Good Riddance to the Death of HR 511

Last year may have been a year filled with great experiences and adventures, but something we are happy to leave behind in 2012 is HR 511! Thanks to the reptile community and animal lovers alike for banning together to protect your freedoms, legislation to ban interstate transport of the Indian & Reticulated Pythons, Green & Beni Anacondas and Boas has been defeated.

 

Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) the northern (Python sebae) and southern African rock python, (Python natalensis) and the yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus) who as of March 23, 2012 are included in the Lacey Act. This addition does not federally ban ownership, but does place restrictions on interstate transport for any reason including pet owners moving from state to state.

 

 

For more information on the HR 511's time in Congress and Lacey Act requirements, check out our previous blog posts below.

RED ALERT: STOP HR511 Python BAN TODAY!

 

Python Ban: The Adaptability Argument

Python Ban: The Special Interest Argument

Python Ban: The Discussion

Python Ban: The Economic Argument

Python Ban: The "Good Science" Argument

Python Ban: The Precedent Argument

Python Ban: The Pet Argument

Python Ban: The Answers to Living Under the Lacey Act

 

HR511 Weekly Update December 3 : Representative John Fleming, M.D.

HR511 Weekly Update December 10 : Brady Barr Resident Herpetologist at National Geographic Society

HR511 Weekly Update December 18 : Colette Sutherland TSK, Inc.

 

Thank you to those who called their representatives to ensure the truth about HR511 was heard and thank you to those representatives for listening to the facts and ignoring the hype. Here at Prehistoric Pets we wish this unbased attack was never opened but we are SO EXCITED to be able to close the discussion and looming threats with be it not without losses, a victory for reptiles.

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Python Ban: The "Good Science" Argument

 

 

Prehistoric Pets has long worked with a wide variety of species of large constrictors, over a span of many years. During that time, we have come to an intimate understanding of the animals we have worked with, their temperature and environmental needs, personalities, reproductive and feeding capabilities. With this background and some additional research it becomes clear the animals recently added to the Lacey act are neither capable of living outside of their current establishment in the Everglades or pose a reasonable threat to humans.

We’ve compiled just some of the facts we’ve found within the documentation supposedly backing this faulty legislation. We urge you to read these excerpts, examine the sources and develop your own opinion on the subject, but please please do not rely on sensationalized images and articles with an underlying agenda. Today we will cover the "good science" argument examining the quality and biases of the research backing country wide bans on large constrictors.

 

 

 

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Question 3:  What scientific data are evaluated for an injurious wildlife listing?

First, the agency evaluates the factors that contribute to a species being considered injurious, including:

·         the likelihood of release or escape;

·         potential to survive, become established, and spread;

·         impacts on wildlife resources and or ecosystems through hybridization and competition 

·         for food/habitats, habitat degradation/destruction, predation, and pathogen transfer;

·         impact to threatened and endangered species and their habitats; 

·         impacts to human beings, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture; and 

·         wildlife or habitat damages that may occur from control measures 

Second, the Service evaluates factors that reduce the likelihood of the invasive species causing harm, including the:

·         ability to prevent escape and establishment; 

·         potential to eradicate or manage established populations;

·         ability to rehabilitate disturbed ecosystems;

·         ability to prevent or control the spread of pathogens or parasites; and

·         any potential ecological benefits to introduction.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

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Question 9:  There have been other studies on constrictor snakes and the risk of their establishment in wild populations in the U.S.  Does the 2009 USGS risk assessment on these four constrictor snakes continue to represent the best available science on this subject?

The 2009 USGS risk assessment still represents the best available science.  Scientists associated with academic and other institutions are working on similar research questions, but none has reached new conclusions through comparable process or analyses to date. Please also see the accompanying fact sheet Global Experts Concur with Science to Predict Spread of Large Constrictor Snakes for more information.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

The Information Quality Act governs the standard of quality of information used to substantiate a federal rule making such as the Constrictor Rule. Because, at the behest of USARK, it was confirmed from scientists round the world that the USGS Constrictor Report was NOT the kind of quality scientific work to base policy or legislative changes on, USARK filed a formal challenge in 2010 of the Constrictor Report in the form of a Request for Correction of the myriad of errors, misstatements and inconsistencies within the document. USGS responded that they were not held to information quality standards under the IQA because their "Grey" paper was NOT deemed at the time of publication to be a "Highly Influential" document; meaning that their estimate of the economic impact of the rule it was supporting fell below the $100 million threshold that constitutes a major rule. Unfortunately for them USARK commissioned Georgetown Economic Services to do a comprehensive economic assessment of the reptile industry. They researched the entire industry and determined that the rule, in fact, reached beyond the threshold to approximately $104 million. This put the entire rule making process in jeopardy, because now USGS and FWS could be held to account in a federal courtroom for bypassing information quality standards under IQA. After USARK proved that this would indeed fall into major rule territory, White House oversight officials appeared ready to bury the rule.... Until HSUS, The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife pressured Florida politicians to ask Obama to push rule through. Then government did what it always does, it compromised. They chose 4 snakes that would not carry the economic impact constituting a major rule and enacted this limited version avoiding the mandatory integrity in science demanded by going after all 9.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/USARK-United-States-Association-of-Reptile-Keepers/93475517723

