A federal judge has temporarily blocked the federal ban on transporting specific species of constricting snakes between states. This could be seen as potentially bad news for the Everglades, which is already being taken over by invasive Burmese pythons. While U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss' temporary injunction will not affect Florida, the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), buoyed by the ruling, says it will continue its lawsuit to lift the ban entirely, which would allow snake-selling businesses to freely ship anacondas and other snakes to Florida.
USARK filed a lawsuit in 2014 asking the government to lift the ban on bringing invasive snakes and reptiles into Florida. In December 2013, USARK challenged the science on the banning of the invasive snakes and claimed that sales of snakes actually help fund research and conservation. USARK also claims it stands to lose up to $1.2 billion over the next ten years because of the ban. Moreover, some sellers are forced to euthanize snakes they can't sell, the group has said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had added four species of constricting snakes to a federal list of banned snakes in March that the Department of the Interior deemed "injurious" under the Lacey Act, a conservation law that prohibits trading in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold.
USARK had sought a preliminary injunction to block the FWS's ban when the reticulated python, DeSchauensee's anaconda, the green anaconda, and Beni anaconda were added to the list.
The reticulated python has been known to grow to up to 20 feet in length, while the green anaconda is believed to be the heaviest snake in the world.
Pythons have been known to be too much for someone to handle as a pet and have often been released into the wild, where they breed and eat just about everything. And since the snakes are adept at hiding and being low-key, it's often difficult for scientists to properly track and monitor them. Yet despite scientific evidence that these snakes ravage ecosystems, Judge Moss granted USARK an injunction to suspend the ban on interstate transportation of reticulated pythons and green anacondas under the Lacey Act.
However, Moss also noted that "the potential for a new invasive constrictor species becoming established in any part of the United States is an extremely serious threat to the public interest — much more serious than any of the private harms asserted by [USARK]."
The good news is that Moss also said in his ruling that USARK failed to show it has a specific need to ship reticulated pythons or green anacondas to Florida.
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Still, USARK sees the injunction as a victory and a step forward to getting the ban lifted.
"One of the four requirements for being granted a preliminary injunction is to prove that you are likely to prevail on the merits of the case," USARK said on its website. "The Judge has found that we are likely to prevail on our count asserting that FWS does not have the authority to ban interstate transportation of injurious species."
Calls to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by New Times have not been immediately returned.