Meek puts the squeeze on pythons

If Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) gets his way, it will soon be a crime to buy, sell or transport three of the planet’s most dangerous pythons within the United States.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security will hold a hearing on Meek’s proposal that the constricting snakes be added to a government list of “injurious” animals.

Pythons are a particularly serious issue in the Senate hopeful’s home state, where owners have been known to release pet pythons into the wild when they grow too large to be kept indoors; certain species grow to more than 20 feet long and are capable of eating small children.

In May, Meek led a group that included Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tom Strickland on a tour of the Everglades to assess the python problem.

“Invasive snakes, particularly Burmese Pythons, have devastated Florida’s delicate ecosystem,” Meek told ITK. “They represent a major public safety threat.”

In September, authorities discovered a 400-pound python living in the backyard of Apopka, Fla., resident Melvin Cheever.

The python, Delilah, belonged to Cheever’s brother Bob, and ate seven rabbits for breakfast on the morning authorities removed her.

ITK spoke to Melvin and Bob Cheever, who report that Delilah has been safely transferred to a zoo that recently lost its big reptile. The Cheevers oppose the python ban, arguing that containment, not an outright ban, is the best strategy for controlling the snakes.