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Question 17:  What steps related to the Lacey Act were taken to evaluate large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife?

The completion of the risk assessment done by USGS was an important milestone in our evaluation and a requirement before additional steps could be taken. 

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

USGS responded that they were not held to information quality standards under the IQA because their "Grey" paper was NOT deemed at the time of publication to be a "Highly Influential" document.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/USARK-United-States-Association-of-Reptile-Keepers/93475517723

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The Peer Review process is the scientific standard which every legitimate scientific paper (that is published in scientific journals) must go through to become accepted as reliable science. Not surprising however is fact that no such standard is utilized by the USGS, even though it is a necessary legal process used to determine the legitimacy of any proposed and intended) act: in this case, the ruination of a legitimate business which seeks to promote the establishment of populations of species otherwise destined for survival challenges or worse, extinction. In fact their “reports” are purportedly reviewed by anonymous “scientists” of the USGS choosing and follow NONE of the necessary Peer Review protocols to substantiate their claims. 

http://axcessnews.com/index.php/articles/show/id/22357

 

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Let me correct two common misconceptions first. This study was not done by the National Academy of Sciences as many stories reported; it was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences -- big difference. Likewise this was not a nine-year study in that we did not start this study nine years ago. We started this study 1-2 years ago and collected information that was available over a nine-year period (2003-2011) and compared it to similar data collected earlier (1993-1999). And sure enough a very dramatic pattern did exist. I liken what we did to a grand jury investigation. We amassed the available evidence and asked if it was sufficient to demonstrate that a crime had occurred (mammal populations had declined) and to suggest that pythons could be responsible (they had motive, means, and opportunity). An indictment was handed down. That does not mean the pythons are guilty. It does mean we need to go to trial. According to English law the accused should be considered innocent until proven guilty. In science terms we call this a null hypothesis, or a statement of no effect. Of course none of this sells newspapers, draws viewers to a television station, or causes hits on a website.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-mazzotti/pythons-everglades-study_b_1257911.html

 

 

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Python Ban: The Discussion

In several of the documents relating to the addition of several species of snakes to the Lacey Act the assumption is made that during the periods of public comment very few responses were received, and those that were received were carefully considered.

Question 12:  What prompted the reopening of the public comment period of the proposed rule to list the Indian (Burmese) python and eight other large constrictor snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act?

Answer:   In response to a number of requests from stakeholders, the Service granted an additional 30 days for the public comment period on the proposed rule for a total of 90 days.  

Question 13:  How many public comments did the Service receive? 

Answer:  The Service received about 56,500 comments for the proposed rule.  The public can view these comments at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015.  A final determination was made after a comprehensive review of the scientific data and the information contained in comments submitted by the public and peer reviewers

 

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

 

Here at Prehistoric Pets we believe it is the duty of those in office to protect the rights and wishes of their constituents and the duty of those constituents to get involved and carry an open discussion with their elected officials.

This is why we have stayed constantly involved in the discussion emailing, calling, and scheduling meetings with our representatives. Today’s blog includes our letter to Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer explaining our concerns for this legislation. We did not receive the response we had wished for, but at least our voice was heard.

Senator Boxer / Senator Feinstein ,

 

My name is Jay Brewer. I live and work in Orange County, Ca., actually for the past 22 years I have run and operated my small business, Prehistoric Pets.  I emailed you a bit early about setting up a one on one meeting regarding S 373. Below I have included some information on myself, my business, and my concerns for this bill. If we don't get a chance to meet I would appreciate if you could at least understand my stance on this subject and why this cause is so important.

When I opened Prehistoric Pets, as Pet Country, in 1988 the store focused on providing quality pets and service to our customers. As our stock of exotic reptiles grew we had the opportunity to expand first into a 5000 sq ft location in 1992, and then expand again in 2000. Our inventive set-up was the first of its kind, which I designed to create a zoo-like atmosphere with the philosophy“build it and they will come.” This philosophy proved correct and new customers started visiting the store to observe exotic reptiles, which are not displayed at even the largest of zoos.

