[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 14 (Monday, January 23, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 3329-3366]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-1155]



[[Page 3329]]

Vol. 77

Monday,

No. 14

January 23, 2012

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 16





Injurious Wildlife Species; Listing Three Python Species and One 
Anaconda Species as Injurious Reptiles; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 77 , No. 14 / Monday, January 23, 2012 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 16

RIN 1018-AV68
[FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015; FXFR13360900000N5-123-FF09F14000]


Injurious Wildlife Species; Listing Three Python Species and One 
Anaconda Species as Injurious Reptiles

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is amending its 
regulations under the Lacey Act to add Python molurus (which includes 
Burmese python Python molurus bivittatus and Indian python Python 
molurus molurus), Northern African python (Python sebae), Southern 
African python (Python natalensis), and yellow anaconda (Eunectes 
notaeus) to the list of injurious reptiles. By this action, the 
importation into the United States and interstate transportation 
between States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto 
Rico, or any territory or possession of the United States of any live 
animal, gamete, viable egg, or hybrid of these four constrictor snakes 
is prohibited, except by permit for zoological, education, medical, or 
scientific purposes (in accordance with permit regulation) or by 
Federal agencies without a permit solely for their own use. The best 
available information indicates that this action is necessary to 
protect the interests of human beings, agriculture, wildlife, and 
wildlife resources from the purposeful or accidental introduction and 
subsequent establishment of these large nonnative constrictor snake 
populations into ecosystems of the United States.

DATES: This rule becomes effective on March 23, 2012.

ADDRESSES: This final rule and the associated final economic analysis, 
regulatory flexibility analysis, and environmental assessment are 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket 
No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015. Comments and materials received, as well as 
supporting documentation used in preparing this final rule, are 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket 
No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015; they are also available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at the South 
Florida Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960-3559; telephone (772) 562-3909 
ext. 256; facsimile (772) 562-4288.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Supervisor, South Florida Ecological 
Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1339 20th Street, Vero 
Beach, FL 32960-3559; telephone (772) 562-3909 ext. 256. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Previous Federal Action

    On June 23, 2006, the Service received a petition from the South 
Florida Water Management District (District) requesting that Burmese 
pythons be considered for inclusion in the injurious wildlife 
regulations under the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42, as amended; the Act). 
The District was concerned about the number of Burmese pythons (Python 
molurus bivittatus) found in Florida, particularly in Everglades 
National Park and on the District's widespread property in South 
Florida.
    The Service published a notice of inquiry in the Federal Register 
(73 FR 5784; January 31, 2008) soliciting available biological, 
economic, and other information and data on the Python, Boa, and 
Eunectes genera for possible addition to the list of injurious wildlife 
under the Act and provided a 90-day public comment period. The Service 
received 1,528 comments during the public comment period that closed 
April 30, 2008. We reviewed all comments received for substantive 
issues and information regarding the injurious nature of species in the 
Python, Boa, and Eunectes genera. Of the 1,528 comments, 115 provided 
economic, ecological, and other data responsive to the 10 specific 
questions in the notice of inquiry. Most individuals submitting 
comments responded to the notice of inquiry as though it was a proposed 
rule to list constrictor snakes in the Python, Boa, and Eunectes genera 
as injurious under the Act. As a result, most comments expressed either 
opposition or support for listing the large constrictor snakes species 
and did not provide substantive information. We considered the 
information provided in the 115 applicable comments in the preparation 
of the draft environmental assessment, draft economic analysis, and the 
proposed rule.
    On March 12, 2010, we published a proposed rule in the Federal 
Register (75 FR 11808) to list Python molurus (which includes Burmese 
and Indian pythons), reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus or 
Python reticulatus), Northern African python (Python sebae), Southern 
African python (Python natalensis), boa constrictor (Boa constrictor), 
yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), DeSchauensee's anaconda (Eunectes 
deschauenseei), green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), and Beni anaconda 
(Eunectes beniensis) as injurious reptiles under the Act. The proposed 
rule established a 60-day comment period ending on May 11, 2010, and 
announced the availability of the draft economic analysis and the draft 
environmental assessment of the proposed rule. At the request of the 
public, we reopened the comment period for an additional 30 days ending 
on August 2, 2010 (75 FR 38069; July 1, 2010).
    For the injurious wildlife evaluation in this final rule, in 
addition to information used for the proposed rule, we considered a 
wide range of information, including: (1) Substantive comments from two 
public comment periods for the proposed rule, (2) comments from five 
peer reviewers, and (3) new information acquired by the Service. From 
this information, we determined that four of the nine proposed species 
warrant listing as injurious at this time. In addition, we made 
improvements to the supplementary information to support and explain 
this decision.
    We present a summary of the peer review comments and the public 
comments following the Lacey Act Evaluation Criteria section for four 
of the nine proposed species. The explanations in the sections on 
biology and evaluation of the four species will make many of the 
answers to the comments self-evident.
    A major source of biological, management, and invasion risk 
information that we used for the proposed rule and this final rule was 
derived from the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) ``Giant 
Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and an Establishment 
Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the 
Boa Constrictor'' hereafter referred to as ``Reed and Rodda 2009.'' 
This document was prepared at the request of the Service and the 
National Park Service; it can be viewed at the following Internet 
sites: http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015 
and http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Products/

[[Page 3331]]

Publications/pub--abstract.asp?PubID=22691.
    After full consideration of public comments and relevant factors, 
the Service is moving forward with publication of a final rule for the 
four species (Burmese python [including Indian python], Northern 
African python, Southern African python, and yellow anaconda. Five 
additional species (reticulated python, DeSchauensee's anaconda, green 
anaconda, Beni anaconda, and boa constrictor) are not being listed at 
this time and remain under consideration.

Background

Purpose of Listing as Injurious

    The purpose of listing the Burmese python and its conspecifics 
(that is, belonging to the same species; hereafter referred to 
collectively as Burmese pythons unless otherwise noted), Northern 
African python (Python sebae), Southern African python (Python 
natalensis), and yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus) (hereafter, 
collectively the four large constrictor snakes) as injurious wildlife 
is to prevent the accidental or intentional introduction of and the 
possible subsequent establishment of populations of these snakes in the 
wild in the United States.

Why the Four Species Were Selected for Consideration as Injurious 
Species

    The Service has had the authority to list species as injurious 
under the Act since the 1940s. However, we have been criticized for not 
listing species before they became a problem (Fowler et al. 2007). The 
Burmese python-the subject of the original petition here-is one example 
of a species that may not have become so invasive in Florida if it had 
been listed before it had become established. With this final rule, we 
are attempting to prevent the further spread of the Burmese python and 
the specified other large constrictor snakes into other vulnerable 
areas of the United States.
    Furthermore, we have the authority under the Act to list wild 
mammals, wild birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mollusks, and 
crustaceans that are injurious even if they are not currently in trade 
or known to exist in the United States. Thus, we can be proactive and 
not wait until a species is already established. As noted in the 
National Invasive Species Management Plan (National Invasive Species 
Council 2008), ``prevention is the first line of defense'' and ``can be 
the most cost-effective approach because once a species becomes 
widespread, controlling it may require significant and sustained 
expenditures.'' This is why we are listing one species that is not yet 
found in the United States but which has the requisite injurious 
traits.
    Two of the four largest snakes in the world (with maximum lengths 
well exceeding 6 m [20 ft]) are the Burmese python and Northern African 
python; both are present in international trade (although imports of 
the Burmese python are higher than those of the Northern African 
python). The Burmese python and the Northern African python are 
established in south Florida. The Northern and Southern African pythons 
are closely related and have similar appearances. While the Northern 
African python is documented on import records as being imported and 
the Southern African python is not, we believe that some snakes 
reported as Northern African pythons may have actually been Southern, 
and that importers may want to switch to the next most similar species 
(Southern) if the Northern African python became listed as injurious. 
Thus, we evaluated the Southern African python on its own traits.
    None of the four species is native to the United States. The 
Service is striving to prevent the introduction and establishment of 
all four species into new areas of the United States, due to concerns 
about the injurious effects of all four species, consistent with 18 
U.S.C. 42.
    All four species were evaluated and found to be injurious because 
there is a suitable climate match in parts of the United States to 
support them; they are likely to escape captivity; they are likely to 
prey on and compete with native species (including threatened and 
endangered species); it would be difficult to prevent, eradicate, or 
reduce large populations; and other factors that are explained in the 
sections Factors That Contribute to Injuriousness for Burmese Python 
and for the other three species. All four species were placed in the 
highest category of overall risk in Reed and Rodda's report (2009) 
evaluating the risks of the nine proposed species.

Need for the Final Rule

    Under the Lacey Act, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to 
prescribe by regulation those wild mammals, wild birds, fish, mollusks, 
crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, and the offspring or eggs of any of 
the foregoing that are injurious to human beings, to the interests of 
agriculture, horticulture, or forestry, or to the wildlife or wildlife 
resources of the United States, including the District of Columbia, the 
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession. We have 
determined that these four species of large constrictor snakes are 
injurious.
    Thousands of Burmese pythons are now established in the Everglades 
and preying on many imperiled species and other wildlife. In addition, 
Northern African pythons are known to be established and breeding in 
South Florida. Yellow anacondas have also been reported in the wild in 
Florida. Burmese pythons, African pythons, and yellow anacondas have 
been reported in the wild in Puerto Rico. The Southern African python 
exhibits many of the same biological characteristics as the Northern 
African python that poses a risk of establishment and negative effects 
in the United States. The threat posed by the Burmese python and the 
three other large constrictor snakes will be explained in detail below 
under Factors That Contribute to Injuriousness for Burmese Python and 
each of the other species.
    The USGS risk assessment used a method called ``climate matching'' 
to estimate those areas of the United States exhibiting climates 
similar to those experienced by the species in their respective native 
ranges (Reed and Rodda 2009). Considerable uncertainties exist about 
the native range limits of many of the giant constrictors, and a myriad 
of factors other than climate can influence whether a species could 
establish a population in a particular location. Nonetheless, this 
method represents the most accurate means to predict and anticipate 
where a nonnative species would be able to survive and establish 
populations within the United States.
    Some interested parties, including other scientists such as Pyron 
et al. (2008), criticized Reed and Rodda's (2009) climate-matching 
method. In response, the authors published a clarification of how they 
used the model (Rodda et al. 2011). This paper more clearly explained 
Reed and Rodda's (2009) method and compared that method to Pyron et 
al.'s (2008) method for analyzing potential invasiveness for the 
Burmese python. We mention a few of Rodda et al.'s (2011) findings 
here:
     Pyron et al. (2008) incorrectly rejected many sites that 
are suitable for Burmese python invasion because their use of an 
excessive number of parameters actually ended up acting as filters. 
Using too many filters means that too many sites that are truly at risk 
of python introduction get filtered out.
     Additionally, in the new paper the authors eliminated four 
data points of blood pythons (a different species than Burmese pythons) 
that Pyron et al. (2008) used erroneously. This

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significantly changed the area that Burmese pythons could invade, even 
using the MaxEnt computer program as Pyron et al. (2008) used it.
     Information theory suggests 10 parameters as the 
appropriate number to use in a study like this; the Pyron et al. (2008) 
model, however, used 60. With this number the parameters essentially 
become constraints, and skew the accuracy of the data so that the 
resulting model is not scientifically sound.
     The new USGS paper highlights the statistical dangers 
inherent in indiscriminately searching for correlations among a large 
number of possible parameters.
     Factors other than climate may limit a species' native 
distribution, including the existence of predators, diseases, and other 
local factors (such as major terrain barriers), which may not be 
present when a species is released in a new country. Therefore, the 
areas at risk of invasion often span a climate range greater than that 
extracted mechanically from the native range boundaries, as was done by 
Pyron et al. (2008).
    The new paper does not change the previous USGS risk assessment, or 
the Service's interpretation of the USGS risk assessment, that Burmese 
pythons could find suitable climatic conditions in roughly a third of 
the United States.
    While we acknowledge that uncertainty exists, these tools also 
serve as a useful predictor to identify vulnerable ecosystems at risk 
from injurious wildlife prior to the species actually becoming 
established (Lodge et al. 2006). Based on climate alone, many species 
of large constrictors are likely to be limited to the warmest areas of 
the United States, including parts of Florida, extreme south Texas, 
Hawaii, and insular territories. For a few species, larger areas of the 
southern United States appear to have suitable climatic conditions 
according to Reed and Rodda's (2009) climate-matching method.
    The record cold temperatures in South Florida during January of 
2010 produced the coldest 12-day period since at least 1940, according 
to the National Weather Service in Miami (NOAA 2010). A record low was 
set for 12 consecutive days with the temperature at or below 45 [deg]F 
(7.2 [deg]C) in West Palm Beach and Naples. Other minimum temperatures 
were broken in Moorehaven, tied in Fort Lauderdale, and the coldest in 
Miami since 1940. Despite the record cold, we know that many pythons 
survived in Florida. Large constrictors of several species continue to 
be present and to breed in south Florida. If thermoregulatory behavior 
or tolerance to cold is genetically based, we would expect large 
constrictor snake populations to persist, rebound, and possibly 
increase their genetic fitness and temperature tolerance as a result of 
natural selection pressures resulting from cold weather conditions such 
as those that occurred in south Florida in January 2010 (Dorcas et al. 
2011).
    Two studies by scientists from several research institutions, 
including the University of Florida, studied the effects of the 2010 
winter cold weather on Burmese pythons. In Mazzotti et al. 2010, the 
authors noted that all populations of large-bodied pythons and boa 
constrictors inhabiting areas with cool winters, including northern 
populations of Burmese pythons in their native range, appeared to rely 
on use of refugia (safe locations) to escape winter temperatures. 
Pythons can seek such refugia as underground burrows, deep water in 
canals, or similar microhabitats to escape the cold temperatures. Those 
snakes that survived in Florida were apparently able to maintain body 
temperatures using microhabitat features of the landscape (Mazzotti et 
al. 2010).
    Dorcas et al. (2011) studied the cold tolerance of Burmese pythons 
taken directly from the Everglades and placed in enclosures in South 
Carolina. While all of the snakes in this study died, the Service finds 
the risk to more temperate regions still of concern and a listing of 
this species as an injurious species is still warranted. The authors 
state that their results suggest that Burmese pythons from the 
population currently established in Florida are capable of withstanding 
conditions substantially cooler that those typically experienced in 
southern Florida, but may not be able to survive severe winters in 
regions as temperate as central South Carolina. They noted that some 
snakes currently inhabiting Florida could survive typical winters in 
areas of the southeastern United States more temperate than the region 
currently inhabited by pythons. The authors also noted that, if 
thermoregulatory behavior is heritable, selection for appropriate 
thermoregulatory behavior will be strong as pythons expand their range 
northward through the Florida peninsula. Consequently, future 
generations of pythons may be better equipped to invade temperate 
regions than those currently inhabiting southern Florida, particularly 
given the climate flexibility exhibited by the Burmese python in its 
native range (as analyzed through USGS' climate-matching predictions in 
the United States).
    The Service and Everglades National Park asked USGS to assess the 
risk of invasion of nine species of snakes to assist in the Service's 
determination of injuriousness. Of the nine large constrictor snakes 
assessed by Reed and Rodda (2009) (Burmese python (which the authors 
refer to as Indian python), reticulated python, Northern African 
python, Southern African python, boa constrictor, yellow anaconda, 
DeSchauensee's anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda), five were 
shown to pose a high risk to the health of the ecosystem, including the 
Burmese python, Northern African python, Southern African python, 
yellow anaconda, and boa constrictor. The remaining four large 
constrictors--the reticulated python, green anaconda, Beni anaconda, 
and DeSchauensee's anaconda--were shown to pose a medium risk. None of 
the large constrictors that the USGS assessed was classified as low 
overall risk. A rating of low overall risk is considered as acceptable 
risk and the organism(s) of little concern (ANSTF 1996). See Lacey Act 
Evaluation Criteria below for an explanation how USGS assessed risk.
    There is a high probability that the four large constrictors 
evaluated in this final rule, if released or escaped into the wild, 
will establish populations within their respective thermal and 
precipitation limits due to common life-history traits that make them 
successful invaders. These traits include being habitat generalists 
(able to utilize a wide variety of habitats) that are tolerant of 
urbanization and capacity to hunt and eat a wide range of size-
appropriate vertebrates (reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians, and 
fish; Reed and Rodda 2009). These large constrictors are highly 
adaptable to new environments and opportunistic in expanding their 
geographic range. Furthermore, since they are a novel (new to the 
system) predator at the top of the food chain, they can threaten the 
stability of native ecosystems by altering the ecosystem's form, 
function, and structure.
    These four species are cryptically marked, which makes them 
difficult to detect in the field, complicating efforts to identify the 
range of populations or deplete populations through visual searching 
and removal of individuals. There are currently no tools available that 
would appear adequate for eradication of an established population of 
giant snakes once they have spread over a large area. Therefore, 
preventing the introduction into the United States and dispersal to new 
areas of these invasive species is of critical importance to the health 
and welfare of native wildlife.

[[Page 3333]]

    For the purposes of this rule, a hybrid is any progeny from any 
cross involving parents of one or more species from the four 
constrictor snakes evaluated in this rule. Such progeny are likely to 
possess the same biological characteristics of the parent species that, 
through our analysis, leads us to find that they are injurious to 
humans and to wildlife and wildlife resources of the United States. 
Anderson and Stebbins (1954) stated that hybrids may have caused the 
rapid evolution of plants and animals under domestication, and that, in 
the presence of new or greatly disturbed habitats, some hybrid 
derivates would have been at a selective advantage. Facon et al. (2005) 
stated that invasions may bring into contact related taxa that have 
been isolated for a long time. Facon et al. (2005) also stated that 
hybridization between two invasive taxa has been documented, and that 
in all these cases, hybrids outcompeted their parental taxa. Ellstrand 
and Schierenbeck (2000) concluded that dispersal of organisms and 
habitat disturbance by humans both act to accelerate the process of 
hybridization and increase the opportunities for hybrid lineages to 
take hold.
    Furthermore, snakes in general have been found to harbor ticks 
(such as the nonnative African tortoise tick) that cause heartwater 
disease (from the bacterium Cowdria ruminantium). Heartwater disease, 
although harmless to its reptilian hosts, can be fatal to livestock and 
related wild hoofed mammals, such as white-tailed deer. According to 
the USDA (March 2000), ``Heartwater disease is an acute, infectious 
disease of ruminants, including cattle, sheep, goats, white-tailed 
deer, and antelope. This disease has a 60 percent or greater mortality 
rate in livestock and a 90 percent or greater mortality rate in white-
tailed deer.'' The ticks have been found in Florida. Agricultural 
agencies are trying to stop the spread of the ticks as a way of 
stopping the deadly disease. This rule will help to stop the spread 
into and around the United States of the ticks and other disease 
vectors that may be carried by these four species of nonnative 
constrictor snakes.

Listing Process

    The regulations contained in 50 CFR part 16 implement the Act. 
Under the terms of the Act, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized 
to prescribe by regulation those wild mammals, wild birds, fish, 
mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, and the offspring or eggs 
of any of the foregoing that are injurious to human beings, to the 
interests of agriculture, horticulture, or forestry, or to the wildlife 
or wildlife resources of the United States. The lists of injurious 
wildlife species are found at 50 CFR 16.11-16.15.
    In this final rule, we evaluated each of the four species of 
constrictor snake species individually and determined each species to 
be injurious. As of the effective date of the listing, therefore, their 
importation into, or transportation between, the States, the District 
of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or 
possession of the United States by any means whatsoever is prohibited, 
except by permit for zoological, educational, medical, or scientific 
purposes (in accordance with permit regulations at 50 CFR 16.22), or by 
Federal agencies without a permit solely for their own use, upon filing 
a written declaration with the District Director of Customs and the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Inspector at the port of entry. This 
rule does not prohibit intrastate (within State boundaries) transport 
of the listed constrictor snake species. Any regulations pertaining to 
the transport or use of these species within a particular State will 
continue to be the responsibility of that State.
    We used the Lacey Act Evaluation Criteria as a guide to evaluate 
whether a species does or does not qualify as injurious under the Act. 
The analysis developed using the criteria serves as a basis for the 
Service's regulatory decision regarding injurious wildlife species 
listings. A species does not have to be established, currently 
imported, or present in the wild in the United States for the Service 
to list it as injurious. The objective of such a listing would be to 
prevent that species' importation and likely establishment in the wild, 
thereby preventing injurious effects consistent with 18 U.S.C. 42.

Introduction Pathways for Large Constrictor Snakes

    For the four constrictor snakes analyzed in this final rule, the 
primary pathway for the entry into the United States is the commercial 
pet trade. In the last few decades, most introductions of large 
constrictor snakes have been associated with the international trade in 
reptiles as pets. This trade includes wild-caught snakes, captive-bred, 
or captive-hatched juveniles from areas within their native countries. 
In their native ranges, a species may be captured in the wild and 
directly exported to the United States or other destination country, or 
wild-caught snakes may be kept in the country of origin to breed for 
export of subsequent generations. The main ports of entry for 
constrictor snakes are Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Baltimore, 
Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston. From there, many of the 
live snakes are transported to animal dealers, who then transport the 
snakes to pet retailers. Large constrictor snakes are also bred in the 
United States and sold within the country.
    A typical pathway of a large constrictor snake includes a pet 
store. Often, a person will purchase a hatchling snake (0.55 meters (m) 
[(22 inches (in)]) at a pet store or reptile show for as little as $25. 
The hatchling grows rapidly, even when fed conservatively, so a strong 
escape-proof enclosure is necessary. All snakes are adept at escaping, 
and constrictors are especially powerful when it comes to breaking out 
of cages. In captivity, they are most frequently fed pre-killed mice, 
rats, rabbits, and chickens. A tub of fresh water is needed for the 
snake to drink and soak in. As the snake grows too big for a tub in its 
enclosure, the snake will need to soak in increasingly larger 
containers, such as a bathtub. Under captive conditions, pythons will 
grow very fast. After 1 year, a python may be 2 m (7 ft) and after 5 
years it could be 7.6 m (25 ft), depending on how often it is fed and 
other aspects of husbandry. A Burmese python, for example, will grow to 
more than 6 m (20 ft) long, weigh 90 kilograms (kg; 200 pounds (lbs)), 
live more than 25 years, and must be fed rabbits and the like.
    Owning a giant snake is a difficult, long-term, and somewhat 
expensive responsibility. This is one reason that some snakes are 
released by their owners into the wild when they can no longer care for 
them. Other snakes may escape from inadequate enclosures. This is a 
common pathway for large constrictor snakes to enter the ecosystem 
(Fujisaki et al. 2009). The trade in constrictor snakes is 
international as well as domestic. From 1999 to 2010, more than 1.9 
million live constrictor snakes of 12 species were imported into the 
United States (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011). Besides the 
species proposed for listing, these included ball python (Python 
regius), a blood python (P. curtus), another blood python (P. 
brongersmai), Borneo python (P. breitensteini), Timor python (P. 
timoriensis), and Angolan python (P. anchietae), none of which have 
been proposed for listing as injurious. From 1999 to 2010, 
approximately 96,000 large constrictor snakes of four species listed by 
this rule were imported into the United States (Service's final 
economic analysis 2012). Of all the constrictor snake species imported 
into the United States, the selection of nine constrictor snakes for 
evaluation as

[[Page 3334]]

injurious wildlife in the proposed rule was based on concern over the 
giant size of these particular snakes combined with their quantity in 
international trade or their potential for trade. The world's four 
largest species of snakes (Burmese python, Northern African python, 
reticulated python, and green anaconda) were selected, as well as 
similar and closely related species and the boa constrictor. These 
large constrictor snakes constitute a high risk of injuriousness in 
relation to those taxa with lower trade volumes; are massive, with 
maximum lengths exceeding 6 m (20 ft; except for boas up to 4 m (13 
ft)); and have a high likelihood of establishment in various habitats 
of the United States. The Southern African python and yellow anaconda 
exhibit many of the same biological characteristics associated with a 
risk of establishment and negative effects in the United States.
    The strongest factor influencing the chances of these large 
constrictors establishing in the wild are the number of release events 
and the numbers of individuals released (Bomford et al. 2009; 2005). A 
release event is when a nonnative species is either intentionally or 
unintentionally let loose in the wild. With a sufficient number of 
either intentional or unintentional release events, these species will 
likely become established in ecosystems with suitable conditions for 
survival and reproduction. For nonnative species to cause economic or 
ecological harm, they must first be transported out of their native 
range and released within a novel locality, establish a self-sustaining 
population in this new location, and expand their geographical range 
beyond the point of initial establishment. Releases of large numbers of 
individuals should enable the incipient (newly forming), nonnative 
population to withstand the inevitable decreases in survival or 
reproduction caused by the environment or demographic accidents. The 
release of many individuals into one location essentially functions as 
a source pool of immigrants, thus sustaining an incipient population 
even if the initial release was of insufficient size (or badly timed) 
to facilitate long-term establishment. Natural disasters, such as 
Hurricane Andrew in 1992, may have provided a mechanism for the 
accidental release of snakes, especially in light of large numbers of 
juvenile pythons frequently held by breeders and importers prior to 
sale and distribution (Willson et al. 2010).
    Large or consistent releases of individuals into one location 
should enable the incipient population to overcome behavioral 
limitations or other problems associated with small population sizes. 
This is likely the case at Everglades National Park, where the core 
nonnative Burmese python population in Florida is now located. 
Therefore, allowing unregulated importation and interstate transport of 
these nonnative species will increase the risk of these new species 
becoming established through increased opportunities for release. The 
release of large constrictor snakes at different times and locations 
improves the chance of their successful establishment.
    Released snakes may be single snakes that eventually find other 
snakes of the same or opposite sex. As a first step in understanding 
the ecology of these snakes and their potential impact on the 
Everglades ecosystem, the National Park Service began tracking pythons 
using radio-telemetry in the fall of 2005. The radio-tagged pythons 
have since demonstrated that female pythons make few long-distance 
movements throughout the year, while males roam widely in search of 
females during the breeding season (December-April). These results 
indicate an ability to move long distances in search of prey and mates. 
Pythons have a ``homing'' ability: after being released far from where 
they were captured, they returned long distances (up to 78 kilometers 
(km); 48 miles (mi)) in only a few months. These findings suggest that 
pythons searching for a suitable home range have the potential to 
colonize areas far from where they were released (Snow 2008; Harvey et 
al. 2008).
    A second factor that is strongly and consistently associated with 
the success of an invasive species' establishment is a history of the 
species successfully establishing elsewhere outside its native range. 
Burmese pythons have already become established in the United States 
(see Current Nonnative Occurrences for Burmese python below). 
Therefore, we know that Burmese pythons can become established outside 
of their native range. The Northern African python is established west 
of Miami, Florida, in the vicinity known as the Bird Drive Basin 
Recharge Area (see Current Nonnative Occurrences for Northern African 
python below). Therefore, we know that Northern African pythons can 
also establish outside of their native range.
    A third factor strongly associated with establishment success is 
having a good climate or habitat match between where the species 
naturally occurs and where it is introduced. Exotic (nonnative) 
reptiles and amphibians have a greater chance of establishing if they 
are introduced to an area with a climate that closely matches that of 
their original range. Species that have a large range over several 
climatic zones are predicted to be strong future invaders. The 
suitability of a country's climate for the establishment of a species 
can be quantified on a broad scale by measuring the climate match 
between that country and the geographic range of a species. Climate 
matching only sets the broad parameters for determining if an area is 
suitable for a nonnative large constrictor snake to establish. These 
three factors have all been consistently demonstrated to increase the 
chances of establishment by all invasive vertebrate taxa, including the 
four large constrictor snakes in this final rule (Bomford 2008, 2009).
    However, as stated above, a species does not have to be 
established, currently imported, or present in the wild in the United 
States for the Service to determine that it is injurious. The objective 
of such a listing is to prevent that species' importation and likely 
establishment in the wild, thereby preventing injurious effects 
consistent with 18 U.S.C. 42.

