LAKE MARY -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved changes to the classification of Burmese pythons and other constrictor reptiles at a meeting Thursday.
Under the new rules, Floridians will not be able to acquire Burmese pythons and other reptiles of concern as pets. However, the FWC advises people who currently hold a reptile of concern license for a Burmese/Indian python, reticulated python, green anaconda, Nile monitor lizard, African rock python, or amethystine python that they will be allowed to keep the pet for the life of that animal under the new rules.
These rule changes implement a bill by Senators Eleanor Sobel and Lee Constantine, and Representatives Trudi Williams and Ralph Poppell. It passed in the Florida Legislature, and Governor Charlie Crist signed it in June.
All species listed as reptiles of concern in Florida will be removed and placed in the category of conditional species. In addition, African rock pythons will be split into two species: northern African pythons and southern African pythons. Amethystine pythons will be split into the amethystine pythons and scrub pythons. Dealers, breeders, exhibitors and researchers will be permitted to possess conditional snakes and lizards for sale outside Florida.
In addition to allowing current reptile of concern pet owners to keep their reptiles, the commission approved an extension of the 24/7 amnesty rule to include conditional snakes and lizards. This will allow anyone who can no longer keep these species as pets to turn them over to a licensed dealer. The FWC stresses that no non-native species should ever be released into the wild.
Burmese pythons in particular have established breeding populations in parts of South Florida, and the FWC, in partnership with state and federal agencies, works diligently to control the current wild population. As a result of this effort, the FWC also approved the take of conditional species in four wildlife management areas in South Florida, during established hunting seasons for game animals and alligators by properly licensed or permitted hunters. Guns may be used only during a gun season or during the extended spring season, March 8 - April 17. The conditional species may not be removed from the WMA's alive.
The commission also approved further security measures for commercial reptile dealers in how they transport snakes and lizards in Florida. New rules also require that the nonnative conditional species be held indoors or outdoors only with a fixed, secure roof over the enclosure. All of these animals also must be micro-chipped, unless they will be exported out of Florida within 180 days.
For more information about Burmese pythons, go to MyFWC.com/ROC.
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