This collection of specialized and rare reptiles also set PrehistoricPets.com apart, as a large online provider of quality reptiles. Demand for a new variety of high-end reptiles led to an increase of specialty breeding projects behind the scenes at our Fountain Valley location. These online sales, exported around the world and throughout the US, quickly became a very successful and large source of income for Prehistoric Pets. In 1995, we also began promoting our party business, Jurassic Parties, which proved very successful. Through Jurassic Parties we were able to educate the public at both schools and private events about reptiles using hands-on interaction with reptiles these children would have otherwise only read about in science books , to this day we have provided over 12,000 of these educational presentations across Southern California. These two factors combined allowed the 2000 expansion to its current size of 10,000 sq ft, with the most zoo-like experience over doubling our location size and producing a banner year in 2005.

As owner I have used difficult economic periods as a time to find a new niches Prehistoric Pets could settle into. From a 2000 gallon pond in the middle of the store, filled with Giant tropical fish to the displays exhibiting thousands of exotic reptiles of all sizes, Prehistoric Pets is a zoo. Over the summer we converted half of our location into a paid admission zoo, The Reptile Zoo, that serves as an educational center involving hands-on interaction with various types of reptiles. The support from customers, especially mothers, has been overwhelming. They love The Reptile Zoo and Prehistoric Pets as a destination for low price high benefit education entertainment for their children.

Unfortunately S 373 threatens to obliterate my passion and the business I have put my heart and soul into for the past 25 years also destroy an education resource for thousands of families throughout Orange and Los Angeles County without solving the problem it seeks to correct in South Florida.

As I had mentioned before along with running our 10,000 sq ft reptile zoo we are also one of the premiere breeders of Reticulated Pythons , honestly, in the world. We focus in the breeding of specialty "morphs", or color and pattern variations, that are completely impossible in the wild. With 25 years of this specialized breeding I have grown quite a stock in captive bred animals, making it extremely rare to ever import an animal from the wild.

Here in California we enjoy rather wonderful weather, but the majority of the United States is not as privileged with average temperatures in the high sixties. But even in such a warm weather I must spend thousands of dollars monthly to provide specialized heating for every single one of my snakes. You must understand, especially in these tough economic times, I would love to cut costs and stop paying for this heat but without it my animals would quickly catch colds, yes they can catch colds just like people, and sadly die. The same is true for breeders and reptile owners across the country that spend millions of dollars every year to provide specialized environments and care for our animals that would not be able to survive without our support. The reason it would be so impossible for these animals to survive even with balmy day temperatures of 60-80 degrees here in Southern California is their absolute reliance on surrounding temperatures. Snakes are cold blooded, which means unlike humans they cannot raise their own body temperature. Though they might enjoy the warm temperatures during the day with the extreme drop in temperature each night these snakes wouldn’t be able to bring their body temperature back up to a safe level, resulting in as I mentioned before severe colds and a quick death.

Another issue I see with this bill is regarding the actual "invasive threat" of these pythons and boas. Boas have lived in Mexico from the beginning of time and have not crossed the border or been cause for worry regarding infestation or destruction of wildlife... and even Burmese pythons have been in the Everglades for the last twenty something years without moving far north let alone the entire US. When you look at any study of the natural habitat of these pythons then follow the latitude line to where it crosses the United States you will find highest range these pythons can survive crosses into only a small section of Florida and nowhere else in the United States. If there is a problem in Florida it should be a state level with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, as it currently is.

Thank you so much for hearing me out. I look forward to the opportunity to talk with you face to face in the very near future.

How was your voice heard? Have you contacted your representatives? Were you able to schedule an appointment to meet with one of their staff? What was their response?

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Python Ban: The Adaptability Argument

 

 

Prehistoric Pets has long worked with a wide variety of species of large constrictors, over a span of many years. During that time, we have come to an intimate understanding of the animals we have worked with, their temperature and environmental needs, personalities, reproductive and feeding capabilities. With this background and some additional research it becomes clear the animals recently added to the Lacey act are neither capable of living outside of their current establishment in the Everglades or pose a reasonable threat to humans. We’ve compiled just some of the facts we’ve found within the documentation supposedly backing this faulty legislation.

We urge you to read these excerpts, examine the sources and develop your own opinion on the subject, but please please do not rely on sensationalized images and articles with an underlying agenda. Today we will cover the adaptability argument that is so often misconstrued and sensationalized by hypothetical ideas instead of the facts proven by multiple tests.