Species Information

Burmese Python (Python molurus, Including Indian Python)

Native Range
    Before laying out the native range of the Burmese python, we need 
to clarify our position on the taxonomy and nomenclature of this 
species. The taxonomy has been debated for almost 100 years, some 
scientists arguing for full species status for the Burmese python and 
some placing it as a subspecies of the Indian python. Reed and Rodda 
(2009) stated that, at times, Python molurus has been divided into 
subspecies recognizable primarily by color. Please see our response to 
Peer Review comment 3 (PR3) below for a detailed explanation of the 
taxonomic debate and our rationale for using Python molurus to include 
Burmese and Indian pythons. For the reasons stated in that response, we 
have no basis to assume that the ecological behavior of Burmese python 
P. m. bivittatus is independent of that of Indian python P. m. molurus. 
Furthermore, even a finding of ecological independence of P. m. 
bivittatus would not appreciably alter either the likelihood of its 
establishment in the United States or the cold tolerance of the whole 
species Python molurus, which was the taxon analyzed in the risk 
assessment (Reed and Rodda 2009; G. Rodda, pers. comm. 2009). 
Therefore, for the purposes of this rulemaking, the Service has 
determined that the Burmese python

[[Page 3335]]

should be able to survive in relatively similar conditions as the 
Indian python.
    The nomenclature of Python molurus varies somewhat as well. The 
most widely used common name for the entire species P. molurus is 
Indian python, with P. molurus bivittatus routinely distinguished as 
the Burmese python. Other common names include Indian rock python, 
Asian rock python, and rock python. Because the pet trade is composed 
almost entirely of P. m. bivittatus, most popular references simply use 
Burmese python. In addition, the subspecies Python m. molurus is listed 
as endangered in its native lands under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) under the common name of 
Indian python. Python m. molurus is also listed by the Convention on 
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
(CITES) under Appendix I (which ``lists species that are the most 
endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants'') but uses no common 
name. Except for Python m. molurus, which, as just stated, is listed in 
Appendix I, all species and subspecies of Pythonidae are listed in 
CITES Appendix II (which ``lists species that are not necessarily now 
threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is 
closely controlled''). This rule lists all members of Python molurus as 
injurious under the Lacey Act. However, hereafter in this rule, we 
refer to the species as a whole under the common name of Burmese python 
(unless specifically noted as Indian), because of its occurrence in 
trade.
    Python molurus ranges widely over southern and southeastern Asia 
(Reed and Rodda 2009). In its native range, the Burmese python occurs 
in virtually every habitat from lowland tropical rainforest (Indonesia 
and southeastern Asia) to thorn-scrub desert (Pakistan) and grasslands 
(Sumbawa, India) to warm, temperate, montane forests (Nepal and China) 
(Reed and Rodda 2009). This species inhabits an extraordinary range of 
climates, including both temperate and tropical, as well as both very 
wet and very dry environments (Reed and Rodda 2009).
Biology
    The Burmese python's life history is fairly representative of large 
constrictors because juveniles are relatively small when they hatch, 
but nevertheless are independent from birth, grow rapidly, and mature 
in a few years. Mature males search for mates, and the females wait for 
males to find them during the mating season, then lay eggs to repeat 
the cycle. Female Burmese pythons do not need to copulate with males to 
fertilize their eggs. Instead, a female apparently can fertilize her 
own eggs with her own genetic material, though it is not known how 
often this occurs in the wild. Several studies of captives reported 
viable eggs from females kept for many years in isolation (Reed and 
Rodda 2009).
    Like all pythons, the Burmese python is oviparous (lays eggs). In a 
sample of eight clutches discovered in southern Florida (one nest and 
seven gravid females), the average clutch size was 36 eggs, but pythons 
have been known to lay as many as 107 eggs in one clutch. Adult females 
from recent captures in Everglades National Park have been found to be 
carrying more than 85 eggs (Harvey et al. 2008).
    The Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world, 
considering overall mass and length; it reaches lengths of up to 7 m 
(23 ft) and weights of over 90 kg (almost 200 lbs). Hatchlings range in 
length from 50 to 80 centimeters (cm) (19 to 31 inches (in)) and can 
more than double in size within the first year (Harvey et al. 2008). As 
with all snakes, pythons grow throughout their lives (Reed and Rodda 
2009). Reed and Rodda (2009) cite Bowler (1977) for two records of 
captive Burmese pythons living more than 28 years (up to 34 years, 2 
months for one snake that was already an adult when acquired).
    Like all of the large constrictors, Burmese pythons are extremely 
cryptic in coloration. They are silent hunters that lie in wait along 
pathways used by their prey and then ambush them; they kill by wrapping 
their muscular bodies around their victims, squeezing tighter as the 
prey exhales until the victims suffocate. The snakes blend into their 
surroundings so well that observers have released marked snakes for 
research purposes and lost sight of them 5 feet away (A. Roybal, pers. 
comm. 2010).
    With only a few reported exceptions, Burmese pythons eat a wide 
variety of terrestrial vertebrates (lizards, frogs, crocodilians, 
snakes, birds, and mammals). All constrictor snake species (especially 
the smaller-sized individuals) are capable of climbing trees to access 
roosting birds and bats. Many birds nest or feed on the ground, and 
these are easy prey for constrictor snakes. Special attention has been 
paid to the large maximum size of prey taken from python stomachs, both 
in their native range in Asia and in the United States. The most well-
known large prey items include alligators, antelopes, dogs, deer, 
jackals, goats, porcupines, wild boars, pangolins, bobcats, pea fowl, 
frigate birds, great blue herons, langurs, and flying foxes; a leopard 
has even been reported as prey (Reed and Rodda 2009). To accommodate 
the large size of prey, Burmese pythons have the ability to grow 
stomach tissue quickly to digest a large meal (Reed and Rodda 2009). 
The methods of predation used by the Burmese python (whether sit-and-
wait or actively hunting, or whether diurnal or nocturnal), as well as 
the other three species of large constrictor snakes in this final rule, 
work as well in their native ranges as in the United States.
    Ectoparasites (including ticks of the genus Amblyomma) were 
collected from wild-caught, free-ranging exotic reptiles examined in 
Florida from 2003 to 2008 (Corn et al. 2011). This was the first report 
of collections of neotropical ticks from wild-caught Burmese pythons. 
From limited wild-caught, free-ranging exotic reptiles in Florida 
(including ball and Burmese pythons), ticks and mites were native to 
North America, Latin America, and Africa from reptiles native to Asia, 
Africa, and Central and South America. This study suggests the 
diversity of reptile ectoparasites introduced and established in 
Florida and the new host-parasite relationships that have developed 
among exotic and native ectoparasites and established exotic reptiles. 
Several studies (Burridge et al. 2000, Kenny et al. 2004, Reeves et al. 
2006) have shown disease agents in the ticks that travel 
internationally on reptiles, which may serve in the introduction of 
disease agents that could impact the health of local wildlife, domestic 
animals, and humans (Corn et al. 2011).

Northern African Python (Python sebae)

Native Range
    Python sebae and Python natalensis are closely related, large-
bodied pythons of similar appearance found in sub-Saharan Africa (Reed 
and Rodda 2009). The most common English name for this species complex 
has been African rock python. After P. sebae was split from P. 
natalensis, some authors added ``Northern'' or ``Southern'' as a prefix 
to this common name. Reed and Rodda (2009) adopted Broadley's (1999) 
recommendations and refer to these snakes as the Northern and Southern 
African pythons; hereafter, we refer to them as Northern and Southern 
African pythons, or occasionally as African pythons or African rock 
pythons.
    Northern African pythons range from the coasts of Kenya and 
Tanzania across much of central Africa to Mali and Mauritania, as well 
as north to Ethiopia and perhaps Eritrea; in arid zones, their range is 
apparently limited to the

[[Page 3336]]

vicinity of permanent water (Reed and Rodda 2009). In Nigeria, Northern 
African pythons are reported from suburban, forest, pond and stream, 
and swamp habitats, including extensive use of Nigerian mangrove 
habitats. In the arid northern parts of its range, Northern African 
pythons appear to be limited to wetlands, including the headwaters of 
the Nile, isolated wetlands in the Sahel of Mauritania and Senegal, and 
the Shabelle and Jubba Rivers of Somalia (Reed and Rodda 2009). The 
Northern African python inhabits regions with some of the highest mean 
monthly air temperatures identified for any of the large constrictors, 
with means of greater than 35 [deg]C (95[emsp14][deg]F) in arid 
northern localities (Reed and Rodda 2009).
Biology
    Northern African pythons are primarily ambush foragers, lying in 
wait for prey in burrows, along animal trails, and in water. Northern 
African pythons are oviparous. Branch (1988) reports that an 
``average'' female of 3 to 4 m (10 to 13 ft) total length would be 
expected to lay 30 to 40 eggs, while others report an average clutch of 
46 eggs, individual clutches from 20 to ``about 100,'' and clutch size 
increasing correspondingly in relation to the body length of the female 
(Pope 1961). In captivity, Northern African pythons have lived for 27 
years (Snider and Bowler 1992). As with most of the large constrictors, 
adult African pythons primarily eat endothermic (warm-blooded) prey 
(mammals and birds) from a wide variety of taxa. African pythons have 
consumed such animals as goats, dogs, and domestic turkeys.

Southern African Python (Python natalensis)

Native Range
    The Southern African python is found from Kenya southwest to Angola 
and south through parts of Namibia and much of eastern South Africa. 
Distribution of the species overlaps somewhat with Northern African 
pythons, although the southern species tends to inhabit higher 
elevations in regions where both species occur (Reed and Rodda 2009).
Biology
    Python sebae and Python natalensis are closely related, large-
bodied pythons of similar appearance. In fact, taxonomists have lumped 
and split the species together several times since Python natalensis 
was described (Reed and Rodda 2009); see ``Native Range'' section above 
under ``Northern African Python (Python sebae)'' for further 
explanation of the nomenclature.
    Little is known about Southern African pythons, although we know 
that they are oviparous. As with most of the large constrictors, adult 
African pythons primarily eat endothermic prey from a wide variety of 
taxa. The Southern African pythons consume a variety of prey types that 
includes those listed for Northern African pythons.

Yellow Anaconda (Eunectes notaeus)

Native Range
    The yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus) has a larger distribution in 
subtropical and temperate areas of South America than the 
DeSchauensee's anaconda and has received more scientific attention. The 
yellow anaconda appears to be restricted to swampy, seasonally flooded, 
or riverine habitats throughout its range. The primarily nocturnal 
anaconda species tends to spend most of its life in or around water. 
The yellow anaconda exhibits a fairly temperate climate range, 
including localities with cold-season monthly mean temperatures around 
10 [deg]C (50[emsp14][deg]F) and no localities with monthly means 
exceeding 30 [deg]C (86[emsp14][deg]F) in the warm season (Reed and 
Rodda 2009).
Biology
    The yellow anaconda bears live young (ovoviviparous). The recorded 
number of yellow anaconda offspring usually range from 10 to 37, with a 
known maximum of 56. In captivity, yellow anacondas have lived for more 
than 20 years. These anacondas are considerably smaller than the 
closely related green anaconda. Female yellow anacondas from Argentina 
measured a maximum length of 3.8 m (12.5 ft) and maximum weight of 29 
kg (69.9 lbs); males reached 2.93 m (9.6 ft) and 10.5 kg (23.1 lbs) 
(Reed and Rodda 2009). The largest yellow anacondas found in the wild 
were about 4 m (13.1 ft). They have been reported to exceed those 
measurements in captivity.
    Yellow anacondas appear to be generalist predators (able to prey on 
a wide variety of vertebrates). The anacondas in general, including 
this species, exhibit among the broadest diet range of any snake, 
including ectotherms (cold-blooded animals: lizards, crocodilians, 
turtles, snakes, fish) and endotherms (birds, mammals).

Summary of the Presence of the Four Constrictor Snakes in the United 
States

    Of the four constrictor snake species that we are listing as 
injurious, three have been reported in the wild in the United States 
and two have been confirmed as reproducing in the wild in the United 
States (see Current Nonnative Occurrences below); three have been 
imported commercially into the United States during the period 1999 to 
2010 (Table 1). Species ``reported in the wild'' are ones that have 
been found in the wild but without proof to date that they have 
reproduced in the wild. The greatest opportunity for preventing a 
species from becoming injurious is to stop a species from entering the 
wild; the second greatest opportunity is before a species becomes 
established in the wild (reported but not reproducing); and the 
smallest opportunity is when a species has become established 
(reproducing in the wild).

 Table 1--Four Species of Large Constrictor Snakes and Whether They Have Been Reported in the Wild in the United
 States, Are Known To Be Reproducing in the Wild in the United States, or Have Been Imported for Trade (1999 to
                                                      2010)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  Reported in the wild in    Reproducing in the wild     Imported into U.S. for
            Species                        U.S.?                     in U.S.?                   trade?*
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Burmese python.................  Yes......................  Yes......................  Yes.
Northern African python........  Yes......................  Yes ***..................  Yes.
Southern African python........  No.......................  No.......................  Unknown.**
Yellow anaconda................  Yes......................  No.......................  Yes.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Data from Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS; USFWS 2011).
** It is possible that this species has been imported into the United States incorrectly identified as one of
  the other species listed by this rule; however none have been reported.
*** Reed et al. 2010.


[[Page 3337]]

Lacey Act Evaluation Criteria

    We use the criteria below to evaluate whether a species does or 
does not qualify as injurious under the Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C. 42. The 
analysis that is developed using these criteria serves as a general 
basis for the Service's regulatory decision regarding injurious 
wildlife species listings (not just for the four snake species being 
listed by this final rule). Biologists within the Service who are 
knowledgeable about a species being evaluated assess both the factors 
that contribute to and the factors that reduce the likelihood of 
injuriousness.
    (1) Factors that contribute to being considered injurious:
     The likelihood of release or escape;
     Potential to survive, become established, and spread;
     Impacts on wildlife resources or ecosystems through 
hybridization and competition for food and habitats, habitat 
degradation and destruction, predation, and pathogen transfer;
     Impact to threatened and endangered species and their 
habitats;
     Impacts to human beings, forestry, horticulture, and 
agriculture; and
     Wildlife or habitat damages that may occur from control 
measures.
    (2) Factors that reduce the likelihood of the species being 
considered as injurious:
     Ability to prevent escape and establishment;
     Potential to eradicate or manage established populations 
(for example, making organisms sterile);
     Ability to rehabilitate disturbed ecosystems;
     Ability to prevent or control the spread of pathogens or 
parasites; and
     Any potential ecological benefits to introduction.
    To obtain some of the information for the above criteria, we 
referred to Reed and Rodda (2009). Reed and Rodda (2009) developed the 
Organism Risk Potential scores for each species using a widely utilized 
risk assessment procedure that was published by the Aquatic Nuisance 
Species Task Force, called ``Generic nonindigenous aquatic organisms 
risk analysis review process (for estimating risk associated with the 
introduction of nonindigenous aquatic organisms and how to manage that 
risk)'' (ANSTF 1996). The Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force was 
created under the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control 
Act of 1990 (NANPCA). Congress enacted NANPCA to provide a way for 
government agencies to develop a national program to reduce the risk of 
unintentional introductions, ensure prompt detection and response, and 
control established species.
    The ANSTF (1996) procedure incorporates four factors associated 
with probability of establishment and three factors associated with 
consequences of establishment, with the combination of these factors 
resulting in an overall Organism Risk Potential (ORP) for each species. 
For the four constrictor snakes, the risk of establishment was high.
    For the four constrictor snakes, the consequences of establishment 
range from medium (yellow anaconda) to high (Burmese python, Northern 
African python, and Southern African python). The overall ORP, which is 
derived from an algorithm of both probability of establishment and 
consequences of establishment, was found to be high for all four 
species.
    Certainties were highly variable within each of the seven elements 
or factors of the risk assessment mentioned above, varying from very 
uncertain to very certain. In general, the highest certainties were 
associated with species unequivocally established in Florida (such as 
Burmese python and Northern African python) because of enhanced 
ecological information on these species from studies in both their 
native range and in Florida. The way in which these subscores are 
obtained and combined is set forth in an algorithm created by the ANSTF 
(Table 2).

 Table 2--The Algorithm That the ANSTF (1996) Defined for Combining the
                          Two Primary Subscores
                         [Reed and Rodda 2009].
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                    Consequences of      Organism Risk
  Probability of establishment       establishment      Potential (ORP)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
High............................  High..............  High.
Medium..........................  High..............  High.
Low.............................  High..............  Medium.
High............................  Medium............  High.
Medium..........................  Medium............  Medium.
Low.............................  Medium............  Medium.
High............................  Low...............  Medium.
Medium..........................  Low...............  Medium.
Low.............................  Low...............  Low.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Similar algorithms are used for deriving the primary subscores from 
the secondary subscores. However, the scores are fundamentally 
qualitative, in the sense that there is no unequivocal threshold that 
is given in advance to determine when a given risk passes from being 
low to medium, and so forth. Therefore, we viewed the process as one of 
providing relative ranks for each species. Thus, a high ORP score 
indicates that such a species would likely entail greater consequences 
or greater probability of establishment than would a species whose ORP 
was medium or low (that is, high > medium > low). High-risk species 
include the four species being designated as injurious by this 
rulemaking: Burmese pythons, Northern and Southern African pythons, and 
yellow anacondas. High-risk species, if established in this country, 
would put larger portions of the U.S. mainland and insular territories 
at risk, constitute a greater ecological threat, or are more common in 
trade and commerce.

Factors That Contribute to Injuriousness for Burmese Python

Current Nonnative Occurrences

    The Burmese python has been captured in many areas in Florida (see 
Figure 5 in the final environmental assessment). In South Florida, more 
than 1,300 live and dead Burmese pythons, including gravid females, 
have been removed from in and around Everglades National Park in the 
last 11 years by authorized agents, park staff, and park partners, 
indicating that they are already established (National Park Service 
2010). In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Burmese python has been 
collected or reported (eight individuals collected, including a 3-m 
(10-ft) albino) from the municipality of Adjuntas, the northern region 
of the island (Arecibo), the eastern region of the island (Humacao), 
and southeastern region of the island (Guayama) (A. Atienza, pers. 
comm. 2010; J. Saliva, pers. comm. 2009; USGS 2007).
    Newspaper accounts from 1980 to 2010 report that numerous Burmese 
pythons have escaped captivity or were spotted in the wild in the 
following States (HSUS 2009; 2010): Arkansas, California, Georgia, 
Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, 
Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, 
Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. This illustrates that the potential for 
release or escape is not confined to Florida and Puerto Rico but could 
occur in many States. See the section ``Introduction Pathways for Large 
Constrictor Snakes'' for the explanation of how release events are 
relevant to the potential establishment of Burmese pythons.

Potential Introduction and Spread

    The likelihood of release or escape from captivity of Burmese 
python is high as evidenced by the number of reports from Florida and 
Puerto Rico (National Park Service 2010; J. Saliva, pers. comm. 2009; 
HSUS 2010; USGS 2007). When Burmese pythons escape captivity or are 
released into the wild, many have survived and are likely to

[[Page 3338]]

continue to survive and become established with or without reproducing. 
For example, in the past 11 years, more than 1,300 Burmese pythons have 
been removed from just Everglades National Park and vicinity (National 
Park Service 2010), and others have been captured from other natural 
areas on the west side of South Florida, the Florida Keys (Higgins, 
pers. comm. 2009), and farther north on the peninsula, including 
Sarasota and Indian River County (M. Lowman, pers. comm. 2009; B. 
Dangerfield, pers. comm. 2010).
    Moreover, released Burmese pythons would likely disperse to areas 
of the United States with a suitable climate. See ``Introduction 
Pathways for Large Constrictor Snakes'' section above for the 
explanation of how the snakes would spread. These areas were determined 
in the risk assessment (Reed and Rodda 2009) for all four constrictor 
snakes by comparing the type of climate the species inhabited in their 
native ranges to areas of similar climate in the United States (climate 
matching). Due to the wide rainfall tolerance and extensive semi-
temperate range of Burmese python, large areas of the southern United 
States mainland appear to have a climate suitable for survival of this 
species. Areas of the United States that are climatically matched at 
present include along the coasts and across the south from Delaware to 
Oregon, as well as most of California, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, 
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South and North 
Carolina. In addition to these areas of the U.S. mainland, the 
territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Virgin 
Islands, and Puerto Rico appear to have suitable climates. Areas of the 
State of Hawaii with elevations under about 2,500 m (8,202 ft) would 
also appear to be climatically suitable. Burmese pythons are highly 
likely to spread and become established in the wild due to common 
traits shared by the giant constrictors: Rapid growth to a large size 
with production of many offspring; ability to survive under a range of 
habitat types and conditions (habitat generalist); behaviors that allow 
escape from freezing temperatures; ability to adapt to live in urban 
and suburban areas; ability to disperse long distances (Harvey et al. 
2008); and tendency to be well-concealed ambush predators.

