Greg Bryant raises reticulated pythons, the longest snakes in the world. From the Retic Ranch in Delray Beach, he breeds animals that can grow to 20 feet and top 100 pounds and sells them around the world.
His livelihood is now threatened by federal legislation, proposed last year by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, that would ban the import and interstate transport of snakes such as boa constrictors and large pythons.
Nelson is trying to crack down on the nonnative snakes, which prey on rare birds
and mammals in the Everglades -- not to mention the pet Burmese python that strangled a 2-year-old child in Oxford last year.
Bryant offers an insider's view on the snake business:
How much do the snakes sell for?
"I produced animals last year that sold for $15,000," he says. His average sale is $300 to $400.
His customers collect snakes either as a hobby -- "You want something that nobody else has" -- or an investment. Similar to the housing bubble, Bryant says snake prices were "overinflated" when the economy was booming but have come down since the advent of the Great Recession. "It's worth whatever somebody is willing to pay for it," he says.
How do you feel about the proposed law?
"On the state level, I am all for requiring permits [to buy pythons] and having these people realize what they're getting into," he says. "These are big animals. These aren't for your kids."
Florida law currently requires python owners to get a $100 annual license and implant a microchip in their snake to track it.
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However, Bryant doesn't think the federal rules are necessary. "I think this legislation is premature," he says. "What Florida has in place already with the permitting, given enough time, will be effective."
"This is what I do to support my family," he adds. The legislation "would wipe it out. That would put me out of business."
Do you think the snakes are safe? I noticed there's a picture of a baby on your website.
"That's my 2-year-old son," he laughs. He says he keeps his snakes in locked cages, in a building outside of his house.
"Common sense goes a long way," he says.