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Report On Non-Native Giant Snakes Criticized As ‘Unscientific’

Group of scientist label pythons ban as “unscientific”

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A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report, touted by some as justification for a ban on pythons, is being criticized as “unscientific” by a group of scientists.

In a letter sent to U.S. legislators on Nov. 24, the group claims the report, which assesses the ecological risks associated with nine non-native large snakes, is not based on best science practices and has not undergone external peer-review.

The report, released Oct. 13, identified Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and yellow anaconda as having a high risk for invasiveness in the United States. The other four snakes studied — reticulated python, Deschauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda — were assessed as posing a medium-risk.

The report was recently discussed during a hearing for H.R. 2811 before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. H.R. 2811 seeks to include Burmese and African rock pythons to the list of injurious species, thus prohibiting the import, export and interstate movement of the snakes. The bill’s proponents, including the Humane Society of the United States, provided written testimony recommending that the bill be amended to include all nine snakes included in the USGS report.

In their letter to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, 11 scientists, veterinarians and professors maintain that the USGS document is “not suitable as the basis for legislation or regulatory policies.” They claim the report is based on an unproven risk assessment model that likely provides a gross overestimate of potential habitat for the studied snake species.

“We encourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS to submit this document to an independent body for proper and legitimate review,” the letter states. “Additionally, we encourage the committee to review this document, not as an authoritative scientific publication, but rather as a report currently drafted to support a predetermined policy.”

USGS could not be reached for comment.

Click here to read the letter.

Click here to read the USGS report. 

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