Potential Impacts to Native Species (Including Threatened and 
Endangered Species)

    As discussed above under Biology, the Burmese python grows to 
lengths greater than 7 m (23 ft) and can weigh up to 90 kg (200 lbs). 
This is longer than any native terrestrial predator (including bears) 
in the United States and its territories and heavier than most native 
predators (including black bears). Burmese pythons can be so large that 
they can prey on alligators, which are among the largest native 
predators in the Southeast (Harvey et al. 2008, Reed and Rodda 2009, 
National Geographic 2006).
    In comparison with the Burmese python, the largest snake native to 
the continental United States is much smaller. The largest native snake 
is the indigo snake (Drymarchon corais), attaining a maximum length of 
about 2.5 m (8 ft) (Monroe and Monroe 1968). The endangered Puerto 
Rican boa's (Epicrates inornatus) maximum size is approximately 2 m 
(6.5 ft) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1986). A subspecies of the 
indigo snake is the eastern indigo snake (D. corais couperi), which 
grows to a similar maximum length. The eastern indigo snake inhabits 
Georgia and Florida and is listed as federally threatened by the 
Service.
    Unlike prey species in the Burmese python's native range, none of 
our native species has evolved defenses to avoid predation by such a 
large snake. Thus, native wildlife anywhere in the United States would 
be very likely to fall prey to Burmese pythons (or any of the other six 
constrictor snakes). At all life stages, Burmese pythons can and will 
compete for food with native species; in other words, baby pythons will 
eat small prey, and the size of their prey will increase as they grow. 
Based on an analysis of their diets in Florida, Burmese pythons, once 
they are introduced and established, may outcompete native predators 
(such as the federally listed Florida panther, eastern indigo snake, 
native boas, hawks), feeding on the same prey and thereby reducing the 
supply of prey for the native predators.
    Burmese pythons are generalist predators that consume a wide 
variety of mammal and bird species, as well as reptiles, amphibians, 
and occasionally fish. This constrictor can easily adapt to prey on 
novel wildlife (species that they are not familiar with), and they need 
no special adaptations to hunt, capture, and consume them. Pythons in 
Florida have consumed prey as large as white-tailed deer and adult 
American alligators. Three federally endangered Key Largo woodrats 
(Neotoma floridana smalli) were eaten by a Burmese python in the wild 
in the Florida Keys in 2007. The extremely small number of remaining 
Key Largo woodrats suggests that the current status of the species is 
precarious (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2008); this means that a new 
predator that has been confirmed to prey on the endangered woodrats is 
a serious threat to the continued existence of the species. Dove et al. 
(2011) found 25 species of birds representing 9 avian orders from 
remains in digestive tracts of 85 Burmese pythons (Python molurus 
bivittatus) collected in Everglades National Park; this included the 
federally endangered wood stork and 4 species of State concern.
    The United States, particularly the Southeast, has a diverse faunal 
community that is potentially vulnerable to predation by the Burmese 
python. Juveniles of these large constrictors will climb trees and 
rocks to remove prey from bird nests and capture perching or sleeping 
birds. Most of the South has suitable climate and habitat for Burmese 
pythons. The greatest biological impact of an introduced predator, such 
as the Burmese python, is the likely loss of imperiled native species. 
Based on the food habits and habitat preferences of the Burmese python 
in its native range, the species is likely to invade the habitat, prey 
on, and further threaten most of the federally threatened or endangered 
fauna in climate-suitable areas of the United States.
    Burmese pythons are also likely to decrease the populations of 
numerous potential candidates for Federal protection by hunting and 
eating them. Candidate species are plants and animals for which the 
Service has sufficient information on their biological status and 
threats to propose them as endangered or threatened under the 
Endangered Species Act, but for which development of a proposed listing 
regulation is precluded by other higher priority listing activities.
    The final environmental assessment includes lists of species that 
are federally or State threatened or endangered in some climate-
suitable States and territories: Florida, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, 
and the Virgin Islands. Other States have federally or State threatened 
or endangered species that would be suitable prey for large constrictor 
snakes, including the Burmese python. These lists include only the 
species of the sizes and types that would be expected to be directly 
affected by predation by Burmese pythons and the other large 
constrictors. For example, plants and marine species are excluded. In 
Florida, 14 bird species, 15 mammals, and 2 reptiles that are 
threatened or endangered could be preyed upon by Burmese pythons or be 
outcompeted by them for prey. Hawaii has 34 bird species and 1 mammal 
that

[[Page 3339]]

are threatened or endangered that would be at risk of predation. Puerto 
Rico has eight bird species and eight reptile species that are 
threatened or endangered that would be at risk of predation. The Virgin 
Islands has one bird species and three reptiles that are threatened or 
endangered that would be at risk of predation. Guam has six bird 
species and two mammals that are threatened or endangered that would be 
at risk of predation.
    Due to the wide rainfall tolerance and extensive semi-temperate 
native range of P. molurus, large areas of the southern U.S. mainland 
appear to have a climate suitable for survival of this species. Please 
refer to the Final Environmental Assessment for the climate suitability 
maps for each large constrictor snake species. U.S. areas climatically 
matched at present ranged up the east and west coasts and across the 
interior south from Virginia to California, and throughout most of 
California, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, 
Florida, Georgia, and South and North Carolina. In addition to the 
mapped areas of the United States mainland, the territories of Guam, 
Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Virgin Islands, and Puerto 
Rico appear to have suitable climate. Areas of the State of Hawaii with 
elevations under about 2,500 m (8,202 ft) also appear to be 
climatically suitable. While we did not itemize the federally 
threatened and endangered species from California, Texas, and other 
States, there are likely several hundred species in those and other 
States that would be at risk from Burmese pythons. According to the 
climate suitability maps (Reed and Rodda 2009), threatened and 
endangered species from all of Florida, most of Hawaii, and all of 
Puerto Rico would be at risk from the establishment of Burmese pythons. 
In addition, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other territories would 
have suitable habitat and climate to support Burmese pythons, and these 
also have federally threatened and endangered species that would be at 
risk if Burmese pythons became established.
    The likelihood and magnitude of the effect on threatened and 
endangered species is high. Burmese pythons are thus highly likely to 
negatively affect threatened and endangered birds and mammals, as well 
as unlisted native species. Consistent with the language of the Lacey 
Act authorizing the listing of ``species'' and with prior 
administrative practice of listing only species or higher taxonomic 
units, we evaluated the species Python molurus as a whole, instead of 
evaluating the subspecies Python molurus bivittatus (Burmese python), 
which was the taxon originally petitioned for listing by the South 
Florida Water Management District. We determined that the species 
should be listed. As stated above under ``Native Range,'' the cold 
tolerance for both subspecies is similar, so the climate match (one of 
the evaluation criteria) determined in Reed and Rodda (2009) (also G. 
Rodda, pers. comm. 2009) is as applicable to each subspecies as it is 
to the species as a whole.

Potential Impacts to Humans

    The introduction or establishment of Burmese pythons may have 
negative impacts on humans primarily from the loss of native wildlife 
biodiversity, as discussed above. These losses would affect the 
aesthetic, recreational, educational, and economic values currently 
provided by native wildlife and healthy ecosystems.
    Human fatalities from nonvenomous snakes in the wild are rare, 
probably only a few per year worldwide (Reed and Rodda 2009). Although 
attacks on people by Burmese pythons are improbable, they are possible 
given the large size that some individual snakes can reach. However, 
the only human deaths in the United States from Burmese pythons that we 
are aware of were from captive snakes (in Colorado, Florida, Missouri, 
and Pennsylvania; HSUS 2010).
    Ectoparasites (including ticks in the genus Amblyomma) were 
collected from wild-caught, free-ranging exotic reptiles examined in 
Florida from 2003 to 2008 (Corn et al. 2011). This was the first report 
of collections of Neotropical ticks from wild-caught Burmese pythons, 
Python molurus bivittatus. The only known vectors capable of 
transmitting Cowdria ruminantium (which causes heartwater disease) are 
13 species of ticks in the genus Amblyomma (Deem 1998). Heartwater 
disease is a devastating disease of livestock (including cattle, sheep, 
and goats) in Africa (Deem 1998). From limited wild-caught, free-
ranging exotic reptiles in Florida (including ball and Burmese 
pythons), ticks and mites were native to North America, Latin America, 
and Africa from reptiles native to Asia, Africa, and Central and South 
America. These reports suggest the diversity of reptile ectoparasites 
introduced and established in Florida and the new host-parasite 
relationships that have developed among exotic and native ectoparasites 
and established exotic reptiles. Several studies (Burridge et al. 2000, 
Kenny et al. 2004, Reeves et al. 2006) have shown disease agents in the 
ticks that travel internationally on reptiles, which may serve in the 
introduction of disease agents that could impact the health of local 
wildlife, domestic animals, and humans (Corn et al. 2011). A 
potentially devastating impact to the nation's agriculture could occur 
if the deadly cattle disease heartwater or some other tick-borne 
disease were to become established in the United States and be 
transmissible through reptile ticks (Reed and Rodda 2009). African tick 
species that use pythons as hosts may be vectors of heartwater, and 
these ticks have been observed to transfer to other hosts, including 
other giant constrictors, other reptiles, and dogs. Because multiple 
python species are held captive together in the commercial trade, such 
transmission provides opportunities to occur prior to retail sales 
(Reed and Rodda 2009).

Factors That Reduce or Remove Injuriousness for Burmese Python

Control

    No effective tools are currently available to detect and remove 
large constrictor populations. Traps with drift fences or barriers are 
the best option, but their use on a large scale is prohibitively 
expensive, largely because of the labor cost of baiting, checking, and 
maintaining the traps daily. Additionally, some areas cannot be 
effectively trapped due to the expanse of the area and type of terrain, 
the distribution of the target species, and the effects on any 
nontarget species (that is, they trap native wildlife as well). While 
the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 
(USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and State of 
Florida entities have conducted some research on control tools, there 
are currently no such tools available that would be adequate for 
eradication of an established population of large constrictor snakes, 
such as the Burmese python, once they have spread over a large area.
    Efforts to eradicate the Burmese python in Florida have become 
increasingly intense as the species is reported in new locations across 
the State with ``python catch'' training sessions scheduled in 
locations necessary to keep the expansion to a minimum. Natural 
resource management agencies are expending scarce resources to devise 
methods to capture or otherwise control any large constrictor snake 
species. These agencies recognize that control of large constrictor 
snakes (as major predators) on lands that they manage is necessary to 
prevent the likely adverse impacts to

[[Page 3340]]

the ecosystems occupied by the invasive snakes.
    The final economic analysis was prepared for the constrictor snakes 
(USFWS January 2012) and provides the following information about the 
expenditures for research and eradication in Florida, primarily for 
Burmese pythons, which provides some indication of the efforts to date. 
The Service spent about $600,000 over a 3-year period (2007 to 2009) on 
python trap design, deployment, and education in the Florida Keys to 
prevent the potential extinction of the endangered Key Largo woodrat 
(Neotoma floridana smalli) at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. 
The South Florida Water Management District spent $334,000 between 2005 
and 2009 and anticipates spending an additional $156,600 on research, 
salaries, and vehicles in the next several years. An additional 
$300,000 will go for the assistance of USDA, Wildlife Services (part of 
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). The USDA Wildlife 
Research Center (Gainesville, Florida, Field Station) has spent $15,800 
from 2008 to 2009 on salaries, travel, and supplies. The USGS, in 
conjunction with the University of Florida, has spent more than $1.5 
million on research, radio telemetry, and the development, testing, and 
implementation of constrictor snake traps. Miami-Dade County Parks and 
Recreation Department, Natural Areas Management and Department of 
Environmental Resources Management have spent $60,875 annually on 
constrictor snake issues. The National Park Service has spent $317,000 
annually on various programs related to constrictor snake issues in 
Everglades National Park. All these expenditures total $5.7 million 
from 2005 to approximately 2012, or roughly an average of $720,000 per 
year. Despite this investment, all of these efforts have failed to 
provide a method for eradicating large constrictor snakes in Florida.
    Kraus (2009) exhaustively reviewed the literature on invasive 
herpetofauna. While he found a few examples of local populations of 
amphibians that had been successfully eradicated, he found no such 
examples for reptiles. He also states that, ``Should an invasive 
[nonnative] species be allowed to spread widely, it is usually 
impossible--or at best very expensive--to eradicate it.'' The Burmese 
python is unlikely to be one of those species that could be eradicated.
    Eradication will almost certainly be unachievable for a species 
that is hard to detect and remove at low densities, which is the case 
with all of the four large constrictor snakes. They are well-
camouflaged and stealthy, and, therefore, nearly impossible to see in 
the wild. Most of the protective measures available to prevent the 
escape of Burmese pythons are currently (and expected to remain) cost-
prohibitive and labor-intensive. Even with protective measures in 
place, the risks of accidental escape are not likely to be eliminated. 
Since effective measures to prevent the establishment in new locations 
or eradicate, manage, or control the spread of established populations 
of the Burmese python are not currently available, the ability to 
rehabilitate or recover ecosystems disturbed by the species is low.

Potential Ecological Benefits for Introduction

    While the introduction of a faunal biomass could potentially 
provide a food source for some native carnivores, species native to the 
United States are unlikely to possess the ability to hunt such large, 
camouflaged snakes and would not likely turn to large constrictor 
snakes as a food source. The risks to native wildlife greatly outweigh 
this unlikely benefit; however, juvenile constrictor snakes could fall 
prey to native wildlife such as alligators, raccoons, coyotes, and 
birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles). In addition, a large constrictor 
snake could prey on other invasive, nonnative species, such as green 
iguanas, feral hogs, and black rats. However, the effect on the 
populations of these feral hogs, rats, and other such nonnative species 
is likely to be negligible. Conversely, the effect of predation on rare 
species is greater, because any decrease in populations of rare species 
makes it less likely for the population to rebound. Therefore, the 
small possible benefits of having large constrictor snakes as predators 
in the United States do not warrant encouraging their establishment.
    There are no other potential ecological benefits for the 
introduction of Burmese pythons into the United States.

Conclusion

    The Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world, 
reaching lengths of up to 7 m (23 ft) and weights of over 90 kg (almost 
200 lbs). This is longer than any native, terrestrial animal in the 
United States, including alligators, and three times longer than the 
longest native snake species. Native fauna have no experience defending 
against this type of novel, giant predator. Hatchling Burmese pythons 
are about the size of average adult native snakes and can more than 
double in size within the first year. In addition, Burmese pythons 
reportedly can fertilize their own eggs and have viable eggs after 
several years in isolation. Even one female Burmese python that escapes 
captivity could produce dozens of large young at one time (average 
clutch size is 36, with a known clutch of 107). Furthermore, a healthy 
individual is likely to live for 20 to 30 years. Even a small number of 
pythons in a small area, such as one of the Florida Keys or insular 
islands, could cause unacceptable effects on federally threatened or 
endangered species. There are currently no effective control methods 
for Burmese pythons, nor are any anticipated in the near future.
    Therefore, because Burmese pythons have already established 
populations in some areas of the United States; are likely to spread 
from their current established range to new natural areas in the United 
States; are likely to become established in disjunct areas of the 
United States with suitable climate and habitat if released there; are 
likely to prey on and compete with native species (including threatened 
and endangered species); are likely to be disease vectors for livestock 
or native wildlife; cannot be easily eradicated, prevented from 
establishing, or reduced from large populations or new locations; and 
are likely to disturb ecosystems beyond the point of recoverability, 
the Service finds the Burmese python and its conspecifics to be 
injurious to humans, agricultural interests, and to wildlife and 
wildlife resources of the United States.

Factors That Contribute to Injuriousness for Northern African Python

Current Nonnative Occurrences

    Several Northern African pythons have been found in Florida and 
elsewhere in the United States--most of these are assumed to be escaped 
or released pets (Reed and Rodda 2009). From 2005 to 2009, adults and 
hatchlings have been captured, confirming the presence of a population 
of Northern African pythons along the western border of Miami, adjacent 
to the Everglades (Reed et al. 2010). From May 2009 to January 2010, 
four specimens were found by herpetologists and the Miami-Dade County 
Anti-Venom Response Unit, including hatchlings and adults collected 
from an area of about 2 km (1.6 mi) in diameter known as the Bird Drive 
Recharge Basin (Miami-Dade County) (Reed et al. 2010). In 2009, 
evidence pointed to the presence of a breeding population of Northern 
African pythons along the

[[Page 3341]]

western border of Miami adjacent to the Everglades. Recently, 
observations and removals of multiple adults, a gravid female, and 
hatchlings suggest the presence of a reproducing population of Northern 
African pythons (Reed et al. 2010). One Northern African python has 
also been collected on State Road 72 approximately 6.43 km (4 mi) east 
of Myakka River State Park, Sarasota County, Florida (K. Krysko, pers. 
comm. 2010).
    In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Northern African pythons have 
been found in the western region of the island (Mayaguez), the San Juan 
metro area, and the southern region of the island (Guayama) (J. Saliva, 
pers. comm. 2009).

Potential Introduction and Spread

    Northern African pythons have escaped captivity or been released 
into the wild in Florida and Puerto Rico and are likely to continue to 
escape and be released into the wild. Based on Reed and Rodda (2009), 
extrapolation of climate matching from the native range of Northern 
African pythons and then mapped to the United States includes a large 
portion of peninsular Florida, extreme south Texas, most of Hawaii, and 
Puerto Rico. Northern African pythons are highly likely to spread and 
become established in the wild due to common traits shared by the giant 
constrictors, including rapid growth to a large size with production of 
many offspring; ability to survive under a range of habitat types and 
conditions (habitat generalist); behaviors that allow them to escape 
freezing temperatures; ability to live in urban and suburban areas; 
ability to disperse long distances; and ability to conceal themselves 
and ambush prey.

Potential Impacts to Native Species (Including Threatened and 
Endangered Species)

    Northern African pythons are highly likely to prey on native 
species, including threatened and endangered species. As with most of 
the giant constrictors, adult African pythons primarily eat endothermic 
prey from a wide variety of taxa. Adverse effects of Northern African 
pythons on selected threatened and endangered species are likely to be 
moderate to high.
    Please see Potential Impacts to Native Species (Including 
Threatened and Endangered Species) under Factors that Contribute to the 
Injuriousness for Burmese Python for a description of the impacts that 
Northern African pythons would have on native species. These impacts 
are applicable to Northern African pythons by comparing their prey type 
with the suitable climate areas and the listed species found in those 
areas; suitable climate areas and the listed species can be found in 
the final environmental assessment.
    According to the climate suitability maps (Reed and Rodda 2009), 
threatened and endangered species and other native species from parts 
of Florida, most of Hawaii, and all of Puerto Rico would be at risk 
from the establishment of Northern African pythons. In addition, we 
assume that Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other territories would 
have suitable habitat and climate to support Northern African pythons, 
and these also have federally threatened and endangered species that 
would be at risk if Northern African pythons became established.

Potential Impacts to Humans

    The introduction or establishment of Northern African pythons may 
have negative impacts on humans primarily from the loss of native 
wildlife biodiversity, as discussed above. These losses would affect 
the aesthetic, recreational, and economic values currently provided by 
native wildlife and healthy ecosystems. Educational values would also 
be diminished through the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem health. 
African pythons (both wild and captive-bred) are noted for their bad 
temperament and readiness to bite if harassed by people. Although 
African pythons can easily kill an adult person, attacks on humans are 
uncommon (Reed and Rodda 2009). We do not have any confirmed human 
fatalities in the United States from Northern African pythons.
    Diseases borne by ticks could potentially impact U.S. agricultural 
industries. One serious possibility is heartwater disease, a 
potentially catastrophic disease of hoofed animals (including cattle) 
that is vectored by ticks found on African pythons (such as Python 
sebae), but the ticks are capable of transferring to other species of 
the genus Python in captivity (Reed and Rodda 2009). Northern and 
Southern African pythons are known hosts of some of these ticks, 
including Amblyomma nuttalli, Amblyomma marmoreum, Amblyomma sparsum, 
Aponomma exornatum, Aponomma flavomaculatum, and Aponomma latum 
(Burridge 2001).

Factors That Reduce or Remove Injuriousness for Northern African Python

Control

    As with the other giant constrictors, once introduced into the 
wild, eradication, management, or control of the spread of Northern 
African pythons will be highly unlikely. Please see the Control section 
for the Burmese python for reasons why the Northern African pythons 
would be difficult to control, all of which apply to this large 
constrictor.

Potential Ecological Benefits for Introduction

    While the introduction of a faunal biomass could potentially 
provide a food source for some native carnivores, species native to the 
United States are unlikely to possess the hunting ability for such 
large, camouflaged snakes and would not likely turn to large 
constrictor snakes as a food source. The risks to native wildlife 
greatly outweigh this unlikely benefit; however, juvenile snakes could 
fall prey to native wildlife such as alligators, raccoons, coyotes, and 
birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles). In addition, a large constrictor 
snake could prey on other nonnative species such as green iguanas, 
feral hogs, and black rats. There are no other potential ecological 
benefits from the introduction into the United States or establishment 
in the United States of Northern African pythons.

Conclusion

    Northern African pythons are long-lived (some have lived in 
captivity for 27 years). The species feeds primarily on warm-blooded 
prey (mammals and birds). Northern African pythons have been found to 
be reproducing in Florida. Therefore, they pose a risk to native 
wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. African pythons 
(both wild and captive-bred) are noted for their bad temperament and 
have reportedly also attacked humans.
    Because Northern African pythons are likely to escape or be 
released into the wild if imported to the United States; are likely to 
spread from their current established range to new natural areas in the 
United States with suitable habitats; are likely to prey on native 
species (including threatened and endangered species); are likely to be 
disease vectors for livestock; and because it would be difficult to 
eradicate or reduce large populations, or recover ecosystems disturbed 
by the species, the Service finds the Northern African python to be 
injurious to humans, agricultural interests, and to wildlife and 
wildlife resources of the United States.

[[Page 3342]]

Factors that Contribute to Injuriousness of the Southern African Python

Current Nonnative Occurrences

    Occurrences of the Southern African python in the United States are 
unknown.

Potential Introduction and Spread

    Southern African pythons are large-bodied constrictors that are 
closely related to Northern African pythons. Because they are so 
similar to Northern African pythons, they possess the same traits that 
enable them to be likely to escape or be released into the wild if 
imported into the United States. Southern African pythons may be 
substituted for Northern African pythons in the pet trade because of 
these similarities.
    The Southern African python climate match extends slightly farther 
to the north in Florida than the Northern African python and also 
includes Texas from the Big Bend region to the southeasternmost extent 
of the State, as well as parts of Puerto Rico and Hawaii. If Southern 
African pythons escape or are intentionally released, they are likely 
to survive or become established within their respective thermal and 
precipitation limits. Within these limits, Southern African pythons are 
highly likely to spread and become established in the wild due to 
common traits shared by the giant constrictors, including rapid growth 
to a large size with production of many offspring; are capable of 
surviving under a range of habitat types and conditions (habitat 
generalist); have behaviors that allow them to escape freezing 
temperatures; can live in urban and suburban areas; can disperse long 
distances; and are well-concealed ambush predators.

Potential Impacts to Native Species (Including Threatened and 
Endangered Species)

    Southern African pythons are highly likely to prey on native 
species, including threatened and endangered species. As with most of 
the giant constrictors, adult African pythons primarily eat endothermic 
prey from a wide variety of taxa. Adverse effects of Southern African 
pythons on selected threatened and endangered species are likely to be 
moderate to high.
    Please see Potential Impacts to Native Species (Including 
Threatened and Endangered Species) under Factors that Contribute to the 
Injuriousness for Burmese Python for a description of the impacts that 
Southern African pythons would have on native species. These impacts 
are applicable to Southern African pythons by comparing their prey type 
with the suitable climate areas and the listed species found in those 
areas; suitable climate areas and the listed species can be found in 
the final environmental assessment.
    According to the climate suitability maps (Reed and Rodda 2009), 
threatened and endangered species and other native species from parts 
of Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico would be at risk from the 
establishment of Southern African pythons. In addition, we assume that 
Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other territories would have 
suitable habitat and climate to support Southern African pythons, and 
these also have federally threatened and endangered species that would 
be at risk if Southern African pythons became established.

Potential Impacts to Humans

    The introduction or establishment of Southern African pythons may 
have negative impacts on humans primarily from the loss of native 
wildlife biodiversity, as discussed above. These losses would affect 
the aesthetic, recreational, and economic values currently provided by 
native wildlife and healthy ecosystems. Educational values would also 
be diminished through the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem health.
    African pythons (both wild and captive-bred) are noted for their 
bad temperament and readiness to bite if harassed by people. Although 
African pythons can easily kill an adult person, attacks on humans are 
uncommon (Reed and Rodda 2009).
    Diseases borne by ticks could potentially impact U.S. agricultural 
industry. One serious possibility is heartwater disease, a potentially 
catastrophic disease of hoofed animals (including cattle) that is 
vectored by ticks found on African pythons (such as Python sebae), but 
the ticks are capable of transferring to other species of the genus 
Python in captivity (Reed and Rodda 2009). Northern and Southern 
African pythons are known hosts of some of these ticks, including 
Amblyomma nuttalli, Amblyomma marmoreum, Amblyomma sparsum, Aponomma 
exornatum, Aponomma flavomaculatum, and Aponomma latum (Burridge 2001).

Factors That Reduce or Remove Injuriousness for Southern African Python

Control

    As with the other giant constrictors, once introduced into the 
wild, the eradication, management, or control of the spread of Southern 
African pythons will be highly unlikely. Please see the Control section 
for the Burmese python for reasons why the Southern African pythons 
would be difficult to control, all of which apply to these large 
constrictors.

