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.





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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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.



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.



Bookmark and Share


Comments are closed