By Andrew Restuccia - 01/17/12 03:22 PM EST
The Obama administration took steps Tuesday to stop the spread of non-native snakes like pythons and anacondas throughout the Florida Everglades.
The Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule that makes it illegal to import or carry across state lines Burmese pythons, yellow anacondas and northern and southern African pythons.
Burmese python populations in the Everglades have spiked in recent years, threatening various endangered species in the ecologically sensitive region. Interior says the snakes have killed endangered wood rats and wood storks.
So far, Interior says state and federal agencies have spent millions trying to control non-native snake populations in the region. “If these species spread to other areas, state and federal agencies in these areas could be forced to spend more money for control and containment purposes,” Interior said.
Under the new rule, people who own the snakes will be allowed to keep them, but cannot carry them across state lines.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who has been pushing legislation to ban the sale and importation of the snakes for years, praised Interior’s decision.
“These snakes sure as heck don’t belong in the Everglades,” Nelson said in a statement Tuesday. “And they certainly don’t belong in people’s backyards.”
Nelson, in the statement, said Burmese pythons have become a major threat in his state, noting that one family recently found one of the snakes in their pool and that a 13-foot python even tried to eat a live alligator.