Potential Ecological Benefits for Introduction

    While the introduction of a faunal biomass could potentially 
provide a food source for some native carnivores, species native to the 
United States are unlikely to possess the hunting ability for such 
large, camouflaged snakes and would not likely turn to large 
constrictor snakes as a food source. The risks to native wildlife 
greatly outweigh this unlikely benefit; however, juvenile snakes could 
fall prey to native wildlife such as alligators, raccoons, coyotes, and 
birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles). In addition, a large constrictor 
snake could prey on other nonnative species such as green iguanas, 
feral hogs, and black rats. There are no other potential ecological 
benefits from the introduction into the United States or establishment 
in the United States of Southern African pythons.

Conclusion

    Southern African pythons are long-lived. This species feeds 
primarily on warm-blooded prey (mammals and birds). Therefore, they 
pose a risk to native wildlife, including threatened and endangered 
species. Their climate match extends slightly farther to the north in 
Florida than the Northern African python and also includes portions of 
Texas from the Big Bend region to the southeasternmost extent of the 
State. Because Southern African pythons are likely to escape or be 
released into the wild if imported to the United States; are likely to 
survive, become established, and spread if escaped or released in 
suitable habitats; are likely to prey on and compete with native 
species for food and habitat (including threatened and endangered 
species); are likely to be disease vectors for livestock; cannot be 
easily eradicated, prevented from establishing, or reduced from large 
populations or new locations; and are likely to disturb ecosystems 
beyond the point of recoverability, the Service finds the Southern 
African python to be injurious to humans, to agricultural interests, 
and to the wildlife and wildlife resources of the United States.

[[Page 3343]]

Factors That Contribute to Injuriousness for Yellow Anaconda

Current Nonnative Occurrences

    An adult yellow anaconda was collected from Big Cypress National 
Reserve in southern Florida in January 2007, and another individual was 
photographed basking along a canal about 25 km (15.5 mi) north of that 
location in January 2008 (EDDMapS 2011). In 2008, an unnamed observer 
reportedly captured two anacondas that most closely fit the description 
of the yellow anaconda farther to the east near the Palm Beach, 
Florida, county line (EDDMapS 2011). In Puerto Rico, a few individuals 
of the yellow anaconda have been reported in the central region of the 
island (Villalba area). In Arkansas, two yellow anacondas were found in 
Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge (P. Fuller, pers. comm. 2011).

Potential Introduction and Spread

    Yellow anacondas have escaped or been released into the wild in 
Florida, Arkansas, and Puerto Rico, and are likely to escape or be 
released into the wild elsewhere. Yellow anacondas are highly likely to 
survive in subtropical areas of natural ecosystems of the United 
States. The yellow anaconda has a native-range distribution that 
includes highly seasonal and fairly temperate regions in South America. 
When projected to the United States, the climate space occupied by 
yellow anaconda translates to a fairly large area, including virtually 
all of peninsular Florida and a corner of southeastern Georgia (to 
about the latitude of Brunswick), as well as parts of southern and 
eastern Texas and a very small portion of southern California. Large 
areas of Hawaii and Puerto Rico appear to exhibit suitable climates, 
and additional insular United States possessions (Guam, Northern 
Marianas, American Samoa, and so on) would probably be suitable as 
well. Within the areas deemed suitable, however, the yellow anaconda 
would be expected to occupy only habitats with permanent surface water. 
If yellow anacondas are released into areas with suitable permanent 
surface water, they would likely disperse because of their propensity 
for rapid growth to a large size; high reproductive rate; ability to 
survive under a range of habitat types and conditions (habitat 
generalist); behaviors that allow them to escape freezing temperatures; 
ability to live in urban and suburban areas; ability to disperse long 
distances; and well-concealed, ambush-type of predatory behavior.

Potential Impacts to Native Species (Including Threatened and 
Endangered Species)

    Yellow anacondas are highly likely to prey on native species, 
including select threatened and endangered species. The prey list 
suggests that yellow anacondas employ both ``ambush predation'' and 
``wide-foraging'' strategies (Reed and Rodda 2009). The snakes forage 
predominately in open, flooded habitats, in relatively shallow water; 
wading birds are their most common prey. They have also been known to 
prey on fish, turtles, small caimans, lizards, birds, eggs, small 
mammals, and fish carrion (Reed and Rodda). Threatened and endangered 
species occupying flooded areas, such as the Everglades, would be at 
risk.
    Please see Potential Impacts to Native Species (Including 
Threatened and Endangered Species) under Factors that Contribute to the 
Injuriousness for Burmese Python for a description of the impacts that 
yellow anacondas would have on native species. These impacts are 
applicable to yellow anacondas by comparing their prey type with the 
suitable climate areas and the listed species found in those areas; 
suitable climate areas and the listed species can be found in the final 
environmental assessment.
    While we did not itemize the federally threatened and endangered 
species from southern California, Texas, southeast Georgia, and other 
States, there are likely several hundred species in those and other 
States that would be at risk from yellow anaconda. According to the 
climate suitability maps (Reed and Rodda 2009), threatened and 
endangered species from parts of Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico would 
be at risk from the establishment of yellow anacondas. In addition, 
Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other territories would have 
suitable habitat and climate to support yellow anacondas, and these 
also have federally threatened and endangered species that would be at 
risk if yellow anacondas became established.

Potential Impacts to Humans

    The introduction or establishment of yellow anacondas may have 
negative impacts on humans primarily from the loss of native wildlife 
biodiversity, as discussed above. These losses would affect the 
aesthetic, recreational, and economic values currently provided by 
native wildlife and healthy ecosystems. Educational values would also 
be diminished through the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Factors That Reduce or Remove Injuriousness for Yellow Anaconda

Control

    Once introduced into the wild, the eradication, management, or 
control of the spread of yellow anacondas will be highly unlikely. 
Please see the ``Control'' section for the Burmese python for reasons 
why yellow anacondas would be difficult to control, all of which apply 
to this large constrictor.

Potential Ecological Benefits for Introduction

    While the introduction of a faunal biomass could potentially 
provide a food source for some native carnivores, species native to the 
United States are unlikely to possess the hunting ability for such 
large, camouflaged snakes and would not likely turn to large 
constrictor snakes as a food source. The risks to native wildlife 
greatly outweigh this unlikely benefit; however, juvenile snakes could 
fall prey to native wildlife such as alligators, raccoons, coyotes, and 
birds of prey (hawks, owls, eagles). In addition, a large constrictor 
snake could prey on other nonnative species such as green iguanas, 
feral hogs, and black rats. There are no other potential ecological 
benefits from the introduction into the United States or establishment 
in the United States of yellow anacondas.

Conclusion

    Yellow anacondas are highly likely to survive in the appropriate 
natural ecosystems of the United States. The species has a native-range 
distribution that includes highly seasonal and fairly temperate regions 
in South America. When projected to the United States, the climate 
space occupied by yellow anaconda maps to a fairly large area, 
including virtually all of peninsular Florida and a corner of 
southeastern Georgia (to about the latitude of Brunswick), as well as 
large parts of southern and eastern Texas and a small portion of 
southern California. Large areas of Hawaii and Puerto Rico appear to 
exhibit suitable climates, and additional insular U.S. possessions 
(such as Guam, Northern Marianas, American Samoa) would probably be 
suitable as well. Yellow anacondas are highly likely to spread to 
suitable permanent surface water areas because of their large size, 
high reproductive potential, early maturation, rapid growth, longevity, 
and generalist-surprise attack predation.
    Because the yellow anacondas are likely to escape captivity or be 
released into the wild if imported to the United

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States (note that the yellow anaconda has already been found in the 
wild in Florida and Arkansas); are likely to survive, become 
established, and spread if escaped or released; are likely to prey on 
and compete with native species for food and habitat (including 
threatened and endangered species); cannot be easily eradicated, 
prevented from establishing, or reduced from large populations or new 
locations; and are likely to disturb ecosystems beyond the point of 
recoverability, the Service finds the yellow anaconda to be injurious 
to humans and to the wildlife and wildlife resources of the United 
States.

Conclusions for the Four Constrictor Snakes

Burmese Python

    The Burmese python is one of the largest snakes in the world, 
reaching lengths of up to 7 m (23 ft) and weights of over 90 kilograms 
(kg) (almost 200 pounds (lbs)). This is longer than any native, 
terrestrial animal in the United States, including alligators, and 
three times longer than the longest native snake species. Native fauna 
have no experience defending against this type of novel, giant 
predator. Hatchling pythons are about the size of average adult native 
snakes and can more than double in size within the first year. In 
addition, Burmese pythons reportedly can fertilize their own eggs and 
have viable eggs after several years in isolation; therefore, it is 
possible that a population of Burmese pythons could be established with 
only a small number of females. Burmese pythons are long-lived, with a 
life expectancy of 20 to 30 years. Thus, even a single python 
(especially a female) in a small area, such as one of the Florida Keys 
or insular islands, can devastate the population of a federally 
threatened or endangered species. There are currently no effective 
control methods for Burmese pythons, nor are any anticipated in the 
near future.
    Therefore, because Burmese pythons have already established 
populations in some areas of the United States; are likely to spread 
from their current established range to new natural areas in the United 
States; are likely to become established in disjunct areas of the 
United States with suitable climate and habitat if released there; are 
likely to prey on and compete with native species (including threatened 
and endangered species); are likely to be disease vectors for livestock 
or native wildlife; are likely to damage ecosystems that would be 
difficult or impossible to recover; and are difficult or impossible to 
eradicate or control once established, the Service finds the Burmese 
python to be injurious to humans, agricultural interests, and to 
wildlife and wildlife resources of the United States. We have evaluated 
the species Python molurus as a whole (including Burmese and Indian 
pythons), and we have determined that it should be listed as injurious. 
Moreover, we note that each of its subspecies share the traits that 
make this species injurious.

Northern African Python

    Northern African pythons are long-lived (some have lived in 
captivity for 27 years). The species feeds primarily on warm-blooded 
prey (mammals and birds). Northern African pythons now have an 
established self-sustaining breeding population west of Miami, Florida. 
This area is within the known distribution of Burmese pythons in 
Florida, and hybridization between these species is known in captivity. 
The likelihood of hybridization among introduced Florida populations is 
unknown, as are the implications of genetic admixture for control 
purposes (Reed and Rodda 2009). Therefore, they pose a risk to native 
wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. African pythons 
(both wild and captive-bred) are noted for their bad temperament and 
have reportedly also attacked humans.
    Because Northern African pythons are likely to escape or be 
released into the wild if imported to or transported within the United 
States; are likely to survive, become established, and spread from 
their current established range to new natural areas in the United 
States with suitable habitats; are likely to prey on and compete with 
native species (including threatened and endangered species); and 
because it would be difficult to prevent, eradicate, or reduce large 
populations; control the spread to new locations; or to recover 
ecosystems disturbed by the species, the Service finds the Northern 
African python to be injurious to humans and to wildlife and wildlife 
resources of the United States.

Southern African Python

    Southern African pythons are long-lived. This species feeds 
primarily on warm-blooded prey (mammals and birds). Therefore, they 
pose a risk to native wildlife, including threatened and endangered 
species. Their climate match extends slightly farther to the north in 
Florida than the Northern African python and also includes Texas from 
the Big Bend region to the southeasternmost extent of the State as well 
as parts of Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
    Because Southern African pythons are likely to escape or be 
released into the wild if imported to or transported within the United 
States; are likely to survive, become established, and spread if 
escaped or released in suitable habitats; are likely to prey on and 
compete with native species for food and habitat (including threatened 
and endangered species); and because it would be difficult to prevent, 
eradicate, or reduce large populations; control spread to new 
locations; or recover ecosystems disturbed by the species, the Service 
finds the Southern African python to be injurious to humans and to the 
wildlife and wildlife resources of the United States.

Yellow Anaconda

    Yellow anacondas are highly likely to survive in the appropriate 
natural ecosystems of the United States. The species has a native-range 
distribution that includes highly seasonal and fairly temperate regions 
in South America. When projected to the United States, the climate 
space occupied by yellow anaconda maps to a fairly large area, 
including virtually all of peninsular Florida and a corner of 
southeastern Georgia (to about the latitude of Brunswick), as well as 
large parts of southern and eastern Texas. Large areas of Hawaii and 
Puerto Rico appear to exhibit suitable climates, and additional insular 
U.S. possessions (such as Guam, Northern Marianas, American Samoa) 
would probably be suitable as well. Yellow anacondas are highly likely 
to spread to suitable permanent-surface-water areas because of their 
large size, high reproductive potential, early maturation, rapid 
growth, longevity, and generalist surprise-attack predation.
    Because the yellow anacondas are likely to escape captivity or be 
released into the wild if imported to or transported within the United 
States (note that the yellow anaconda has already been found in the 
wild in Florida); are likely to survive, become established, and spread 
if escaped or released; are likely to prey on and compete with native 
species for food and habitat (including threatened and endangered 
species); and because it would be difficult to prevent, eradicate, or 
reduce large populations; control spread to new locations; or to 
recover ecosystems disturbed by the species, the Service finds the 
yellow anaconda to be injurious to humans and to wildlife and wildlife 
resources of the United States.

Summary of Risk Potentials

    Reed and Rodda (2009) found that all of the four constrictor snakes 
pose high risks to the interests of human beings,

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agriculture, wildlife, and wildlife resources of the United States. 
These risk potentials utilize the criteria for evaluating species as 
described by ANSTF (1996) (see Lacey Act Evaluation Criteria above). 
Based on the risks determined by Reed and Rodda (2009), substantive 
information submitted during the public comment periods and from the 
peer reviewers, along with the latest findings regarding the large 
constrictor snakes (in Florida, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere), the 
Service concludes that the four constrictor species should be added to 
the list of injurious reptiles under the Lacey Act.

Comments Received on the Proposed Rule

    During the two public comment periods for the proposed rule, we 
received approximately 56,500 comments, including form letters, 
petitions, and post cards. We received comments from Federal agencies, 
State agencies, local governments, commercial and trade organizations, 
conservation organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and private 
citizens; all were in English with the exception of a few in Dutch, 
French, German, and Italian. The comments provided a range of views on 
the proposed listing as follows: (1) Unequivocal support for the 
listing with no additional information included; (2) unequivocal 
support for the listing with additional information provided; (3) 
equivocal support for the listing with or without additional 
information included; (4) unequivocal opposition to the listing with no 
additional information included; and (5) unequivocal opposition to the 
listing with additional information included.
    To accurately review and incorporate the publicly provided comments 
in our final determination, we worked with researchers in the 
Qualitative Data Analysis Program at the University of Massachusetts 
Amherst and the University of Pittsburgh--developers of the Public 
Comment Analysis Toolkit (PCAT) analytical software. The PCAT enhanced 
our ability to review large numbers of comments, including large 
numbers of similar comments on our proposed listing, allowing us to 
identify similar comments as well as individual ideas, data, 
recommendations, or suggestions on the proposed listing. We are also 
responding to some comments that are out of the purview of this rule in 
a concerted effort to explain our rationale to the public.

Peer Review of the Proposed Rule

    In accordance with peer review guidance of the Office of Management 
and Budget ``Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review,'' 
released December 16, 2004, and Service guidance, we solicited expert 
opinion on information contained in the proposed rule (which was for 
nine species) from five knowledgeable individuals selected from 
specialists in the relevant taxonomic group and ecologists with 
scientific expertise that includes familiarity with alien 
herpetological introductions and invasions, predictive tools for risk 
assessment, and invasion biology. We posted our peer review plan on the 
Service's Region 4 Web site (http://www.fws.gov/southeast/informationquality), explaining the peer review process and providing 
the public with an opportunity to comment on the peer review plan. No 
comments were received regarding the peer review plan. The Service 
solicited independent scientific reviewers who submitted individual 
comments in written form. We avoided using individuals who had already 
expressed strong support for or opposition to the petition and 
individuals who were likely to experience personal gain or loss 
(financial, prestige, etc.) as a result of the Service's decision. 
Department of the Interior employees were not utilized as peer 
reviewers.
    We received responses from five peer reviewers. Two peer reviewers 
found that, in general, the proposed rule represented a comprehensive 
and up-to-date compilation of the best scientific information known 
about the nine constrictor snake species and conclusions drawn from 
both published and unpublished sources were scientifically robust, and 
justified the proposed rule. Two peer reviewers expressed concern with 
the climate-matching methods and assumptions.
    In addition, all peer reviewers stated that the background material 
on the biology, invasive potential, and potential tools for control of 
each snake species represented a solid compilation of available 
information. They further stated that the information as presented 
justified the conclusion that the snake species should be listed as 
injurious. All five peer reviewers concluded that the data and analyses 
we used in the proposed rule were appropriate and the conclusions we 
drew were logical and reasonable. Several peer reviewers provided 
additional insights to clarify points in the proposed rule, or 
references to recently published studies that update material in the 
rule.

Peer Review Comments

    We reviewed all comments received from peer reviewers for 
substantive issues and new information regarding the proposed rule. We 
consolidated the comments and responses into key issues in this 
section. We refer to them as PR (Peer Reviewer) 1 through 5. We revised 
the final rule to reflect peer reviewer comments, where appropriate, 
and the most current scientific information, including the results of 
the new USGS climate match publication (Rodda et al. 2011), plus a 
number of new peer-reviewed journal articles. We have taken our best 
effort to identify the limitations and uncertainties of the climate-
matching models and their projections used in the proposed rule. We 
have also taken our best effort to correct any grammatical or 
biological errors and clarify certain ambiguous statements.
    Comment PR1: In regard to the USGS publication ``Giant 
Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and an Establishment 
Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the 
Boa Constrictor,'' which includes management profiles discussing 
colonization potentials with climate matching maps, there are very few 
details or data presented in the manuscript that would allow an 
independent test of the model, predictions, or assumptions. At a 
minimum, the threshold values that were used in the climate space model 
should be explicitly stated for each species. This would allow 
reviewers to evaluate the data and the assumptions used in the 
construction of the model.
    Response PR1: This general critique is incorrect; all of the 
species-specific information used to assess risks is presented in the 
document mentioned. That this procedure cannot be reduced to 
mathematical certainty is the reason a risk assessment (rather than a 
calculation) was conducted. This specific critique is also incorrect. 
The requested threshold values are provided graphically for each of the 
species in Reed and Rodda (2009). For example, the Python molurus 
values are in Figure 4.3 (page 51) (heavy and dashed black lines), the 
P. sebae and P. natalensis values are in Figures 6.4 (page 118) and 6.5 
(page 119), respectively (heavy black lines), and so forth.
    For readers who want to duplicate the climate match results, the 
USGS has published a data series report with data used for modeling and 
the equations corresponding to these lines (http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/579/) (Jarnevich et al. 2011), but the graphical representations in 
Reed and Rodda (2009) provide the same information with the precision 
that is appropriate for the use of these values. Use of these values 
with greater precision would not be appropriate given the conceptual 
and scientific

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uncertainties that attend state-of-the-art implementation of climate 
matching.
    Comment PR2: The data used for the risk assessment seems fair. This 
reviewer, however, was not convinced that the assignment of low, 
medium, and high establishment and consequence scores was sufficiently 
objective or transparent. There appear to be high levels of uncertainty 
involved in the process (pp. 253, 259: Reed and Rodda 2009). Though 
there is not really an alternative with the amount of data available, 
the approach would be more acceptable if it was transparent (what 
constitutes each level of certainty and how one decides on high, 
medium, or low for each contributing factor).
    Response PR2: The risk assessment process allows for analyzing, 
identifying, and estimating the dimension, characteristics, and type of 
risk. By applying analytical methods while acknowledging the 
assumptions and uncertainties involved, the process allows the 
assessors to utilize qualitative and quantitative data in a systematic 
and consistent fashion. The assessment strives for theoretical accuracy 
while remaining comprehensible and manageable, and the scientific and 
other data compiled for each snake species in the bio-profiles is 
organized and recorded in a formal and systematic manner. The 
assessment provides a reasonable estimation of the overall risk. The 
authors were careful to ensure that the process clearly explained the 
uncertainties inherent in the process and to avoid design and 
implementation of a process that reflected a predetermined result. 
Quantitative and qualitative risk assessments should always be buffered 
with careful professional judgment. If every statement was certain, we 
would not need a risk assessment. The need to balance risks with 
uncertainty can lead assessors to concentrate more on the uncertainty 
than on known facts that may affect impact potential. Risks identified 
for nonnative invasive large constrictor species (and other nonnative 
invasive species besides large constrictors) in other regions often 
provide the justification in applying management measures to reduce 
risks in regions where the species have not yet been introduced. Thus, 
risk assessments should concentrate on evaluating potential risk.
    Uncertainty, as it relates to the individual risk assessment, can 
be divided into three distinct types: (a) Uncertainty of the process--
(method); (b) uncertainty of the assessor(s)--(human error); and (c) 
uncertainty about the organism--(biological and environmental 
unknowns). All three types of uncertainty will continue to exist 
regardless of future developments. The inferential estimation of 
organism risk can be rated using high, medium, or low. The biological 
and other information assembled under each element will drive the 
process. This forces the assessor to use the biological information as 
the basis for his or her decision. Thus, the process remains 
transparent for peer review. The high, medium, and low ratings of the 
individual elements contributing to the probability of organism 
establishment (such as organism with pathway, entry potential, 
colonization potential, and spread potential) cannot be defined or 
measured--they have to remain judgmental. This is because the values of 
the elements contained under ``Probability of Establishment'' are not 
independent of the rating of the ``Consequences of Establishment.'' 
Specific traits or biological characteristics were assessed for each 
snake species to arrive at each high, medium, or low rating. The 
strength of the analysis is not in the element-rating but in the 
detailed biological and other relevant information that supports them. 
Reed and Rodda (2009) followed the ANSTF 1996 (see Lacey Act Evaluation 
Criteria section above for explanation of this method) guidelines for 
combining scores and noting that certainty levels for each component of 
the process were followed by the risk assessors. The logic that was 
applied to develop every step of the risk assessment analysis can be 
found in Chapter Ten of Reed and Rodda (2009).
    Comment PR3: Jacobs et al. (2009) elevated the Burmese python back 
to full species rank (that is, the form was historically described as 
Python bivittatus, then lumped with P. molurus, and then upon recent 
reevaluation, elevated back to full species rank). Climate data for P. 
molurus should, therefore, not have been used to project the area 
potentially suitable for P. bivittatus, a different species.
    Response PR3: Jacobs et al. (2009) presented one side of an 
argument that has been debated for almost 100 years; they argued for 
full species status, but did not have the authority to declare their 
preference to be a fact. Other biologists reject that opinion (which 
depends not only on the unresolved definitions of species and 
subspecies, but on the biological and genetic facts pertaining to this 
specific population, which are not known). Jacobs et al. (2009) added 
new information on some insular forms but did not present new data on 
the key question being contested, which is whether genes are 
periodically or regularly exchanged between the populations usually 
described as P. m. molurus and P. m. bivittatus. In the absence of 
decisive information on that crucial question and on the question of 
competitive interactions between the two forms, it would be 
inappropriate to assume that the ecological behavior of P. m. 
bivittatus is independent of that of P. m. molurus. Furthermore, even a 
finding of ecological independence of P. m. bivittatus would not 
appreciably alter either the cold tolerance of the species or the 
likelihood of its establishment in the United States, which were the 
primary uses of this information in the risk assessment (Rodda et al. 
2011). The assertion that the Burmese form shows less cold tolerance 
than the Indian form is not supported by the peer-reviewed literature.
    Comment PR4: The Pyron et al. (2008) paper offers a more 
sophisticated and scientifically main-stream analysis that predicts 
virtually no expansion of the python population in Florida. The Pyron 
et al. (2008) paper very clearly and persuasively describes the flawed 
result in the Rodda et al. (2008) paper and offers a superior 
alternative analysis.
    Response PR4: A paper by R. Alexander Pyron, Frank T. Burbrink, and 
Timothy J. Guiher, ``Claims of potential expansion throughout the U.S. 
by invasive python species are contradicted by ecological niche 
models,'' published in PLoS ONE online in August 2008, was published 
after the Rodda et al. (2008) paper. In a response to a complaint from 
the public to USGS, a panel composed of representatives from the USGS 
and the Service was convened to review an information quality appeal 
and address concerns about ``unwarranted assumptions and defective 
methodologies.'' The panel determined that the Rodda et al. (2008) 
paper met the requirements of independence, with two of the three peer 
reviewers coming from outside the USGS, as well as having an internal 
supervisory review. Based on this affirmation of peer review, the panel 
agreed that it was unlikely that there were ``unwarranted assumptions 
or defective methodologies.'' The panel considered the Rodda et al. 
(2008) and Pyron et al. (2008) papers as a good example of ``dueling 
models'' and agreed that such disagreements were well within the 
tradition of scientific dialog where different points of view could be 
worked through the scientific method. Such differences were not 
``incorrect,'' rather they were critical to the evolution of scientific 
thought. Because a later-published paper (in this case Pyron et al. 
2008) differs from a

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previous paper (Rodda et al. 2008) does not mean the previous paper 
should be changed. A new paper published by the USGS (Rodda et al. 
2011) continues the dialog and elucidates scientific concerns with 
Pyron et al. (2008). Rodda et al. (2011) demonstrate that the Pyron et 
al. (2008) result was largely a product of erroneous data input and 
incorrect use of the MaxEnt modeling program and that MaxEnt models 
based on climatic variables for Burmese pythons as used by Pyron et al. 
(2008) are highly unstable and statistically questionable. Please see 
``Need for the Final Rule'' section above for more information on the 
differences between the two models.
    Comment PR5: The term ``zoological'' is ambiguous and could lead to 
a potential loophole for those activities for which permitted 
importation could be allowed, hence, any activity pertaining to these 
snakes could be claimed to be ``zoological.''
    Response PR5: This rulemaking addresses whether the identified 
species of large constrictor snakes qualify as injurious and, 
therefore, should be added to the list of injurious reptiles. The rule 
does not address under what circumstances a person may qualify for 
exception to the importation or interstate transportation prohibitions 
under the zoological purposes provisions. Therefore, this comment is 
outside of the scope of this rulemaking.

