle all snakes as if they were poisonous, in case the documents accompanying them don't match the wriggling goods packed in sacks inside wooden crates.

More than 169,700 shipments of wildlife and wildlife products entered the country last year, with an estimated value of $2.7 billion.

-- Associated Press

Photo: A snake wriggles in its cage during Wednesday's press conference.  Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press

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I run a reptile rescue out of my home. Why do I do this because petshops want to make a quick buck they do not inform people of a reptiles true size when it reaches maturity. The US might as well ban all house cats and dogs hell how about this lets make a huge event kill every "pet" in the states within a week....Oh I'm sorry did I offend you your cat carries more diseases in its mouth one bite from it even just playful could kill you slowly and painfully you'll wish it was a venomous snake bite, and Fido there statistics show more kids and adults are killed by their ever so loving Fido every year than reptiles due in decades. Not to mention most people killed or losing children to large pythons are moron who haven't kept it in a secure enclosure following simple effective safety measures....it's something called common sense oh wait that's right the media and government have made thinking an option really think about that little chihuahua that bites you every time you leave ur house it bolts from the neighbors yard.....do you order it to the puond no but the pit bull walking up tongue hanging out tail wagging smile on his face isn't even given a shot put down as soon as its taken in. REALITY CHECK! reptiles are hypo allergenic you feed snakes once a week approx, clean their cage once a week and handle them whenever you can they are amazing pets you want to go on vacation warmth a meal before you go and plenty of water maybe a friend to stop in every few day to check water and you are good. A dog or cat cost you how much per day to sit in a kennel and come home sick and thin or worse? I have fury animals as well as cold-blooded giants and to be honest I trust the cold-blooded ones more. It makes me sick just knowing that the media plays such a crucial role in all this and well all they want is ratings really what happened to honesty and honor knowing that you stood up for something you believed in? What happened to gathering all the facts first? Education is key and it has taken a backseat to everything in this country!

This is nuts.my daughters handle my boas all the time.my cat is more likely to attack.plus these animals can not endure our enviorment in ny. If these animals escape they most likely will die


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