Kenneth Wright, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) commissioner, hosted a news conference with several state legislators on Tuesday to heighten awareness of the exotic reptile situation in Florida.
“We are working with our legislators who are concerned about the threat of Burmese pythons and other reptiles of concern and their ability to threaten our native species,” said Wright. “The interest of Sen. Lee Constantine (R-Altamonte Springs), Rep. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) and Rep. Ralph Poppell (R-Titusville) in this problem will help the FWC and its partners do their job effectively.”
Wright encouraged residents who have an interest in this issue to attend the FWC’s public meeting in Howey-in-the-Hills on Wednesday, when FWC staff will present information on options for dealing with these nonnative species.
Wright invited several state lawmakers who have expressed interest in legislation on the issue to participate in Tuesday’s news conference. Constantine is chairman of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee and has been working with FWC staff in drafting legislation that requires anyone selling wildlife in Florida to be licensed, even if they’re from another state. In addition, his proposed legislation restricts ownership, sales, importation and release of Burmese pythons and other exotic species unless authorized by the FWC, and provides for increased criminal and civil penalties for violators.
Poppell was the sponsor of 2007 legislation that requires a $100 annual license for anyone possessing reptiles of concern. He continues to work with the Commission on these issues.
“The FWC can pass rules to regulate the sale and trade of reptiles of concern, but we depend on the Legislature to increase penalties, fines and fees to help enforce the rules approved by the Commission,” Wright said.
Burmese pythons, a nonnative species, have spread throughout South Florida, creating a threat to the environment. Pythons and other reptiles of concern kept as pets also pose a threat to humans, if not handled properly. The release of Burmese pythons by pet owners who no longer want the reptiles has caused further threats to Florida’s native wildlife. Burmese pythons have been living and reproducing in the Everglades and other parts of South Florida for more than a decade. The FWC has instituted several programs for the capture of pythons in the wild to help stop the northward spread of this invasive species. The agency continues to work on solutions to prevent further impacts on Florida’s native fish and wildlife.
In addition, the FWC began hosting Pet Amnesty Days in 2006. During these events, folks who can no longer keep nonnatives as pets may turn them in to the FWC for placement. The next event will be for reptiles of concern only at Gatorland in Orlando on Oct. 3.
The Commission meeting will be at the Mission Inn in Howey-in-the-Hills, Sept. 9-11, beginning at 8:30 a.m. each day. The presentation on Burmese pythons and other reptiles of concern is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 9. For more information on Burmese pythons, visit MyFWC.com and click on “Burmese pythons” under Quick Clicks.