Public Comments

    We reviewed all comments received from the public particularly for 
substantive issues and new information regarding the proposed rule to 
list the nine large constrictor snakes. We consolidated the following 
comments and our responses into key issues that are not in any 
particular order. We are also referring to only the four species in 
this final rule unless otherwise appropriate to include the other five 
species for the comments and our response to comments.

Health and Welfare of Human Beings

    (1) Comment: Some people have been killed and more have been 
injured in the United States by nonnative large constrictor snakes that 
were kept as pets.
    Our Response: One commenter submitted a list of 179 reports that 
included accounts of human injuries and fatalities from nonnative 
constrictor snakes, nonnative constrictor snakes that escaped or were 
spotted in the wild, and nonnative constrictor snakes kept in inhumane 
conditions that were reported in the media that occurred in the United 
States between 1980 and 2010. The accounts included reports of Burmese 
pythons, African (rock) pythons, reticulated pythons, boa constrictors, 
green anacondas, and yellow anacondas, and unidentified large 
constrictor snakes. The list contains accounts from 39 States, 
including Alaska and Hawaii. Of the 179 total reports, 21 were attacks 
on people, 13 of which resulted in human fatalities. Burmese pythons 
reportedly attacked eight of those people, resulting in four deaths. 
African (rock) pythons (not distinguished by species) reportedly 
attacked one person fatally. Pythons of undeclared species reportedly 
attacked seven people, with five resulting in death. One unidentified 
constrictor reportedly wrapped around a motorist's neck and caused an 
automobile crash. Another commenter sent an additional report of a pet 
python (not identified to species) that killed a child in Minnesota 
(date unknown).
    We acknowledge that there have been reports of deaths and injury 
due to encounters with nonnative large constrictor snakes, but the 
accounts identified by the commenter involved snakes held in captivity. 
We do not know of any free-ranging nonnative large constrictor snakes 
that have injured or killed anyone in the United States. Human 
fatalities from nonvenomous snakes in the wild are rare (Reed and Rodda 
2009). An indirect risk is that large snakes may stretch across roads 
to obtain heat from the pavement on cool days, posing a hazard to 
motorists who swerve to avoid hitting them (Snow et al. 2007; Harvey et 
al. 2008). Please see ``Potential Impacts to Humans'' in each species 
above for further information.
    (2) Comment: The actual physical danger that these snakes pose to 
humans and public safety has been grossly overstated, and there have 
only been 12 human fatalities attributed to these snakes since 1980, an 
average of 0.4 deaths per year are attributed. Those fatalities are 
usually a direct result of either improper care and handling of the 
animal, or feeding-related errors on the part of the keeper or pet 
owner.
    Our Response: We agree that, while there have been 14 human deaths 
that we know of since 1980, this number is small relative to other 
causes of death. We do not wish to overstate the risk to public safety. 
We agree that the preeminent issue is not one of public safety, because 
we know of no large constrictor snake attacks in the United States from 
free-ranging snakes. We also note that, in their native ranges, reports 
of snake attacks on humans in the wild are rare, although they have 
occurred (Reed and Rodda 2009). However, the remoteness of the native 
ranges of the any of the species may preclude deaths from being 
reported. Reed and Rodda 2009 state that virtually all known human 
fatalities are associated with pet manipulation. However, Snow et al. 
(2007) and Harvey et al. (2008) also noted that large constrictors 
crossing roads could cause traffic accidents. In general, we agree that 
the risk to human safety is not in itself a substantial factor in 
listing any of these species as injurious.
    (3) Comment: Boa constrictors should be removed from the rule. 
These snakes have never killed their keepers, nor have they killed 
anyone else. There has never been a documented human death by a boa 
constrictor.
    Our Response: Taking full account of public comments and relevant 
factors, we have not listed boa constrictors at this time. We will 
address this comment in more detail when we publish a determination of 
whether this species should be listed as injurious.

Large Constrictor Snakes as Pets and Hobby

    (4) Comment: Most people in the reptile hobby who choose to own 
these larger species are very responsible and do well in keeping their 
pets and investments healthy and safe, and this includes preventing 
their escape. It does not stand to reason that the actions of this very 
limited amount of negligent owners should affect millions of 
responsible pet owners.
    Our Response: While we do not dispute that most constrictor snake 
owners try to be responsible, the volume of imports and domestically 
bred snakes is so large (averaging 49,941 annually for the nine 
proposed species and 12,741 for the four species in this final rule; 
see our Final Economic Analysis, Table 8) that accidents may happen 
resulting in snakes escaping or snakes could be intentionally released. 
Shipping containers may be damaged--and live snakes able to escape--
anywhere between the port of import and the destination of the pet 
owner's home. In that case, the problem could arise before the pet 
owners acquire the animals.
    Another consideration is the risk involved with transporting large, 
powerful snakes. While keeping a snake in a sedentary home cage may be 
not in itself be a difficult task, the situation may change when a 20-
ft (6-m) snake weighing 200 pounds (91 kg) is transported in a car to a 
veterinarian. Unless the snake is transported in an escape-proof cage 
from the house to the automobile to the veterinarian, snakes may find 
more opportunities for escape. Conversely, small snakes may escape

[[Page 3348]]

more easily than large ones because they are more likely to be 
transported casually, such as carried for show. For example, a boa 
constrictor that was transported around on its owner's neck on a Boston 
subway escaped and survived for a month on the heated train in January 
2011 before being captured (Associated Press 2011).
    We have based our determination on our evaluation of injuriousness 
to wildlife and wildlife resources and the likelihood that any of the 
four large constrictor snakes could escape, become established, and 
cause harm.
    (5) Comment: These snakes are not injurious wild animals. They are 
domesticated pets.
    Our Response: We recognize that many snakes are kept in captivity 
with no negative incidences and that they seem tame. However, the fact 
that various species of wildlife may be kept as pets does not remove 
these species from the scope of U.S. wildlife laws. Under the injurious 
wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42), all four of these 
species are wild. Therefore, we have the authority to list all of the 
four species of constrictor snakes once we determine that they are 
injurious. We base our determination as injurious on their effect on 
any one of the following: the interests of human beings, agriculture, 
horticulture, forestry, wildlife, or wildlife resources of the United 
States.
    (6) Comment: I have kept more of these animals than anyone you will 
ever meet, and I can assure you, they are not injurious in any way.
    Our Response: We recognize that there are various meanings of 
``injurious.'' However, under the Service's authority, the Lacey Act 
(18 U.S.C. 42), and for the purpose of this rule, injurious wildlife 
are wild mammals, wild birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, 
mollusks, and their offspring or gametes that are injurious to the 
interests of human beings, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, 
wildlife or wildlife resources of the United States. A wildlife species 
does not need to be injurious to all of the above interests to be 
listed. If a species is injurious to wildlife or wildlife resources of 
the United States (including its territories and insular possessions), 
we have the authority to list that species.
    (7) Comment: We agree that ownership of certain animals should be 
restricted; however, we feel that banning the species Boa constrictor 
fails to address current concerns, is unnecessarily restrictive, and 
counter-productive. This species also represents the largest portion of 
the nine species listed in the proposed rule.
    Our Response: Taking account of public comments and relevant 
factors, we have not listed Boa constrictor at this time. We will 
address this comment in more detail when we publish a determination of 
whether this species should be listed as injurious.
    (8) Comment: This rule will destroy the ability of animal 
hobbyists, who are our future biologists and conservationists, to 
explore and learn about these specific animals, thus limiting exposure 
to the natural world at large.
    Our Response: The commenters did not explain how the rule will 
destroy the ability of animal hobbyists to learn about these animals. 
Hobbyists will still be allowed to keep their snakes and offspring and 
to acquire additional ones within their State (and consistent with 
their State's own laws). The long lives of these species improve the 
chances that the hobbyists will have their pets for one or more 
decades, generally much longer than amphibian and tropical fish 
hobbyists. Hobbyists still have many other species of snakes and other 
reptiles to choose from that are not listed as injurious. We hope that, 
with this rule, future biologists and conservationists will learn about 
the ecological role of these species in their native lands and in lands 
where they become invasive.

Unprecedented Regulation

    (9) Comment: It is unprecedented that a ban be placed on a group of 
animals that is so prevalent in the pet industry and kept by so many 
hobbyists.
    Our Response: We agree that we have never listed any species that 
is so prevalent in the pet industry as some of these large constrictor 
snakes. However, the Lacey Act does not preclude listing a species that 
is prevalent in the pet industry, provided that the species meets the 
criteria of injuriousness. In addition, this regulation is not a ban on 
possessing any of the species. States, however, independently from this 
rule, may have their own restrictions, and these restrictions may be 
more stringent than this Federal rule. In other words, individual 
States may ban possession of any of these species. This final rule only 
establishes a prohibition against importation and interstate 
transportation of listed species without a permit. Furthermore, only 
one of the species that we are listing (Burmese python) is common in 
the pet trade; the other three constrictor species are rarely or not 
traded. Lastly, the most commonly imported constrictor snake in the pet 
industry by far--the ball python (Python regius; 78.6 percent of the 
constrictor snake species reviewed in our economic analysis)--is not 
being listed as injurious.

Other Animals More Injurious

    (10) Comment: A better argument based on safety and health 
statistics could be made to ban horses or dogs, as the average American 
is more likely to be injured or killed by either of those animals than 
any reptile. Certainly there are other species such as feral cats, 
dogs, rats, pigeons, starlings, and pigs, that each cause more damage 
to the environment of South Florida.
    Our Response: As the commenter correctly points out, many species 
of feral domesticated animals are considered invasive and have caused 
harm to humans and natural resources in south Florida and other parts 
of the United States. However, the agency has only the authority to 
list ``wild'' birds and ``wild'' mammals as injurious wildlife where, 
under section 42(a)(2) of 18 U.S.C., the term ``wild'' is specific to 
any animals that, whether or not raised in captivity, are normally 
found in a wild state. Dogs, cats, and horses are considered 
domesticated animals under 50 CFR 14.4 regulations and, therefore, 
cannot be listed as injurious wildlife.
    This rule is in response to a petition to list one of the largest 
constrictor snakes in the world. Based on the best available 
information, we have found that the four species covered by this final 
rule are injurious to human beings, to the interests of agriculture, or 
to the wildlife or wildlife resources of the United States. This does 
not mean that we believe these snakes to be the most injurious of all 
wild animals.

Effort to Ban Pets

    (11) Comment: This snake ban opens the door to many other animals 
being banned. If this rule is passed, then next it will be foreign 
reptiles all together, followed closely by a different ban, followed by 
an eventual ban on reptiles, period. Next it will be cats, dogs, fish, 
and birds.
    Our Response: This rule does not ban possession of any species. As 
stated above in the SUMMARY, the rule prohibits only the importation 
and interstate transportation. This is the only authority provided to 
the Secretary of the Interior by Congress under the injurious wildlife 
provisions of the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42). Three of the four species 
of large constrictor snakes are already in captivity in the United 
States and are available for acquisition within each State (unless 
otherwise regulated by your State's laws). In addition, any species 
under

[[Page 3349]]

consideration for listing as injurious is evaluated on a case-by-case 
basis, using all available information relevant to whether it is or is 
not injurious. Therefore, this rule does not set up a trend to ban 
ownership of any particular species or groups of species. Second, the 
Lacey Act does not provide the authority to list domesticated mammals 
and birds as injurious. Section 42(a)(1) of the Lacey Act specifies 
that we may list only ``wild mammals'' and ``wild birds,'' as opposed 
to domesticated mammals and domesticated birds. This means that we 
cannot list domestic dogs, cats, horses, certain species of birds, and 
so on. However, all reptiles are considered wild and can be considered 
injurious wildlife if they meet the listing criteria (see ``Lacey Act 
Evaluation Criteria section'' above for explanation). Domesticated 
animals are defined in 50 CFR 14.4.

Effect of Rule on Welfare of Large Constrictor Snakes

    (12) Comment: This rule change basically represents a death 
sentence for millions of reptiles in the United States. Many of these 
snakes will be abandoned and set free where they will surely suffer and 
die.
    Our Response: We disagree that this rulemaking will result in the 
death of millions of reptiles currently being held in captivity. We 
have been clear that all owners of any of the snakes listed as 
injurious will be allowed to keep them under this rule. For animals 
already in the United States, this rule only restricts shipment between 
States. We emphasize that it will be lawful for pet owners to keep 
their pets (if allowed by State law). We have no reason to believe that 
responsible, caring owners will kill or release them into the wild 
because they can keep them. Breeders may still be able to export 
through a port in their own State (see response to Comment 47 for 
exporting explanation). For breeders who can no longer export, they may 
find buyers in their own State. For information on how to find a home 
for a snake that a person can no longer keep, we posted some 
suggestions on http://www.regulations.gov at the time the proposed rule 
was published on March 12, 2010 (separate file ``Questions and 
Answers''). We explained:
    ``If you are in a position where you must give up your pet [large 
constrictor snake], and zoos and humane societies have declined your 
efforts to donate the animal, you should contact either your State fish 
and wildlife agency or your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
office. These two government agencies are the legal authorities that 
co-manage fish and wildlife in this country, and they can help you to 
resolve this issue. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with 
States around the country and the pet and aquarium industry through a 
campaign called Habitattitude\TM\ to help pet owners adopt 
environmentally responsible actions for surrendering their pets, such 
as:
     Contacting the retailer for proper handling advice or for 
possible return;
     Giving or trading with another pet owner;
     Donating to a zoo, humane society, nature center, school, 
or pet retailer; and
     Contacting a veterinarian or pet retailer for guidance on 
humane disposal of animals.''
    For those pet owners who move to another State, we also suggest 
contacting a local herpetology club or a national reptile organization 
with local members to find someone to adopt those constrictor snakes.
    (13) Comment: What would happen to the businesses operated by 
thousands of families in the industry with this rule? It is doubtful 
that those animals would be humanely euthanized (due to finances and 
ethical objections), so those animals would either be subjected to 
inhumane practices or become liabilities to those persons who have 
them. It would be a cruel irony that the animal rights agenda of 
eliminating these animals from the pet trade would result in the 
destruction of millions of animals that have proven to be nondangerous.
    Our Response: Family businesses will still be able to operate, 
provided they either sell within their State or have a port of export 
directly from their State (see response to Comment 47 for exporting 
explanation). Businesses may switch to other species of snakes that are 
not listed. Please see our response to Comment 12 on alternatives for 
disposing of animals that you can no longer keep. Owners are encouraged 
to find legal alternatives, such as trading species with someone in 
their own State who has a species that is not listed and who is able to 
keep a listed species in that State. We emphasize that it will be 
lawful for pet owners to keep their pets (if allowed by State law) but 
unlawful to release them or transport them across State lines.
    Regarding the statement that these snakes are nondangerous, we 
emphasize that we distinguish between ``nondangerous,'' which we assume 
the commenter means ``does not harm people,'' and ``injurious,'' which 
has a different meaning under the Lacey Act. We agree that these four 
species of snakes pose only a small risk of harm to people; however, we 
are listing them for their injuriousness.
    (14) Comment: Thousands of snakes' lives will be spared because the 
majority of reptiles die during capture from the wild or subsequent 
transport or within the first year of captivity. Banning the 
importation of these species will ensure that many snakes will not fall 
victim to the harsh conditions of being shipped overseas.
    Our Response: From the Service's Law Enforcement Management 
Information System (LEMIS) data, we estimate that approximately 96,000 
snakes of the four species were imported from 1999 to 2010. Some were 
probably captured from the wild. Imported snakes are then usually sent 
to animal dealers before being shipped to pet retailers. Finally, the 
snakes are typically acquired at a pet retailer and transported to a 
home or other location. Large constrictor snakes may become ill, 
injured, or die during transport. Since this listing would place 
prohibitions on importation and interstate movement of the four 
species, it is reasonable to assume that fewer animals will therefore 
die from importation and interstate transport. Although animal welfare 
is regulated by the Federal government for some taxa (that is, 
primarily warm-blooded species) under such laws as the Animal Welfare 
Act, this was not a factor considered in our injurious wildlife 
evaluation and did not influence our final determination.

Benefits of Having Large Constrictor Snakes in the United States

    (15) Comment: While the Burmese pythons do consume native species 
such as wading birds, waterfowl, muskrats, rabbits, opossum, raccoons, 
and even bobcats and white-tailed deer, they are probably just as 
likely to prey upon the more common exotic species, such as feral cats 
and dogs, nonnative rats and mice, starlings, pigeons, collared doves, 
spiny-tailed iguanas, green iguanas, cattle egrets, and muscovy ducks.
    Our Response: We agree that large constrictor snakes, such as 
Burmese pythons in the Everglades, can potentially prey on other 
nonnative species, and that this could be beneficial to native 
wildlife. Snow et al. (2007) reported that domestic cats, Old World 
rats, domestic chickens, and domestic geese have been found in Burmese 
python digestive systems in Florida. However, of greater conservation 
and management concern are the effects that invasive species pose to 
native populations of wildlife and wildlife resources--in particular, 
those that are threatened and endangered or otherwise

[[Page 3350]]

at risk of extinction (Clavero and Garcia-Berthou 2005). Reed and Rodda 
(2009) listed a total of 64 State-listed threatened or endangered 
species at risk from Burmese pythons or other large constrictors in 
Florida alone. This includes the highly endangered Key Largo wood rat, 
which has been found in the stomachs of Burmese pythons, and whose 
population may number only in the hundreds. As demonstrated in our 
injurious wildlife evaluation, we believe that the risks posed by large 
constrictor snakes to native wildlife and wildlife resources far 
outweigh the possible benefits they may have as predators of nonnative 
wildlife in the United States. We do not have information on what the 
other feral constrictor snakes have eaten. The negative effect of 
predation on rare species is greater than the effect on exotic species 
because any decrease in populations of rare species makes it less 
likely for those populations to rebound.
    (16) Comment: Some commenters own boa constrictors from regions of 
Brazil that no longer have boa constrictors due to deforestation. Many 
of the reptiles present in captive collections are representative of 
vanishing bloodlines of wild populations of these species. They are 
conserving wild species.
    Our Response: One subspecies covered under this listing is known to 
be significantly imperiled: the Indian python (Python molurus molurus), 
which is granted a higher level of protection under CITES than most 
other constrictor species or subspecies (all species in the family 
Pythonidae are listed in at least Appendix II; several are listed in 
Appendix I). Indian python (Python molurus molurus) is listed as 
endangered under the U.S.'s Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it is 
endangered in its native range. Listing these species as injurious will 
not impact legitimate conservation efforts that U.S. breeders can carry 
out for species that may be negatively impacted by natural and man-made 
events within their native range. In general, the Service supports ex-
situ conservation efforts, such as captive breeding, when done in a 
scientific manner for the conservation of a species within its native 
range. The Act also still allows export of listed species that could be 
used in re-introduction activities or other in-situ conservation 
efforts. The Act allows for the issuance of permits authorizing 
interstate movement or imports for scientific or zoological purposes, 
including conservation breeding operations.
    (17) Comment: Many keepers I know are concerned about the worldwide 
decline of species, and a distributed network of determined keepers may 
prove the only hope for the survival of several of the species 
addressed. For example, the natural population of the Burmese python 
has been on a steady decline due to habitat loss.
    Our Response: The Service strongly supports ex-situ conservation 
programs that are scientifically designed to provide conservation 
benefits to species in their native range. The listing of these species 
as injurious will not prevent conservation breeding programs run by 
dedicated herpetologists and hobbyists from providing a conservation 
benefit to any of these species (see our response to Comment 16).

State Issue (Not Federal Government)

    (18) Comment: The constrictor snakes should be listed by individual 
States, not by the Federal Government.
    Our Response: Many commenters suggested that we should not list any 
of these species and we should allow the States to regulate these 
species as they see fit. The Service is responsible for implementing 
and enforcing laws such as the Lacey Act, under which authority we are 
listing these species. We believe implementation of the injurious 
wildlife provisions reflects the shared State-Federal governance of 
invasive species challenges facing the United States as originally 
intended by Congress. Since these snakes have been found to be 
injurious to human beings and to wildlife and wildlife resources, we 
believe federally regulating movements of these four species of 
constrictors into the United States and between States and territories 
is an important step in limiting their effects. The States and other 
jurisdictions within the United States retain the ability to regulate 
these species as they determine appropriate within their boundaries.
    (19) Comment: Mere presence of a species does not equate the threat 
of harm, especially when individuals are cited in environments in which 
they cannot establish. If this is solid justification for listing a 
species as injurious, the Service will need to list every organism that 
has ever--and is ever--spotted outside of captivity in the United 
States.
    Our Response: The Service undergoes a rigorous evaluation before 
determining that any species is injurious. Mere presence does not 
qualify a species as injurious. The Service evaluates each species 
based on numerous criteria (see ``Lacey Act Evaluation Criteria'' 
section above). We also consider the potential to survive, become 
established, and spread; likelihood of release or escape; impact to 
threatened and endangered species and their habitats; and so on. We 
have determined that the four species of large constrictor snakes 
covered by this rule are injurious.

Rule Will Not Be Effective

    (20) Comment: This regulation change will not make the established 
population of Burmese pythons in Florida disappear.
    Our Response: We agree that this rule alone may not reduce the 
population of Burmese pythons in Florida and certainly not eliminate 
it. Similarly, it may not reduce or eliminate the populations of 
northern African pythons in Florida. We do not expect that. However it 
should reduce the populations of those species in conjunction with 
control or management programs. Furthermore, we do believe the rule 
will be effective in other ways. See also our responses to Comments 21 
and 22.
    (21) Comment: Such a rule change disallowing the interstate trade 
of these species is counter-intuitive and a non sequitur to ban trade 
between every other State in the Union.
    Our Response: From our evaluation of each species (under section 
``Factors That Contribute to Injuriousness for Burmese Python'' and the 
other species above), we believe that prohibiting the interstate trade 
of these species along with prohibitions of further importations will 
reduce the risk of them becoming more widespread to new areas of the 
United States, including the territories and insular possessions. 
Please also see ``Need for the Final Rule'' section above.
    (22) Comment: The Lacey Act has never stopped the introduction or 
eradicated the feral populations of any invasive species, which makes 
it wholly ineffective in this case.
    Our Response: The commenter is correct that no eradication of 
established feral populations has been accomplished merely by the 
listing of a species as injurious, but we did not expect that result. 
Merely preventing introductions of new individuals will not result in 
the eradication of existing populations (Burmese python and Northern 
African python). The most likely way for the injurious listing 
provisions to be successful is if they are applied before a species is 
present in the United States or in vulnerable parts of the United 
States. The two other constrictor snake species listed as injurious may 
be prevented from becoming established in Florida, as well as other 
vulnerable areas of the country. Furthermore, the purpose of listing 
the four species in all areas of the country is to prevent any areas of 
the country

[[Page 3351]]

that do not currently have the four species (see ``Potential 
Introduction and Spread'' sections for each species above) from 
becoming invaded. Fowler et al. (2007) discuss the effectiveness of the 
Lacey Act listings by looking at all of the species that are currently 
listed as injurious. They state that, ``None (0%) of the 7 species that 
were absent from the country at the time of listing have subsequently 
established populations, and two of the taxa that were present only in 
captivity (raccoon dog and brushtail possum) did not establish wild 
populations. [T]wo taxa that were established outside captivity at the 
time of the listing (European rabbit and Java sparrow) have not spread 
between states since listing.'' If the rule can prevent introductions 
to any vulnerable parts of the country, it will be effective.