 

 

 

 

 

ADAPTABILITY/SURVIVABILITY ARGUMENT

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Large constrictor snakes released into federal lands, such as National Parks or National Wildlife Refuges, not only present a threat to the living resources protected for the benefit of the public on those lands but they also present the potential for the establishment of reproducing populations, which can then become a source for the spread of these species into surrounding states.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

Jewell says the import ban won't help the Everglades — it's too late there. It's meant to keep pythons and other constrictors from spreading. The Fish and Wildlife Service's research suggests that they could live almost anywhere in the Southern U.S.

http://www.npr.org/2012/01/31/146124073/pythons-blamed-for-everglades-disappearing-animals

In a related study, Dorcas et al. (2010) relocated 10 Burmese pythons from the Everglades to an outdoor research setting in South Carolina in June 2009. The following January, the pythons all died.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/ColdWeather.pdf

In a study conducted in the Everglades, nine of ten radio-tracked snakes in shallow marsh habitat perished either from the cold temperatures or from complications experienced as a consequence of the cold temperatures.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/ColdWeather.pdf

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The Service’s injurious wildlife evaluation indicates these snakes have this potential, particularly the potential to expand beyond south Florida. Large constrictor snakes have demonstrated that they are highly adaptable to new environments, consuming any prey available, and they are observed to efficiently use habitats available to them in their existing U.S. locations.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

In a related study, Dorcas et al. (2010) relocated 10 Burmese pythons from the Everglades to an outdoor research setting in South Carolina in June 2009. The following January, the pythons all died.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/ColdWeather.pdf

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Question 11:  Why not just allow each State to decide whether or not these four species of snakes or any other species should be banned?

The application of the Lacey Act prohibitions on these snake species is necessary because public interests of U.S. citizens are, and may reasonably be assumed to be in the future, affected across state boundaries.  Large constrictor snakes released into federal lands, such as National Parks or National Wildlife Refuges, not only present a threat to the living resources protected for the benefit of the public on those lands but they also present the potential for the establishment of reproducing populations, which can then become a source for the spread of these species into surrounding states.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

In a related study, Dorcas et al. (2010) relocated 10 Burmese pythons from the Everglades to an outdoor research setting in South Carolina in June 2009. The following January, the pythons all died.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/ColdWeather.pdf

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Snakes Get Lobbyists in Fight Over Boa Ban

The snake species considered for the federal listing could survive in about one-third of U.S. states and territories, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a report by scientists at its Fort Collins Science Center in Colorado.

 

Climate change may extend their habitat as far north as New York and Washington state by 2100, according to the study.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-05/snakes-get-lobbyists-too-as-breeders-charm-congress-to-fight-u-s-boa-ban.html

 

Question 8:  In making this determination, how much consideration did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service give to climate change and its potential to increase the geographic range of habitat that can support populations of these snakes? 

 

Answer:  Our final rule is based on current climate conditions.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/FoursnakesQsAs11612.pdf

 

The threat of Burmese pythons slinking toward Manhattan is overblown, according to a 2008 study by scientists at the City University of New York. They said weather patterns will confine them to the Everglades and far-southern Texas.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-05/snakes-get-lobbyists-too-as-breeders-charm-congress-to-fight-u-s-boa-ban.html

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Moving snakes into unfamiliar territory may compromise their chances to survive.

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/snakes/tips/solving_problems_snakes.html

 

Given the climate flexibility exhibited by the Burmese python in its native range (as analyzed through the U.S. Geological Survey’s climate-matching predictions in the United States), new generations within the leading edge of the population’s nonnative range could become increasingly adaptable and able to expand to colder climates.

http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2012/pdfs/ColdWeather.pdf

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A report recently issued by Dave Hallac and colleagues at Florida's Everglades National Park determined that at least 70 crocodiles, more than 60 manatees, and countless plants, butterflies and snakes have died within the Everglades marshes and mangroves so far this winter. Hallac said the impact of the cold weather has been "substantial" in South Florida.

But Behnke believes at least some of the snake deaths could help local ecosystems. Burmese and African rock pythons, along with other animals, are not native to the area and are considered to be "invasive." Because they are tropical species, these animals have very low cold tolerance. Some Burmese pythons have even been found frozen stiff in the Everglades.

Scott Hardin, the FWC's exotic species coordinator, said half of South Florida's python population might have died in the recent cold weather.

http://news.discovery.com/animals/florida-wildlife-cold-weather.html

 


 

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