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Lawmakers Start Looking at Python Issue

Lawmakers on Tuesday opened the door for possible new legislation that could severely restrict the ability of Florida residents to bring pythons into the state, suggesting a crackdown on Internet sales of the reptile.

Political opposition to the suddenly unpopular snake began building in the summer after a pet python escaped from its holding tank and suffocated a Florida toddler. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. has filed legislation to make it illegal to own the python as a pet, and state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, has said she plans to do the same.

Environmental experts have estimated there could be anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 pythons in the state, mostly in and around the Everglades. And Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials have said they have been noticing a trend of pythons venturing farther north in the park than they have previously.

Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chair Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, said Tuesday that he would like to see a number of ideas put forth in order to reduce the number of pythons in the state, including one that would prohibit the sale of the snakes over the Internet.

“I just have this vision of them going through the U.S. mail,” Constantine said.

So far, no legislation on the state level has come out of bill drafting.

The FWCC has so far captured 35 Burmese pythons through a permit program that works with professional collectors and herpetologists to capture the snakes in the state-owned lands north and east of Everglades National Park. The commission is also allowing hunters to take snakes, but only on lands owned by the South Florida Water Management District and Big Cypress National Reserve.

“We don't want them out there shooting every snake,” said Timothy Breault, director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.

The commission has also organized pet amnesty events to give python owners the ability to surrender the animals without penalty. Six events have been held so far, netting 350 animals.

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