Educational Use Curtailed

    (23) Comment: The rule will impact educational outreach at zoos. 
Educators travel to neighboring States. Burmese pythons are a flagship 
species for these outreach education activities. Their impressive size 
and docile disposition make them ideal to provide the basis for 
explaining complex ecosystems. Providing an opportunity for children to 
closely view these animals is a tremendous opportunity for snakes and 
other wildlife, and helps break the cycle of persecution that has 
caused declines in many snake populations throughout the world. The Act 
as currently written requires strict and uninterrupted double 
containment for injurious species. The inclusion of these four taxa of 
snakes on the list of injurious wildlife will make the use of any of 
these forms in interstate education programs virtually impossible.
    Our Response: Zoos around the country commonly use live animals at 
the zoo and off-site. The listing of the four species will not prevent 
such use within the home State of the zoo since these species, such as 
Burmese pythons, can continue to be used for education in the home 
State with no permit necessary and no containment requirements (unless 
there are State requirements).
    However, if zoo personnel want to travel across State lines with 
one of the listed species, the Act would come into effect. The Act 
requires that the zoo obtain a permit to carry out any interstate 
movement of a listed species and the specimens being moved would need 
to be in double-escape-proof containers. Permit applications to carry 
out interstate movement of listed species for educational purposes can 
be submitted to the Service, along with an application fee of $25. This 
is a similar procedure used by zoological and educational institutions 
to obtain permits for threatened and endangered species, so the 
institutions may already be familiar with the process.
    The commenter is correct that the double-escape-proof container is 
a requirement of the permit. Moreover, this requirement applies not 
only when the snake is being transported outside the zoo, but applies 
within the zoo as well. However, we have found that most zoos that are 
already permitted for other injurious species can easily comply with 
the requirements for a minimal extra cost over the standard housing 
requirements for the species. However, the containment of any injurious 
species is consistent with the preventative measures of the injurious 
wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act.
    (24) Comment: The cost of specimen replacement to zoos will 
increase dramatically.
    Our Response: The commenter provided no evidence that costs will 
increase dramatically or even at all. Most of the listed species are 
available by breeders in most States and can be obtained without a 
permit. If importation is needed, zoos may obtain an importation 
permit. The cost of a permit is $100 for importation, which covers the 
whole shipment, even for multiple species and individuals. The cost is 
$25 for a permit to transport or move animals from one exhibit to 
another within a permitted institution or between institutions that are 
already permitted to maintain the same injurious species. The commenter 
did not explain how often zoos replace specimens, so we do not know how 
much the cost will increase. Since most of these species have lifespans 
in captivity of 20 to 30 years (see ``Biology'' section of each 
species), we expect this will not be a frequent need. As for the cost 
of the snakes, the commenter provides no information that this will 
increase, nor do we know whether the price of these species on the 
market will increase, decrease, or remain unchanged. Furthermore, zoos 
may become a primary beneficiary of constrictor snakes from owners who 
decide to give up their pets because they are moving out-of-State or 
for another reason.
    (25) Comment: The rule will impact our non-outreach collection, the 
permit preparation time, administrative costs, permit fees, and time 
delays will be a major hindrance to continuing the management of these 
species as part of the broader zoo network within the Association of 
Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This will make replacing specimens in a 
timely fashion extremely difficult for our zoo and others. Ultimately, 
these species may have to be eliminated from our collections.
    Our Response: As stated earlier, the rule does not affect 
intrastate movement of these species nor does it restrict ownership or 
even captive breeding. It is anticipated that most zoos that already 
have these species have the capacity to either breed animals already 
held at the zoo or obtain additional specimens within their State. Zoos 
may become a primary beneficiary of constrictor snakes from owners who 
decide to give up their pets because they are moving out-of-State or 
for other reasons. If this is not sufficient, the Act does have 
provisions for obtaining specimens from other States or even from 
foreign sources. The Service recognizes that the permitting process 
imposes some increased administrative costs and is committed to 
exercising available flexibilities under its Lacey Act permitting 
authority to minimize permit application preparation and processing 
times and to reduce administrative costs. For example, we will do so by 
issuing permits that authorize multiple interstate movements for 
educational purposes over extended periods. The Service is committed to 
finding ways to minimize the time it takes for facilities to obtain 
authorization for interstate transport or importation so zoos can 
continue their active management of these species. We do not believe 
that this listing would result in any zoo having to eliminate these 
species from their collections.
    (26) Comment: With my collection, I do school and library visits to 
give kids who generally do not get the chance to see these animals up 
close the experience to see them. This in my mind is one step needed in 
educating people on wildlife conservation as well as responsible pet 
keeping. I take large snakes and lizards to the kids from all over the 
world where they would normally never be able to see them. If you ban 
these reptiles, my life dream will be ruined and I will not be able to 
continue my life mission to show people these amazing creatures up 
close.
    Our Response: We recognize that many people present large and small 
live animal programs in communities all over the country. We agree that 
such programs are important to teach conservation and the value of 
wildlife. However, this new rule will not prevent these programs from 
occurring. Providing no State lines are crossed, you can continue your 
educational programs without the need for a permit from the Service. 
Furthermore, educators may apply to the Service for a permit to

[[Page 3352]]

transport these species across State lines for educational purposes. 
Lastly, educators can also teach conservation principles by using snake 
skins, photos, and other tools to teach people about the problems of 
releasing nonnative species in the United States. We believe 
conservation can be taught without the exact live specimens of every 
animal being discussed.
    (27) Comment: This rule will eliminate a reptile culture for future 
generations to share in.
    Our Response: The commenter did not explain how the reptile culture 
would be eliminated. This rule will not result in the elimination of 
reptile ownership or interest in reptiles. The listing does not 
prohibit ownership of these species or any other reptile species. While 
the listing will probably result in fewer specimens of these species 
being available commercially because the listing would reduce the 
economic incentive for some current breeders from continuing to breed 
the species, we do not believe that all captive breeding would stop. It 
is an unfortunate aspect of the need to protect our native wildlife and 
ecosystems by listing these species as injurious that some people or 
organizations that currently possess these species would be affected.

Violations and Penalties

    (28) Comment: If enacted, this rulemaking would have the 
unprecedented effect of putting as many as a million American citizens 
in possession of injurious wildlife and subject to potential felony 
prosecution under the Lacey Act. It could effectively create a new 
class of criminal out of law-abiding American citizens. This regulation 
would turn hobbyists' current activities into a Federal crime.
    Our Response: These listings under the Lacey Act will have no 
effect on the majority of owners of these four species. Pet owners who 
keep their snakes within their own State will not be affected. Examples 
of owners who will be affected: (1) People who take their pets to a 
veterinarian in another State; (2) people who wish to transport their 
pets across a State line, such as if the owners are moving; and (3) 
people who keep large constrictor snakes as a business and sell to 
other States. However, many States have laws against possessing wild 
animals, and these snakes may not be allowed into those States by State 
law anyway. Examples are Hawaii (all snakes), Florida (for Burmese 
python, Northern and Southern African pythons, and other species), Iowa 
(North African python and all Eunectes spp.), and New York (Burmese and 
North African pythons) (see our Final Environmental Assessment 2012). 
State laws may be more stringent than Federal laws and should not be 
confused with Federal laws. Our response to (1) above is that pet 
owners are free to locate a veterinarian in their own State. The pet 
industry and veterinary organizations could work together to help the 
owners of the four species to locate willing veterinarians within a 
reasonable driving distance. Our response to (2) above is that people 
who are moving should seek alternatives such as those suggested in our 
response to Comment 29.
    The subject of violations under the Lacey Act has frequently been 
misunderstood and caused undue consternation among animal owners. We 
will explain here how the Lacey Act will address the new injurious 
listings. A person would violate the injurious wildlife provisions of 
the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42) if he or she did one of the following with 
any one of the four constrictor species listed as injurious: (1) 
Transported between the States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the 
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the 
United States by any means whatsoever; or (2) imported into the United 
States from another country. In either case, notwithstanding there may 
be other laws being broken by the action that we are not considering 
here, these violations are considered misdemeanors and carry penalties 
of up to 6 months in prison and a $5,000 fine for an individual or a 
$10,000 fine for an organization under 18 U.S.C. 42. If, however, 
another law was also broken, the violation could become a felony under 
16 U.S.C. 3372, which carries higher penalties. For example, if the 
owner of a Burmese python in Florida didn't have a permit as required 
by Florida State law, and that person transported the snake to another 
State, then the fact that the State law was broken in the process of 
transporting it across State lines makes it a title 16 violation. 
Therefore, while it may put as many as a million American citizens in 
possession of injurious wildlife, none will be in violation of the 
Lacey Act automatically. Furthermore, unless these people break laws 
under title 16, they would not be subject to potential felony 
prosecution under the Lacey Act. Hobbyists' current activities would 
not become crimes provided their snakes stayed in-State or were 
exported directly out of the country from a designated port within 
their State's borders.

Unintended Consequences

    (29) Comment: Pet owners will release their snakes and the problem 
will be worse. The Lacey Act will do nothing to help the problem; if 
anything, it would have an adverse effect on the environment. Snake 
breeders who had been fully responsible beforehand may release their 
now worthless investments into the wild in retaliation of the rule 
change. Caring snake owners that cannot move across State lines with 
their beloved pets may instead release them as a means of avoiding 
forced euthanasia. The trust of responsible snake owners would be 
debilitated, and a large portion of snake owners deliberately becoming 
irresponsible poses a much larger risk than a few isolated 
irresponsible owners.
    Our Response: Many commenters stated that responsible owners would 
release or euthanize their snakes if this rule passed. We do not 
believe that this would be the case since pet owners will still be 
allowed to keep their snakes and sell or give them away within their 
State. We have posted some suggestions on http://www.regulations.gov at 
the time the proposed rule was published on March 12, 2010 (see 
separate file ``Questions and Answers''), for how to find a home for a 
snake that a person can no longer keep. Please see our response to 
Comment 12, where they are repeated.
    With social networking so available on the Internet, a person 
moving to another State could possibly find a reptile enthusiast in 
their current State to adopt the pet. When the person moved to the new 
State, the person could contact reptile enthusiasts in the new State to 
see if any snakes were available for adopting. While that is not the 
same as keeping the same snake, it does present a responsible 
alternative.
    We believe that most people will choose to keep their snakes and 
also, of those owners who can't because they are moving to another 
State or similar situation, they have options as presented above. While 
some misinformed pet owners or breeders might release their snakes, we 
do not believe that this will be widespread. The Service believes that 
the potential illegal conduct of a few irresponsible pet owners should 
not cause us to refrain from listing species that we have determined to 
be injurious.
    (30) Comment: This rule will create a lucrative black market in the 
trade of these nine species that will cost billions in tax dollars to 
enforce. Ultimately the animals will suffer. There will always be 
unscrupulous dealers who will take advantage of prohibition.

[[Page 3353]]

    Our Response: The commenter provides no supporting evidence that a 
black market will be created. Therefore, we assume that the commenter 
is basing the statement on historical events with other species. We do 
not know if a black market will be created. We agree that there will 
always be unscrupulous dealers who will take advantage of people. 
However, we believe that the pet owners prefer to be law-abiding 
citizens and would find legal ways of dealing with new situations. We 
should note that this comment, as all others, was based on the proposed 
rule with nine species of constrictor snakes.
    (31) Comment: This rule will cause airlines to embargo snakes. They 
will refuse to transport them.
    Our Response: We hope that this rule does not influence airlines to 
implement an unnecessary embargo on transporting snakes within the 
injurious wildlife provisions of the Lacey Act (that is, intrastate or 
with a permit). It is our understanding that, unrelated to this rule or 
any injurious wildlife listing, there are some carriers that have 
declined to transport live animals or specific dangerous animals. 
Shippers with the appropriate Federal permits, specifying how the 
animals should be transported in escape-proof containers, should be 
able to find a carrier.

Environmental Threat

    (32) Comment: The peer[hyphen]reviewed research (``Giant 
Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and an Establishment 
Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, Anacondas, and the 
Boa Constrictor'') quantified the ecological risk that nine species of 
large constrictor snakes pose to the United States, looking at both the 
probability that the snakes would become established and the resulting 
consequences. Burmese pythons will eat a wide variety of reptiles, 
birds, and mammals of all sizes, and can deplete vulnerable species.
    Our Response: We agree that there is an environmental threat to 
native species in the United States, including the territories and 
possessions. We have explained this threat in our Environmental 
Assessment and in the sections ``Potential Impacts to Native Species 
(Including Threatened and Endangered Species'' for each species above). 
We concur that this threat is part of the justification for listing the 
four species as injurious.
    (33) Comment: The Burmese python invasion is an ecological calamity 
in progress. It is directly undermining the multibillion-dollar, 
nationally supported Everglades restoration project because the 
monitoring and success of that project are tied to measures of native 
wildlife ``indicator'' populations, which are now being consumed and 
reduced by these human-introduced predators. Had the Service considered 
the risk of the Burmese python under its Lacey Act listing authority 20 
years ago, the agency might have prevented this invasion.
    Our Response: The South Florida Water Management District 
petitioned us to list the Burmese python in 2006 because the species 
was undermining their Everglades restoration effort. We agree that, if 
we had listed the species 20 years ago, the current problem might have 
been averted. This evidence gives further support to list the other 
three species of large constrictor snakes before this situation happens 
with other species or with Burmese pythons in other parts of the 
country.

Political Pressure

    (34) Comment: Politics is running the process. This entire movement 
is driven by animal rights extremists with deep pockets and a political 
agenda, and not science and reason. It is designed to end the trade in 
nonnative wildlife.
    Our Response: We disagree that politics is involved in this 
determination. We received a petition from the South Florida Water 
Management District in 2006 to list the Burmese python. They were 
concerned about the ecological danger posed by Burmese pythons to the 
health of the Everglades. In our effort to address this petition, we 
realized that other species of large constrictors were becoming 
increasingly commonly found in Florida, and, therefore, we expanded our 
evaluation to include other species. The Service has been criticized in 
the past for being too late in listing species as injurious. We took a 
proactive approach to prevent future problems.
    The regulatory process to list the four species was guided by 
biologists. We received peer-reviewed scientific documentation (the 
risk assessment) from a separate bureau (see Response to Comment 35 on 
USGS politics). We also received comments from five independent peer 
reviewers on the proposed rule and supporting documents. This rule is 
an action to regulate the importation and interstate transport of four 
species of large constrictor snakes that have been found to be 
injurious. Much of the trade in these species of snakes can continue 
legally (except where States have their own prohibiting laws). We 
received tens of thousands of comments from both animal rights 
supporters and pet trade supporters. We considered the comments of all 
submitters equally.
    (35) Comment: It is not hard to understand why the USGS and 
biologists would be strongly interested in seeing more species added to 
the Injurious Wildlife List. They have decades of experience getting 
funding for injurious snake research; they are expert at it. Because of 
this history and the fiscal incentives involved, there exists a 
tangible potential for bias, impropriety, and a lack of impartiality. 
Due to the obvious possibility of conflict of interest and bias, the 
USGS should have recused itself from the contract and funding to create 
this report. So far, the USGS ``report'' provides the only scientific 
evidence (if one can actually call it scientific) that would justify 
any Federal regulatory action regarding these nine tropical snake 
species.
    Our Response: The Service, the National Park Service, and the USGS 
carefully segregated their roles in this rulemaking process so that 
policy objectives did not bias scientific results. USGS does not 
undertake any regulatory efforts associated with injurious wildlife so 
that it may concentrate specifically on the science of the issues. The 
Service and the National Park Service contracted with USGS to prepare 
the report on risk assessment because of USGS's extensive expertise on 
the subject. Part of this expertise comes from their similar work on 
brown tree snakes, listed by Congress as injurious in 1990. The risk 
assessment on the constrictor snakes provided an extensive review of 
the literature of the species, and while this information was used by 
the risk assessment authors to provide measures of risk on each 
species, the extensive literature review was also used separately by 
the biologists who wrote the rule. Therefore, the rule and the risk 
assessment were developed from independent scientific papers from 
authors all around the world.
    In addition, the peer reviewers of the proposed rule and supporting 
documents state that the rule is scientifically justified and an 
appropriate step to protect native wildlife in the United States from 
the risks posed by the nine large constrictor snakes. The 2011 USGS 
document entitled ``Challenges in Identifying Sites Climatically 
Matched to the Native Ranges of Animal Invaders'' also underwent peer 
review before it was published. Please see also Comment 67 on the USGS 
peer review process.
    (36) Comment: The rule was steered by the USGS.
    Our Response: The USGS's role was to prepare one of the supporting 
documents (``Giant Constrictors: Biological and Management Profiles and

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an Establishment Risk Assessment for Nine Large Species of Pythons, 
Anacondas, and the Boa Constrictor''). The rule was written by the 
Service, using the risk assessment document for its excellent summaries 
of the biology of the four species, as well as for its assessment of 
the risks. However, the Service uses the criteria set forth by the 
Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force (ANSTF 1996) to determine risks and 
its own injurious wildlife evaluation criteria to determine which 
species should be listed. The Service seriously considered each 
species, using biological information compiled by the USGS risk 
assessment authors and other available information. Because the risk 
assessment authors did such a thorough job of comprehensively compiling 
literature (more than 600 references) on the nine species, we were able 
to utilize the report extensively for our own injurious wildlife 
evaluation of the four species in this rule. This compilation of 
references in one location greatly facilitated our evaluations but 
should not be construed that USGS influenced our determinations.

Misinterpretation of the Rule

    (37) Comment: The government does not have the right to ban animals 
that are so widely kept as pets. It's unconstitutional. It is my 
constitutional right to be able to express myself and I do that through 
reptiles.
    Our Response: Many commenters believed that the rule will ban 
possession of the four species of constrictor snakes. This is not true. 
An injurious wildlife designation prohibits importation into the United 
States and transport across State lines (including the District of 
Columbia and U.S. territories and possessions). Pet owners will be 
allowed to keep their pets, sell them, or give them away within their 
own State, if allowed by State law. No constitutional rights are being 
violated.

Confusion With S 373 (Senate Bill 373)

    (38) Comment: S 373 should (or should not) be enacted.
    Our Response: Many commenters cited S 373 as the action they were 
commenting on. We assume these commenters were referring to Senate bill 
373, which was introduced by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida in February 
2009. The bill passed a committee vote but received no further action 
in Congress and was not passed into law. The Service was called to 
testify at a hearing regarding this bill and to present background 
information. The bill is a separate but parallel action to the 
Service's rule to list the constrictor snakes. We can only address 
comments regarding our specific rule. To ensure their comments on S 373 
are heard, the public should submit those comments to their Federal 
legislators. There are also two companion bills in the House: HR 2811 
to ``include constrictor snakes of the species Python genera as an 
injurious animal,'' and HR 511 to add large constrictors to the 
``injurious wildlife'' list under the Lacey Act (title 18 U.S.C. 
42(a)(1)).

More Burdens on Service

    (39) Comment: This proposal will most likely create more burdens on 
the already taxed Office [Division] of Management Authority and 
enforcement sections of the Service.
    Our Response: Both the Division of Management Authority and the 
Office of Law Enforcement are fully prepared to handle any increase in 
work that may result from this rule. We anticipate that the rule will 
not generate a significantly large increase in permit applications 
being submitted or increase in inspections at the ports. Currently, the 
Division of Management Authority receives more than 6,000 applications 
and issues more than 20,000 permits annually. Based on other listing 
activities involving species that are traded more frequently than the 
listed constrictors, the Division of Management Authority anticipates 
an increase of no more than one or two percent annually.
    While the listing of species as injurious that are already widely 
kept and sold as pets will present unique law enforcement challenges 
with respect to interstate transport, the interception of injurious 
wildlife to prevent both entry into the United States and spread of 
such species once they are in the country constitutes an investigative 
priority for Service Law Enforcement when such transport represents a 
threat to U.S. wildlife resources and habitat. The fact that this 
listing would create additional work for enforcement officers does not 
outweigh the ecological importance of addressing the problems created 
by the continued import and interstate transport of these snakes.
    (40) Comment: Will the Department of the Interior properly fund 
this rule change when more pressing and immediate crises to the 
environment are happening?
    Our Response: This comment is outside of the scope of the rule. The 
funding to support this rule change after it takes effect would be in 
the form of law enforcement and permit processing. Please see our 
response to Comment 39, which addresses those subjects.
    (41) Comment: At our zoo, we are concerned that the permit process 
will be affected by causing a backlog of permit applications.
    Our Response: The Service's Division of Management Authority 
recently conducted an extensive reorganization to specifically address 
how it is handling its workload. While processing time for any 
application can vary due to completeness of the application, current 
workload being handled by the Division, or seasonal variations 
resulting from climatic factors, the Division is committed to 
processing any injurious wildlife application in the most timely and 
efficient manner possible. We anticipate that there would be fewer than 
100 applications (if nine species listed) requesting authorization to 
conduct activities under this rule, and applications would typically be 
completed within 30 days. Since any permit issued for interstate 
transport of a listed species is valid for 1 year or more and covers a 
specific geographic range where activities could occur, we do not 
anticipate that a 30-day processing time would result in any 
significant impacts to a zoo's ability to carry out educational work 
outside their State of operation.

Predecisional Proposed Rule

    (42) Comment: The proposed rule is predecisional. It is 
prejudicially constructed and telegraphs a predetermined end.
    Our Response: By the nature of a proposed rule (in general for all 
agencies), the agency publishes what it is proposing to be the 
regulation. Therefore, all proposed rules indicate the agency's 
position on a particular situation. A final rule may differ from what 
an agency proposes, but it may be exactly the same as the proposed 
rule. The purpose of the proposed rule is to obtain additional 
information, give the public notice of the proposal, and give the 
public the opportunity for comment. We review all the comments for new 
information and evaluation of our proposal, as we did for this rule. In 
this case, we received no information that changed our evaluation of 
the four constrictor species. We clearly stated in our proposed rule 
that ``We are evaluating each of the nine species of constrictor snakes 
individually and will list only those species that we determine to be 
injurious.'' Thus, we made it clear that we left it open for us to list 
fewer than nine species, or none at all, if none was determined to be 
injurious based on new information. The five other species in the 
proposed rule (reticulated python, DeSchauensee's anaconda, green 
anaconda, Beni anaconda, and boa

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constrictor) remain under consideration for listing as injurious.
    If an agency feels that it could benefit from additional 
information before proposing a rule, it may publish an advanced notice 
of proposed rulemaking (a Notice of Inquiry; NOI) to gather more 
information. The new information is used to develop a proposed rule. We 
published such a notice on January 31, 2008 (73 FR 5784), from which we 
received more information to apply to the proposed rule.
    (43) Comment: The Service failed to make a good faith effort to 
gather new information.
    Our Response: The Service provided ample notice and opportunity to 
comment on the proposed action. Here are examples of the opportunities 
provided by the Service to the public and stakeholders:
     The Service published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal 
Register on January 31, 2008 (73 FR 5784), as an advanced notice of 
proposed rulemaking. It explained why we were considering listing the 
genera Python, Boa, and Eunectes (which included more species than the 
four that we are listing in this final rule), what information we 
needed, and how the public could submit information to us. We provided 
a 90-day comment period (ending April 30, 2008), which is a standard 
length of time.
     On February 29, 2008, we participated in a panel 
discussion arranged by the pet industry. Representatives of the Pet 
Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) were present. Our 
representative opened the discussion by stating: ``This Notice of 
Inquiry is an information gathering process. I really want to stress 
that this is NOT a proposed rule or action. As part of processing the 
petition we received to list Burmese pythons as injurious, we opened up 
this comment period to gather information on especially which species, 
particularly snakes such as the Burmese python, within these three 
genera might be a threat to native wildlife and wildlife resources. If 
there is a snake that has not yet been imported into the United States 
that might pose a threat to native wildlife, this information would be 
very useful. By the way, we worked with PIJAC in addressing some of the 
concerns, and we answered a short set of Q&As with Reptiles Magazine. 
Please take a look when you get a chance--http://www.reptilechannel.com/reptile-news/conservation-and-legal/pijac-constrictor-regulations.aspx.''
     We participated in several chatrooms with stakeholders on 
http://www.pethobbyist.com in February or March 2008.
     The Service was interviewed by PIJAC about the NOI, and 
the interview was posted by ReptileChannel.com in 2008 (http://www.reptilechannel.com/reptile-news/conservation-and-legal/pijac-constrictor-regulations.aspx). The Service explained why we were 
considering action, what information we were seeking, and how the 
public could provide their information. This interview is still posted 
as of this writing. When we were asked ``Why are you also requesting 
economic information?'' we answered, ``We currently have little 
information about the value of domestic trade in these species, and it 
is our responsibility as part of this process to gather a range of 
information on the species of interest. This includes economic data.''
     The Service was interviewed for a story on the constrictor 
snake NOI, and the story published in REPTILES magazine (Vol. 16, No. 
5; May 2008).
     On March 12, 2010, we published in the Federal Register 
(75 FR 11808) the proposed rule to list nine species of large 
constrictor snakes, all of which were included in the genera from the 
NOI, and for which we asked for new information. We provided a 60-day 
comment period for the public (ending on May 11, 2010), also a standard 
length of time. We provided the proposed rule, draft economic analysis, 
draft environmental assessment, and risk assessment to the public on 
http://www.regulations.gov.
     The Service met with the Small Business Administration 
(SBA) on April 20, 2010, to discuss what information the SBA needed and 
what we needed. This meeting was within the public comment period for 
the proposed rule.
     The Service met with SBA on April 21 for a roundtable 
meeting with pet industry, zoo, and medical research representatives. 
This meeting was within the public comment period for the proposed 
rule.
     Because of several requests for an extension of the 
comment period, we added another 30-day comment period from July 1 to 
August 2, 2010 (75 FR 38069; July 1, 2010).
     We met with the SBA again on January 13, 2011, to discuss 
issues raised by SBA during the public comment periods.
    In summary, the public has known since January of 2008 that we were 
considering listing these three genera, or species from them, as 
injurious. We provided a total of 180 days for receiving public 
information and comment and participated in several meetings with 
stakeholders. We believe that we have made a good faith effort to 
gather information from the public.

