NEW YORK — Federal officials want to keep Burmese pythons and eight other kinds of large snakes out of the country, saying their continuing spread threatens the Everglades and other sensitive ecosystems.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar proposed imposing a ban on importing the snakes as "injurious wildlife," as well as the interstate sale of those nine species. The proposal, which in addition to pythons would include green and yellow anacondas, will be open to public comment before a final decision is made.
Salazar announced the proposed ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City because New York is the biggest U.S. point of entry for imported wildlife.
But the most grateful comments about the proposal came from Florida, where a pet Burmese python was blamed last year for killing a 2-year-old girl in Sumter County. State officials applauded the proposed ban and it also drew support from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami. Nelson and Meek have sponsored bills in Congress calling for a similar ban on the big snakes.
Salazar got a close look at Florida's python problem in the spring when state officials gave him an airboat tour of the Everglades and showed him a pair of snakes they captured. One was so big that it took three biologists to hold it pinned down.
In just the past month, state employees have captured 25 Burmese pythons and five African rock pythons in South Florida. Federal officials estimate there could be more than 150,000 of the snakes slithering through the River of Grass.
Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report.