Inconsistent Use of Injurious Wildlife Listings

    (44) Comment: The manner in which the Service has handled invasive 
species has been inconsistent. For example, in Western Colorado, feral 
``wild'' horses and ring-necked pheasants are afforded wildlife 
protection status. Both are nonindigenous, introduced, or invasive 
species that compete with endemic species.
    Our Response: It is correct that some nonnative species, such as 
feral (wild) horses and ring-necked pheasants may receive protection 
under other laws. The protection for wild horses comes from the Wild 
Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (Pub. L. 92-195). Congress 
gave authority to the Secretary of the Interior under this public law 
to manage and protect wild horses on lands managed by the Bureau of 
Land Management and the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for 
Forest Service lands. As for the pheasants, we agree that pheasants 
compete with native species. However, it is not correct that the 
Service affords them protection. In fact, the ring-necked pheasant is 
specifically not protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and is 
also exempt from the Wild Bird Conservation Act. Individual States, 
however, such as Colorado, may provide their own protections under 
State laws.

Permitting

    (45) Comment: The Service should support a law for reptiles modeled 
after the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992. Such a law would limit 
the importation of wild reptiles into the USA while allowing captive 
breeding of species currently in the United States, and allowing the 
interstate and international transportation of captive-bred animals.
    Our Response: The comment is referring to the Wild Bird 
Conservation Act of 1992 (WBCA), which allows for obtaining a permit 
for personal pets under 50 CFR 15.25. The WBCA was enacted on October 
23, 1992, to ensure that native populations of exotic bird species are 
not negatively impacted by international trade to the United States. 
The Service may issue permits to allow import of listed birds for 
scientific research, zoological breeding or display, or personal pet 
purposes when the applicant meets certain criteria (such as a 
personally owned pet of an individual who is returning to the United 
States after being continuously out of the country for a minimum of 1 
year, except that an individual may not import more

[[Page 3356]]

than two exotic birds under this paragraph in any year). The Service 
was given this authority by Congress. However, the Service does not 
have a similar authority from Congress under the Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 
42). If, by the words ``support a law,'' the commenter is asking us to 
write a final rule that includes a permit process for pets, we cannot 
do that under our current authority. By statute, we can approve permits 
only for zoological, educational, medical, or scientific purposes.
    (46) Comment: If the permitting process is not made considerably 
more efficient and flexible, individuals and institutions engaging in 
these purposes are likely to be negatively impacted.
    Our Response: We agree that the permitting process must be an 
efficient and effective process to ensure that activities that are 
allowable under the Act are authorized in a timely manner. The Division 
of Management Authority, which is responsible for the permitting 
process under the Act, has recently undergone a significant 
restructuring and organization. We do not anticipate that the number of 
permit applications that will be generated due to this listing would be 
significant. However, we believe that the restructuring of the Division 
will allow for a more efficient and effective permitting process for 
all permit applications received by the Division, not only the ones 
requesting authorization for activities otherwise prohibited under this 
Act.

Economic Effect

    (47) Comment: Families dependent on reptile breeding businesses 
will lose their businesses.
    Our Response: Most commenters who claimed an expected loss of 
business did not explain why this would occur. However, some did 
explain that they sell one or more of the proposed species mainly or 
entirely out-of-State or out of the country. Some stated which species 
they sell, and some did not specify. However, those breeders who 
specialize in breeding only the species listed by this rule as 
injurious and who sell mainly or entirely out-of-State or out of the 
country, we agree that this rule will greatly affect them. However, 
those breeders who live in the States with designated ports (Alaska, 
California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, 
Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, 
Texas, and Washington) may continue to export through the designated 
port in their State, although they may not continue to ship to other 
States. For those breeders of other reptiles, this rule will not affect 
them. Those breeders who supply skins of the listed species for the 
designer clothing industry, such as for boots and belts, will still be 
able to ship skins across State lines, export them, and import them.
    (48) Comment: The rule will ruin a $3 billion industry.
    Our Response: This comment was based on the proposed rule, and the 
boa constrictor, reticulated python, and three anaconda species were 
included in the economic calculations. The commenters did not explain 
how they arrived at the $3 billion figure. While the Service is not 
sure of the basis of this dollar amount, this figure was used by USARK 
in a report to OMB on March 1, 2010: ``The trade in high quality 
captive-bred reptiles is a $3 billion dollar [sic] annual industry. The 
animals potentially addressed by rule change make up approximately \1/
3\ of the total dollar value trade annually.'' Another significant 
dollar figure was identified in an article in ``The Economist'' (Feb. 
11, 2010): ``Revenue from the sale of boas and pythons amounts to 
around $1.6 billion-1.8 billion each year.'' We point out that the 
category of the ``sale of boas and pythons'' did not specify what 
species were included, but most likely would include ball pythons, 
which makes up by far the largest segment (78.6 percent) of the three 
genera of constrictor snakes that were imported into the United States 
from 2008 to 2010 (see USFWS Final Economic Analysis 2011) and are a 
very large segment of the domestic reptile trade. However, the same 
article in ``The Economist'' states, ``The recession, however, has hurt 
what used to be a lucrative hobby. Fewer people want to splurge on 
snakes that cost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars. 
According to Brian Barczyk, a snake-breeder, demand for ``pet-grade'' 
snakes, which cost under $50, has sunk even more than demand for 
``investment-grade'' ones, because the average person is hesitant to 
buy a new pet.'' We also note that part of the snake breeding industry 
is for the sale of snake skins, and this part of the industry should 
not be affected (dead snakes or parts thereof are not listed as 
injurious).
    We agree that our rule will negatively affect some aspects of the 
reptile industry, but we have no evidence to suggest that the 
prohibition on importation and interstate transportation of four 
species of snakes will cause the ruin of a $3 billion industry or even 
to the extent of $1.6 billion. On the contrary, our final economic 
analysis shows the estimated potential annual retail value losses 
associated with all four listed species, plus the five species for 
which the decision is deferred, as $14.7 to $30.1 million and a total 
annual decrease in economic output as $42.0 to $86.2 million.
    We brought these high dollar figures of ``The Economist'' and 
others to the attention of the Small Business Administration on April 
20, 2010, and with SBA and the reptile industry (with pet industry, 
zoo, and medical research representatives) on April 21, 2010, at a 
roundtable meeting (at which the representative of USARK was present). 
We specifically asked the reptile industry representatives for 
information on how the dollar figures were derived. We received no 
explanation then or after. We do not know if that figure includes other 
species besides the nine covered in the proposed rule, or if it 
includes indirect effects. However, we did locate some information on 
USARK's Web site: ``USARK Reptile Industry Economic Summary for the 
Office of Management & Budget RE: USFWS Proposed Rule Change to 
Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act; March 1, 2010.'' This report, 
available to the public but not directly provided to the Service, 
itemizes the captive breeding trade, for a total of $1.8 billion. Much 
of that sum is not specifically for the nine species in the proposed 
rule. For example, the $240,000 annual equipment sales could easily be 
used for other nonlisted snake species, or even other reptiles, 
amphibians, small mammals, or fish. The ``Annual high end animal sales 
$60 million'' is a separate line item from the ``Present Asset Value of 
approximately 2 million breeding age animals--$800,000,000.'' It is not 
clear why these are not included with the breeding age animals.
    As stated above, our final economic analysis shows an annual retail 
value decrease ranging from $14.7 to $30.1 million and an economic 
output decrease of $42.0 to $86.2 million for the nine species that we 
proposed to list (USFWS Final Economic Analysis 2011). While this is 
not insignificant, it is a small fraction of the $1.8 billion cited 
above. In addition, we note that the importation of constrictor snakes 
of the genera Python, Boa, and Eunectes declined steadily from the peak 
in 2002 (the three genera = 233,705; 9 species = 48,006 snakes) to the 
low in 2010 (the three genera = 83,940; 9 species = 15,792 snakes; Fig. 
1, USFWS Final Economic Analysis 2011). The decline in imports started 
well before we received the petition in 2006 that initiated our 
regulatory process. It is unlikely that the reduced imports were due to 
our impending rule. The decline in imports could be due to decreased 
availability of captive-bred or wild-

[[Page 3357]]

caught snakes in the export countries, the decreased demand in the 
United States, or the availability of domestically bred species. Thus, 
the existing decline in importation seems to be unrelated to our 
regulatory process, and future declines should not necessarily be 
attributed to the listing of the four species.

Economic Analysis

    (49) Comment: The rule will have a detrimental economic impact on 
breeders and hobbyists, food producers, and caging and accessories 
producers.
    Our Response: The Service recognizes that the rule will curtail 
imports and interstate trade in the four snake species. The supporting 
documentation accompanying this rule--the final Economic Analysis and 
the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis--estimates the impacts on 
small businesses, as required by the Small Business Regulatory 
Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), and the benefits and costs of the 
rule, as required by Executive Orders (E.O.) 13563 and 12866. This 
analysis uses a regional input-output model to determine the impacts on 
supporting industries, such as snake-related care and food suppliers.
    (50) Comment: The Service does not possess the information needed 
to do a credible benefit-cost or regulatory flexibility analysis on 
rules regarding constrictor snakes.
    Our Response: The data needs for conducting a comprehensive 
analysis of any industry are very intense. Most commenters agreed with 
our conclusion that there is very little reliable public information 
available about the snake industry. E.O. 12866 states that ``Each 
agency shall base its decisions on the best reasonably obtainable 
economic information'' (Section 1.b.7). The Regulatory Flexibility Act 
allows that the initial and final regulatory flexibility analyses may 
contain ``more general descriptive statements if quantification is not 
practicable or reliable'' (5 U.S.C. 607). We received information 
during the public comment period that we used to prepare the final 
economic analysis. While other information was also received, it tended 
to be anecdotal, describing impacts to a specific firm or individual, 
which is insufficient to describe industry-wide impacts. However, we 
used some anecdotal information to better describe how some firms or 
individuals will be impacted. The Service believes the analysis is 
based on the best reasonably obtainable information at this time.
    (51) Comment: The Service ignored information submitted by industry 
participants and trade associations in response to its 2008 Notice of 
Inquiry. In addition, the Service misused the information it was 
provided by respondents to the notice.
    Our Response: Industry responses to the 2008 Notice of Inquiry (73 
FR 5784; January 31, 2008) were a primary source of information for the 
economic analysis. Trade association data were the only source for most 
of the sales and price information in the economic analysis, and the 
associations are cited repeatedly in the report. The Service sought 
clarification of the data provided by a trade association with a 
representative of the association and the consultant who prepared the 
submission. The additional information obtained from the conversations 
was applied in the draft economic analysis.
    Many industry participants provided anecdotal information about 
their situation or made quantitative assertions. While informative, we 
cannot extrapolate anecdotal data about individuals or businesses to 
describe the industry as a whole. However, in the final economic 
analysis, some anecdotal information from the public comments is used 
to better depict potential impacts.
    (52) Comment: The Service employs baseless assumptions to estimate 
the information it lacks.
    Our Response: Using informed assumptions for reasonable ranges to 
fill data gaps is a well-recognized economic technique. By applying a 
range of prices and quantities, the economic analysis derives the 
approximate scale of retail sales from the partial information 
available. The analysis is transparent and the assumptions can be 
easily replaced with more reliable information when it becomes 
available. Additional information, such as interstate sales from 
Florida, was received during the most recent public comment period. 
This information was used to revise the draft economic analysis to more 
accurately depict the impact to industry. Industry profiles were not 
submitted during public comment and are not publicly available. 
Therefore, some assumptions are still necessary in the economic 
analysis.
    (53) Comment: The economic analysis ignores wholesalers, 
transporters, and vendors of food and ancillary equipment.
    Our Response: The economic analysis includes an input-output 
analysis that takes into account all of the industries that contribute 
to delivering the product to the consumer. Wholesalers and equipment 
used in the production of snakes for sale are included in the input-
output analysis based on retail sales. Shipping cost information on 
individual sales has been obtained since the availability of the draft 
economic analysis. This information was used to revise the economic 
analysis.
    (54) Comment: The Service also ignores pricing premiums for snakes, 
particularly for color morphs, dwarfs, etc.
    Our Response: The aggregate information available and provided by 
the trade associations was insufficient to segment the market for 
different classes of snake for the draft economic analysis. The 
knowledge that ``pricing premiums reach up to 60 times the price of a 
`normal' snake,'' (PIJAC, 8/2/2010, FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015-4531.1, page 
4) suggests that there are at least two market segments for a species--
one for `normal' snakes and one for high-end collectible snakes. We 
received additional pricing information that more accurately depicts 
pricing premiums, and we used it in the revised economic analysis.
    (55) Comment: The Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) 
underestimates the economic impact on small entities.
    Our Response: We revised the IRFA to incorporate new information 
submitted during the course of the public comment period.
    (56) Comment: The IRFA does not discuss significant alternatives.
    Our Response: The subject of this proposed rule is adding species 
to the list of injurious species under the Lacey Act, at 50 CFR 16.15. 
Management of feral snake populations is a much broader topic that the 
Service is vigorously pursuing but that is not within the purview of 
this rulemaking. Therefore, the alternatives considered in the 
environmental assessment are the only relevant choices.
    (57) Comment: The draft economic analysis fails to quantify the 
benefits of the proposed rule.
    Our Response: The benefits of the rule include both avoided costs 
of extirpating feral snake populations and maintained ecological 
services from areas that might have been harmed by released snakes. 
There is little information available about either of these sources 
that would allow the quantification of benefits. OMB Circular A-4, 
guidance for implementing E.O. 12866, recognizes that benefits are 
rarely fully quantified and recommends a qualitative discussion of the 
sources of benefits. We added this discussion to the Final Economic 
Analysis.
    (58) Comment: The draft economic analysis lacks clarity in its 
exposition.
    Our Response: The draft economic analysis made available with the 
proposed rule published in the Federal

[[Page 3358]]

Register (75 FR 11808; March 12, 2010) is only a small pr[eacute]cis of 
a much larger study. Per public comments received, the Service has 
added additional clarification to the Final Economic Analysis. Please 
refer to the full revised final economic analysis and regulatory 
flexibility analysis, which are available in the docket for this rule 
(at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015).

Biological

    (59) Comment: With the exception of predation by a Python molurus 
bivittatus on endangered Key Largo woodrats (Neotoma floridana smalli), 
there is no evidence of significant adverse environmental, human 
health, or economic impacts by these feral populations.
    Our Response: We found ample occurrences of adverse effects by 
pythons. Burmese pythons are large generalist predators that consume a 
wide variety of vertebrates in their native range. Examination of the 
stomach contents of Burmese pythons from in and around Everglades 
National Park has yielded 455 prey items composed of 340 mammals, 107 
birds, 8 crocodilians, and one unidentified sample. These prey items 
included 60 individual round-tailed muskrats (Neofiber alleni), a 
native species that researchers and National Park Service biologists 
have not observed in Everglades National Park for years and worry may 
be becoming extirpated.
    In congressional testimony, Dr. Frank Mazzotti, University of 
Florida, reported on declines in marsh rabbit abundance and round-
tailed muskrats. He stated, ``In Everglades National Park the presence 
of pythons has been related to the absence of marsh rabbits and Florida 
muskrats. We are very concerned about impacts of pythons on Everglades 
fauna, and the difficulties involved in removing a large cryptic 
predator from a large expansive wetland wilderness area'' (Mazzotti 
2010).
    In addition, two federally endangered species, the Key Largo 
woodrat and the wood stork (Mycteria americana), have been found in 
Burmese python stomach samples. The limpkin (Aramus guarauna) and white 
ibis (Eudocimus albus), which are State-listed species of special 
concern in Florida, have also been identified in stomach contents of 
Burmese pythons. Dove et al. (2011) found 25 species of birds 
representing 9 avian orders from remains in digestive tracts of 85 
Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) collected in Everglades 
National Park; this included the federally endangered wood stork and 4 
species of State concern.
    Based upon what we know of the diet of Burmese pythons and other 
large constrictor snakes in their native ranges and in Florida, we 
believe that federally protected species, such as the Cape Sable 
seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis), Florida panther 
(Felis concolor coryi), and American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) are 
at risk of predation by these constrictors. Reed and Rodda (2009) lists 
a total of 64 State-listed threatened or endangered species at risk 
from Burmese pythons or other giant constrictors in Florida. Please 
read the response to comment number 65 below for economic costs 
(impacts).
    (60) Comment: The majority of these species have never been 
documented as being introduced into new environments. Despite having 
been detected in the vicinity of the Everglades since the 1970s, 
Burmese pythons are still limited to that general area.
    Our Response: Of the four species addressed in this rule, one is 
not yet reported in trade and another is involved in trade in very 
minor amounts. Thus, their listing is intended to prevent their 
establishment in the wild through escapes or releases. The remaining 
species, the Burmese python, is clearly established in southern Florida 
and has been observed in the wild in 15 Florida counties and several 
other States with suitable climates for its establishment. Although 
individual pythons had been regularly observed in the Everglades region 
since the mid-1990s, it was not until 2006 that a reproducing 
population was documented to be present there. By that time, the 
population had become well established over a sizeable area.
    (61) Comment: The Burmese python population in south Florida was 
significantly reduced by the 2009-2010 winter cold weather.
    Our Response: The comment is referring to two combined issues. One 
is the fact that snakes are ectothermic (cold-blooded), meaning that 
their body temperature adjusts to be approximately what the surrounding 
air temperature is. Thus, when the air temperature falls, a snake's 
body temperature drops--unlike humans, who maintain a nearly constant 
body temperature. This biologic effect is true for native snakes as 
well as the large constrictor snakes.
    The second issue is the record cold temperatures during January of 
2010. In fact, according to NOAA National Weather Service from Miami, 
January 2 to 13, 2010, was the coldest 12-day period since 1940 or 
earlier (NOAA 2010). A record was set for 12 straight days with the 
temperature at or below 45 [deg]F (7.2 [deg]C). Other minimum 
temperatures were broken. It has been 70 years since there were such 
sustained low temperatures.
    We explain here why the observation that most of the large 
constrictors perished from the January 2010 unusually cold weather 
event in South Florida is misleading and speculative. In the months 
since that unusual cold-weather event, hundreds of adults and 24 
Burmese python hatchlings were found alive and captured in Everglades 
National Park. During 2010, 322 Burmese live or recently dead pythons 
were captured or removed from in and around Everglades National Park, 
of which 67 were removed from October 18 to December 31, 2010, which is 
many months after the cold spell ended. The number of Burmese pythons 
found dead in 2010 (322) is only a 10 percent reduction from numbers 
removed in 2009 (367 total). A multi-agency effort is under way to 
survey for and capture the Northern African python, another of the 
constrictor snake species proposed for listing as injurious that is now 
established west of Miami, before its range expands farther up the 
Florida peninsula.
    Reliable population estimates of any of the large constrictor snake 
species in south Florida before the cold temperatures occurred are 
nonexistent, and scientists do not have any population estimates since 
the cold spell. Therefore, it will be difficult to judge the 
demographic impact of the cold temperatures. Subjectively, the freeze 
appears to have had a greater effect on pythons in the shallow marsh 
habitats, where underground and deep water refuge was absent. It is 
known that pythons can seek locations such as underground burrows, deep 
water such as in canals, or similar microhabitats to escape the cold 
temperatures. In a study conducted in the Everglades, nine of ten 
radio-tracked snakes in shallow marsh habitat perished either from the 
cold temperatures or from complications experienced as a consequence of 
the cold (individuals were removed from the wild at that point, which 
may have induced additional stress). However, many live snakes were 
observed while conducting walking surveys for the radio-tracked snakes. 
These snakes were apparently able to maintain body temperatures using 
microhabitat features of the landscape (Mazzotti et al., 2010).
    Large numbers of Burmese pythons in the heart of the Everglades 
survived, as evidenced by a mating aggregation of four adults found in 
March 2010 and several large adults found in April 2010. A gravid 
(pregnant) female northern

[[Page 3359]]

African python was captured in the Bird Drive Basin Recharge area west 
of Miami in January 2010 immediately after the freeze. This snake was 
captured only after an unprecedented mass effort of more than 50 
searchers looking for her as she escaped repeatedly into a deepwater 
canal. Later (December 2010 to January 2011) multi-agency efforts led 
to the capture of several Northern African pythons. Thus, the large 
constrictors of several species continue to be present and to breed in 
south Florida. Surveys will be conducted in the next several years to 
begin quantifying the distribution and abundance of the population, but 
in the absence of comparable statistics from before the cold 
temperatures, assessments of the cold weather impacts will only be 
indirect and will involve considerable speculation. Despite the record 
cold, we know that many pythons and boas survived. If thermoregulatory 
behavior or tolerance to cold is genetically based, we would expect 
large constrictor snake populations to persist, rebound, and possibly 
increase their genetic fitness and temperature tolerance as a result of 
natural selection pressures resulting from the unusually cold weather 
conditions in south Florida in January 2010.
    (62) Comment: There is no scientific information indicating that 
large body size increases the likelihood that a species will become 
invasive. In fact, the opposite is likely the case since large-bodied 
animals are more readily evident and thus more likely to be removed 
from the environment before they can establish a viable population.
    Our Response: The list of traits shared by the giant constrictors 
includes many of the traits that either increase the severity of their 
probable ecological impacts or exacerbate the challenge of controlling 
or eradicating them. The cryptic coloration of these snakes is a common 
form of camouflage where the snake is similar to its surroundings, 
making them very difficult to detect and be removed from the 
environment. Burmese pythons have established viable populations partly 
because they are hard to detect, have high reproductivity, and occupy a 
variety of habitat types. Thus, in comparison to potential invaders 
lacking these traits, this group of snakes constitutes a particularly 
high risk. A large body size would be a disadvantage for an animal 
whose size sets it off from its surrounding environment, such as a 
bear, which stands 1-1.2 m (3-4 ft) above ground level. Even the 
largest constrictors extend only a foot above ground level, easily 
concealed by ground vegetation. A large body size would also be a 
disadvantage for predators that hunt actively on a regular basis, 
because they would stand out more. Neither of these situations is true 
for the large constrictors, which are primarily sit-and-wait predators 
and which move along very low to the ground. These attributes, combined 
with the fact that these snakes have no similar ecological equivalents 
in the United States with respect to size of prey items they can 
consume, will make them a novel predator on na[iuml]ve wildlife that 
may otherwise not even have native predators (such as Florida panther).
    (63) Comment: Which of the nine species of constrictor snakes are 
definitely reproducing in the wild in the United States?
    Our Response: Of the four large constrictor snakes included in this 
final rule, those confirmed breeding in the wild in the United States 
or its territories include the Burmese python and the Northern African 
python.
    The Burmese python has been captured in many areas in Florida. In 
South Florida, more than 1,334 live and dead Burmese pythons, including 
gravid (pregnant) females, have been removed from in and around 
Everglades National Park in the last 10 years by authorized agents, 
park staff, and park partners, indicating that they are already 
established.
    Evidence of reproduction for Northern African python in the area 
known as the Bird Drive Basin Recharge Area west of Miami includes 
multiple size classes of adult snakes of both sexes, at least 3 
reproductive females, two hatchlings in 2009, and a freshly shed skin 
from a hatchling in 2010 plus recent captures also in the Bird Drive 
basin (December 2010 to January 2011) indicating survival after the 
cold weather in 2009 to 2010. These observations represent overwhelming 
evidence for an established reproducing population of Python sebae in 
Florida (Reed et al., 2010). Please see the final environmental 
assessment for the current status of verified observations, removals, 
and establishment of the large constrictor snakes in the wild from the 
USGS collection information in the United States and insular 
territories, and the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, 
University of Georgia, in Florida.
    (64) Comment: Neither the State nor the Federal Government has made 
substantial investments in strategic programs for the eradication or 
control of Burmese python on the lands they manage. In South Florida, 
the cost of eradication of the Burmese python has been relatively 
small.
    Our Response: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), in 
partnership with many different organizations, has organized and 
facilitated several multi-stakeholder workshops to address the threats 
posed by pythons and help prioritize and coordinate management efforts. 
Goals for python management include preventing their spread, 
eradication in select local areas, a public awareness campaign focusing 
on responsible pet ownership, and overall reduction or containment of 
invasive snake populations.
    Currently, a number of activities are being conducted by various 
agencies and entities under limited budgets (that is, National Park 
Service (Everglades National Park), the Service, U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, South Florida Water Management District, U.S. Geological 
Survey, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, University 
of Florida, county governments, nongovernmental organizations, and 
others) to reduce the potential of the population increasing or 
spreading further. These actions include but are not limited to, 
capture and removal; public education and awareness; spatial ecology 
and movement studies using radio telemetry, satellite and GPS 
technology; diet (stomach content analysis); thermal biology (implanted 
data loggers); trap development and trials; impacts analysis; pilot 
studies: genetics, salinity tolerance; and potential use of unmanned 
aerial vehicles with thermal infrared cameras to detect pythons in the 
field.
    The Service has spent $604,656 over a 3-year period (2007 to 2009) 
to design python traps, deploy and maintain them, and educate the 
public in the Florida Keys to prevent the potential extinction of the 
endangered Key Largo woodrat at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife 
Refuge. The South Florida Water Management District has spent $334,000 
between 2005 and 2009 and anticipates spending an additional $156,600 
on research, salaries, and vehicles in the next several years. An 
additional $300,000 will go for the assistance of the U.S. Department 
of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, the animal damage control arm of 
USDA (part of USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). The 
USDA Wildlife Research Center (Gainesville, Florida, Field Station) has 
spent $15,800 in 2008-2009 on salaries, travel, and supplies. The USGS, 
in conjunction with the University of Florida, has spent more than $1.5 
million on research; radio telemetry; and the development, testing, and 
implementation of constrictor-snake traps. Miami-Dade

[[Page 3360]]

County Parks and Recreation Department, Natural Areas Management and 
Department of Environmental Resources Management have spent $60,875 
annually on constrictor snake issues. The National Park Service has 
spent $317,000 annually on various programs related to constrictor 
snake issues in the Everglades National Park. All these expenditures 
total $5.7 million from 2005 to approximately 2012, or roughly an 
average of $720,000 per year. Many people have also volunteered their 
time to search for and capture snakes when funding was not available.
    Although the agencies mentioned above would prefer to eradicate 
these invasive snakes, they recognize that eradication is unlikely. As 
explained in the ``Control'' section of Factors That Reduce or Remove 
Injuriousness for Burmese Python, Kraus (2009) found no examples of 
local populations of reptiles that had been successfully eradicated.
    (65) Comment: The most effective and least costly methods would 
focus on preventing establishment of any potentially invasive species 
and would include early detection and rapid response (EDRR). 
Eradication of established populations is very rarely effective and 
always costly.
    Our Response: We agree that EDRR programs can be of benefit once 
prevention options have been exhausted or proven to be ineffective. 
Sometimes considered the ``second line of defense'' after prevention, 
EDRR is a critical component of any effective invasive species 
management program. When new invasive species infestations are 
detected, a prompt and coordinated containment and eradication response 
can reduce environmental and economic impacts. This action results in 
lower cost and less resource damage than implementing a long-term 
control program after the species is established. Early detection of 
new infestations requires vigilance and regular monitoring of the 
managed area and surrounding ecosystem. An EDRR system will provide an 
important second line of defense against invasive animals that will 
work in concert with Federal efforts to prevent unwanted introductions 
such as an injurious wildlife listing under the Lacey Act. Prevention 
is why two of these large constrictor snakes not yet found to be 
reproducing in the United States or territories are included in this 
final rule.
    (66) Comment: Two papers published in the journal Biological 
Invasions, one by USDA wildlife researchers and another authored by 
scientists at several research institutions including the University of 
Florida, have concluded that Burmese pythons can't survive for any 
length of time outside south Florida unless they have the ability to 
find appropriate burrows or cavities to allow hibernation for several 
months during the winter. Given that this snake is primarily a tropical 
and subtropical species, it may not have evolved the behavior or 
physiology to successfully hibernate.
    Our Response: The winter of January 2010 was one of the coldest on 
record in southern Florida. Burmese pythons were documented to tolerate 
these conditions. In the USDA study (Avery et al. 2010), two of nine 
(22 percent) of the Burmese pythons survived the cold spell. This study 
was conducted in Gainesville, Florida, 400 km (248.5 mi) north of the 
known range where they are currently reproducing; this region of 
Florida also experienced record cold weather. The Mazzotti et al. 
(2010) study, which was conducted within the Everglades region, found 
that 1 of 10 telemetered Burmese pythons survived (10 percent) and 59 
of 99 (60 percent) of nontelemetered pythons survived. Subsequently 
there have been sightings and recent removals of Burmese pythons and 
Northern African pythons in south Florida, including a mating 
aggregation of Burmese pythons with one gravid female and four males 
(Snow 2010). Therefore, despite the coldest winter on record since at 
least the 1940s (NOAA 2010), south Florida still has reproducing 
populations of nonnative large constrictor snakes. While the abundance 
of pythons clearly declined during this record cold winter, the 
population has recovered rapidly in south Florida, where the average 
female reaches reproductive maturity within 3 years and can 
subsequently produce more than 30 (but up to 107) eggs per clutch 
annually or biennially (Harvey et al. 2008).
    Dorcas et al. (2011) published another study in Biological 
Invasions. They relocated 10 Burmese pythons from the Everglades to an 
outdoor research setting in South Carolina. The following January, they 
all died. However, they had not had a chance to acclimate to a milder 
winter before getting hit with record cold. Dorcas et al. (2011) 
concluded: ``Some pythons in our study were able to withstand long 
periods of considerably colder weather than is typical for South 
Florida, suggesting that some snakes currently inhabiting Florida could 
survive typical winters in areas of the southeastern United States more 
temperate than the region currently inhabited by pythons. Moreover, our 
results are specific to translocated pythons from southern Florida. 
Burmese pythons originating from more temperate localities within their 
native range may be more tolerant of cold temperatures and would 
presumably be more likely to successfully become established in 
temperate areas of North America. The susceptibility to cold we 
observed may reflect a tropical origin of the Florida pythons or 
acclimatization of snakes to warm southern Florida winters early in 
life.'' Given the climate flexibility exhibited by the Burmese python 
in its native range (as analyzed through USGS' climate-matching 
predictions in the United States), we would expect new generations 
within the leading edge of the population's nonnative range to become 
increasingly adaptable and able to expand to colder climates.
    (67) Comment: The ``Reed and Rodda Report'' was only subject to an 
internal review process. Any policy changes or legislation that will 
have an effect on the freedoms of American citizens should be based on 
sound scientific evidence as well as the merit of a true scientific 
peer review process.
    Our Response: Dr. Susan Haseltine, Associate Director for Biology, 
USGS, responded to a press release issued by a reptile-trade 
organization and an accompanying letter by a group of veterinarians and 
other scientists regarding the USGS peer review process. She said, 
``The USGS provides unbiased, objective scientific information upon 
which other entities may base judgments. To ensure objectivity, 
independent scientific review is required of every USGS publication. 
Standards require a minimum of two reviews, and adequacy of the 
author's responses to reviews is assessed by both research managers and 
independent scientists within the USGS. The authors went well beyond 
the requirements by soliciting reviews from 20 reviewers (18 of them 
external to the USGS). Reviewers comprised a large portion of the 
global expertise on both the biology of giant constrictor snakes and 
the management of invasive snakes.''
    The USGS follows mandatory fundamental science practices for peer 
review, which can be read at the following Internet site: http://www.usgs.gov/usgs-manual/500/502-3.html. This policy establishes the 
requirements for peer review of USGS information products and applies 
to all USGS scientific and technical information, whether it is 
published by the USGS or an outside entity.

Other

    (68) Comment: The Service has not thoroughly considered the full 
implications of the rule regarding effects on the pet industry.

[[Page 3361]]

    Our Response: We understand that the implications of this rule are 
complex. We have endeavored to consider the need to list the four 
species as injurious, as well as alternatives using the best available 
information. Please see ``Alternatives to Listing'' below for an 
explanation of the alternatives that we considered. We have also made 
every effort to consider all of the indirect effects.
    (69) Comment: Because the addition of any species to the Lacey Act 
results in the nationwide ban of that species, a nationwide impact 
study should be performed.
    Our Response: As explained above, this rule does not create a 
nationwide ban. The commenter did not explain what type of nationwide 
impact study should be performed. We did, in fact, develop two 
nationwide impact studies, an economic analysis and an environmental 
assessment, drafts of which we posted on http://www.regulations.gov on 
March 12, 2010, with the proposed rule, and final versions of which are 
also available at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-
FHC-2008-0015. We used the best available information and we believe 
these impact studies are sufficient. We are not required to do 
additional surveys ourselves, because our standard is to use the best 
available information. We believe we made a good-faith effort to locate 
information (see also response to Comment 43).
    (70) Comment: We requested a 90-day extension of the comment period 
for the proposed rule to provide our members much needed time to 
provide comments, data, and analysis that will be instrumental to the 
Service's final decision.
    Our Response: We received several requests for an extension of the 
public comment period for up to 90 days. We granted an additional 30 
days to the existing 60 days, for a total of 90 days for the proposed 
rule's comment period. We believe that amount of time was sufficient, 
even for a complex rule, considering we were seeking similar 
information to that for the 2008 notice of inquiry (73 FR 5784; January 
31, 2008) and that for the second comment period ended on August 2, 
2010--nearly 90 days after the first comment period ended.
    (71) Comment: One commenter referred to a memo written in 2007 by a 
former Service Assistant Director and Chief of Law Enforcement. The 
comment quoted the memo, ``The injurious species provisions of the 
Lacey Act were clearly not designed to deal with a species that is 
already a significant part of the pet trade in the United States'' and 
``It could, however, make a felon out of a reptile enthusiast in 
Wisconsin who sells one python to an individual in Minnesota.'' The 
commenter stated that the Service has not made a case for the rule.
    Our Response: The memo that the commenter referred to was an 
information memorandum to the Service's Director regarding the petition 
to list the Burmese python from the South Florida Water Management 
District in 2006. The memo described various options that the Service 
and others could consider. The statements quoted by the commenter are 
verbatim. However, at the time the memo was written, the USGS risk 
assessment (Reed and Rodda 2009) had not yet been completed. No 
decision had been made by the Service at the time of the memo. The 
Service's memo acknowledges, ``We expect to have the risk assessment--
an essential first step in any evaluation for injurious designation--
completed in approximately one year.'' That was, however, an 
underestimation of the time it would take to prepare such a thorough 
document and have it extensively peer-reviewed. Once that risk 
assessment was completed, it became clear that all nine species should 
be evaluated by the Service for possible listing as injurious.
    The memo's statement, ``The injurious species provisions of the 
Lacey Act were clearly not designed to deal with a species that is 
already a significant part of the pet trade in the United States'' is 
true in that the pet trade was not established to the degree it is 
today when the Lacey Act was passed by Congress in 1900. That does not, 
however, mean that the injurious species provisions cannot be an 
effective tool in invasive species management. The reason that the four 
species are being listed is that there are still vulnerable parts of 
the country where the listing of each of the species may prevent their 
establishment. In addition, three of the species are not currently a 
significant part of the constrictor pet trade, and the fourth species 
(Burmese python) comprises only 2.6 percent of total constrictor snake 
imports (for the genera Python, Boa, and Eunectes) for 2008 to 2010. 
Therefore, taking the proactive step to list them as injurious species 
now will reduce the likelihood that their numbers will increase in the 
United States and pose a risk to native wildlife in the future.
    As for the comment from the memo, ``It could, however, make a felon 
out of a reptile enthusiast in Wisconsin who sells one python to an 
individual in Minnesota,'' that statement was also quoted correctly and 
is correct under certain situations. However, those situations are more 
representative of worst-case scenarios. There are a variety of other 
laws that are often violated when people engage in illegal wildlife 
trafficking, some of which are Federal felonies. However, a stand-alone 
violation of the interstate transport or import prohibitions under 18 
U.S.C. 42 is a misdemeanor, not a felony. Please also see our response 
to Comment (28) for an explanation of the misdemeanor and felony 
violations.

Alternatives to Listing

    (72) Comment: This is a summary of the alternatives suggested 
through the public comment process. Where noted, they are explained 
further in the text of the rule above.
    A. List some or all of the nine species, but:
    1. Exempt color and pattern genetic mutations of these snakes from 
the listing as albinos, leucistics, etc.
    Our Response: The commenter explains that albinos and leucistic 
(having reduced pigmentation) snakes have a far lesser chance of 
survival in any wild environment. Not listing these color and pattern 
mutations would have a smaller financial impact on the industry and no 
financial impact on the government. The commenter may be correct that 
such color variations may have a lesser chance of survival in the wild. 
However, the survival differential is unknown, so we have determined 
that all color variations are at least the same risk to the welfare of 
wildlife or wildlife resources of the United States. Furthermore, if 
snakes escape to the wild, their offspring may not have the same 
obvious color pattern and may perpetuate normally patterned populations 
given gene dominance, expression, and mutation.
    2. Exempt hybrids.
    Our Response: We realize that hybrids often are worth significantly 
more money than the parent species separately. Allowing hybrids would 
preserve more of the income of some breeders. However, we have 
determined that hybrids are at least the same risk as the parent 
species are to the welfare of wildlife or wildlife resources of the 
United States. The Wildlife Society commented, ``Hybrids between two 
invasive species are also invasive themselves and must be listed as 
injurious along with the exotic parental species. Hybrids maintain many 
of the characteristics of the parent species; this means that hybrids 
will retain an ability to reach the large sizes and continue the 
voracious dietary habits of the parental species, and they will cause 
as much damage to native threatened and

[[Page 3362]]

endangered species and the environment as pure species ancestors. Many 
closely related constrictor species are known to hybridize, and it is 
likely that many of the invasive constrictors noted in the proposed 
rule have this same ability. Some hybrid combinations may result in 
sterile offspring, however, some do remain fertile, which several 
reptile breeders themselves attest to on their Web sites (i.e., http://www.highendherps.com). Furthermore, each individual snake still has the 
capability of causing extensive damage within its lifetime. One 
potentially destructive invasive species is the African rock python 
(Python sebae), which has been captured in the wild west of Miami, 
Florida. In its native range, this snake can reach lengths up to 20 
feet, and it is known to attack humans and farm animals. While this 
snake has the potential to cause serious damage, it also poses an 
additional threat because of its ability to hybridize successfully with 
Burmese pythons (Python molurus), a species which has already 
established a sizable and growing population in Florida.''
    3. Do not list the species Boa constrictor.
    Our Response: We have not listed the species at this time. We will 
address this comment when we publish a determination of whether this 
species should be listed as injurious.
    4. List regionally only where there is a climate match.
    Our Response: Creating this type of geographical restriction or 
exemption (or both) under the Lacey Act would make enforcement of the 
regulations by the Federal Government, in cooperation with the affected 
States, virtually impossible.
    The authority to list regionally is unclear and untested. Moreover, 
it would create a host of law enforcement complications.
    5. Allow for the interstate travel for captive-bred animals.
    Our Response: Please see our response to Comment (45).
    6. Remove the status of the Port of Miami as an agricultural port 
and a port of entry. Move the port of entry north, maybe to one of the 
New England ports where the weather will eradicate anything that would 
be lost or illegally released.
    Our Response: This alternative is beyond the scope of this 
rulemaking. Furthermore, it is outside the authority of the Service. In 
addition, it is highly impractical. While Miami is the port with the 
most imports of the nine species of large constrictor snakes in the 
proposed rule (75.4 percent from 1999 to 2007 and 86.7 percent from 
2008 to 2010; USFWS Final Economic Analysis 2011), two other warm-
weather southern ports (Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth) also 
received imports of thousands of some or all of the nine species. These 
three ports account for 98 percent of all imports of the nine species. 
Los Angeles and Dallas are within the climate match range of the 
Burmese python. For the four species now being listed, the number of 
imports are fewer.
    7. The Service should consider paying restitution to or 
compensating these people for their losses, by buying the animals and 
the businesses that will no longer exist, suddenly made worthless, at 
fair market value, and then debating the question on how to dispose of 
those animals.
    Our Response: This rule does not affect people's ability to own, 
possess, or transport snakes within States, if allowed by State law. 
Neither the Service nor the Department of the Interior has programs or 
authorities to compensate people for losses that may be related to this 
injurious wildlife listing. The Service can work with the affected 
States and industry, and offer technical assistance to provide 
environmentally risk-free approaches to disposing of constrictor snakes 
that businesses or pet owners are no longer able to keep. Please also 
see our response to Comment 12 where we provide options for people to 
dispose of snakes responsibly.
    B. Do not list any of the species. Instead:
    8. Let the States regulate their own captive wildlife, such as 
following FWC's comprehensive approach in Florida.
    Our Response: Please see our response to Comment (18).
    9. Allow the industry to self-regulate and educate with the 
Internet, etc.; United States Association of Reptile Keepers best 
management practices; State and local risk assessment industry best 
management practices (BMPs) as suggested by Dr. Frank Mazzotti; and 
HabitattitudeTM.
    Our Response: We fully support all of these suggestions and look 
forward to working with all entities that endorse them. However, they 
are voluntary actions and there is no guarantee that people will 
cooperate. These efforts have been available for many years, and while 
they are useful in many cases, we believe that both voluntary and 
regulatory actions are necessary to safeguard our ecosystems with more 
assurance.
    10. Issue permits and registrations, require microchipping, apply 
severe fines and criminal charges, etc., for the miskeeping or release 
of these animals in any State.
    Our Response: These alternatives do have potential for preventing 
accidental and intentional escapes. However, the Service does not have 
the authority to issue permits for pets or for any use of injurious 
species other than for medical, zoological, educational, or scientific 
purposes.
    C. PIJAC offered to discuss options with the Service in detail 
including developing a comprehensive, State-led prevention and early 
detection and rapid response program.
    Our Response: Industry and State partnerships are very important to 
the Service and Department of the Interior in our efforts to manage 
invasive species. As examples, the Department signed a Memorandum of 
Understanding with PIJAC in 2009 to create public awareness--through 
such public campaigns as HabitattitudeTM--about the threat 
of invasive species and to promote responsible pet ownership practices 
to prevent the accidental or intentional release of invasive species by 
pet owners. The Service also partners with States to develop a national 
aquatic invasive species program, and we support many State management 
actions through cost-share grants for implementation of State Aquatic 
Nuisance Species Management Plans. These partnerships with industry and 
States are essential aspects of managing the invasive species problem 
facing the nation. Also important is the Federal Government's authority 
to regulate importation and interstate transport of species found to be 
injurious wildlife under 18 U.S.C. 42. This authority is one important 
aspect of an overall national strategy to reduce the risks from 
introduction and spread of harmful nonnative species (Lodge et al. 
2006).

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has determined that this 
rule is significant under Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. OMB bases its 
determination upon the following four criteria:
    (1) Whether the rule will have an annual effect of $100 million or 
more on the economy or adversely affect an economic sector, 
productivity, jobs, the environment, or other units of the government.
    (2) Whether the rule will create inconsistencies with other Federal 
agencies' actions.
    (3) Whether the rule will materially affect entitlements, grants, 
user fees, loan programs, or the rights and obligations of their 
recipients.

[[Page 3363]]

    (4) Whether the rule raises novel legal or policy issues.
    Executive Order 12866 Regulatory Planning and Review (U.S. Office 
of Management and Budget 1993) and a subsequent document, Economic 
Analysis of Federal Regulations under Executive Order 12866 (U.S. 
Office of Management and Budget 1996), identify guidelines or ``best 
practices'' for the economic analysis of Federal regulations. With 
respect to the regulation under consideration, an analysis that 
comports with the Circular A-4 would include a full description and 
estimation of the economic benefits and costs associated with 
implementation of the regulation. These benefits and costs would be 
measured by the net change in consumer and producer surplus due to the 
regulation. Both producer and consumer surplus reflect opportunity cost 
as they measure what people would be willing to forego (pay) in order 
to obtain a particular good or service. ``Producers' surplus is the 
difference between the amount a producer is paid for a unit of good and 
the minimum amount the producer would accept to supply that unit. 
Consumers' surplus is the difference between what a consumer pays for a 
unit of a good and the maximum amount the consumer would be willing to 
pay for that unit (U.S. Office of Management and Budget 1996, section 
C-1).''
    Large constrictor snakes are commonly kept as pets in U.S. 
households, displayed by zoological institutions, used for science and 
research, and used as educational tools. Because none of the four 
species listed by this rule is native to the United States, the species 
are obtained by importing or breeding in captivity. We provided a draft 
economic analysis to the public at the time the proposed rule was 
published (on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-
0015) and offered two public comment periods totaling 90 days. Using 
the comments we received on the draft economic analysis and new 
information we acquired, we revised the economic analysis and provided 
the final version on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R9-
FHC-2008-0015. We provide a summary here.
    In the context of the regulation under consideration, the economic 
effects to three groups would be addressed: (1) Producers; (2) 
consumers; and (3) society. With the prohibition of imports and 
interstate shipping, producers, breeders, and suppliers would be 
affected in several ways. Depending on the characteristics of a given 
business (such as what portion of their sales depends on out-of-State 
sales or imports), sales revenue would be reduced or eliminated, thus 
decreasing total producer surplus compared to the situation without the 
regulation. Consumers (pet owners or potential pet owners) would be 
affected by having a more limited choice of constrictor snakes or, in 
cases where species were not available within their State, no choice at 
all if out-of-State sales are prohibited. Consequently, total consumer 
surplus would decrease compared to the situation without the 
regulation. Certain segments of society may value knowing that the risk 
to natural areas and other potential impacts from constrictor snake 
populations is reduced by implementing the regulation. In this case, 
consumer surplus would increase compared to the situation without the 
regulation. If comprehensive information were available on these 
different types of producer and consumer surplus, a comparison of 
benefits and costs would be relatively straightforward. However, 
information is not currently available on these values so a 
quantitative comparison of benefits and costs is not possible.
    The data currently available is limited to the number of 
constrictor snake imports each year, the estimated number of 
constrictor snakes bred in the United States, and a range of retail 
prices for each constrictor snake species. Using data for the three 
genera Python, Boa, and Eunectes, we provide the value of the foregone 
snakes sold as a rough approximation for the social cost of this final 
rulemaking. We provide qualitative discussion on the potential benefits 
of this rulemaking. In addition, we used an input-output model in an 
attempt to estimate the secondary or multiplier effects of this 
rulemaking--job impacts, job income impacts, and tax revenue impacts 
(discussed below).
    With this rule, the importation and interstate transport of four 
species of large constrictor snakes (Burmese python, Northern African 
python, Southern African python, and yellow anaconda) will be 
prohibited from importation and interstate transport, except as 
specifically permitted. The annual retail value losses as a result of 
this rule are estimated to range from $3.7 million to $7.6 million.
    The broad indicator of the economic impacts of the alternatives, 
economic output or aggregate sales, includes three types of effects: 
direct, indirect, and induced. The direct effects are the changes in 
annual retail value due to the implementation of a given alternative. 
``Indirect effects result from changes in sales for suppliers to the 
directly affected businesses (including trade and services at the 
retail, wholesale and producer levels. Induced effects are associated 
with further shifts in spending on food, clothing, shelter and other 
consumer goods and services, as a consequence of the change in workers 
and payroll of directly and indirectly affected businesses'' (Weisbrod 
and Weisbrod 1997). The indirect and induced effects represent any 
multiplier effects due to the loss of revenue. These cost estimates 
include the various potential scenarios we considered.
    Businesses or individuals shipping listed species across State 
lines could face penalties for Lacey Act violations. The penalty for a 
Lacey Act violation is not more than 6 months in prison and not more 
than a $5,000 fine for an individual, and not more than a $10,000 fine 
for an organization.
    Under this final rule, the probability of large constrictor snakes 
establishing populations outside of their current U.S. locations should 
decrease compared to the no action alternative. The change in 
probability is unknown.

Alternatives Considered

    The draft economic analysis considered two other alternatives, in 
addition to listing all (Alternative 2) or none (Alternative 1) of the 
nine species under consideration. Alternative 3 would list the seven 
species known to be in trade in the United States (that is, all but the 
Beni and DeSchauensee's anacondas). Alternative 4 would list the five 
species judged to have a high ``overall risk potential'' in the USGS 
evaluation (Reed and Rodda 2009), while excluding the four species 
judged to have a medium overall risk potential (that is, the two 
nontraded species, plus the green anaconda and reticulated python).
    For the final economic analysis, we split Alternative 2 into 2A 
(the nine species proposed for listing) and 2B (the four species 
addressed in this final rule). This allows the Service to move forward 
with the listing of four species, while the other five remain under 
consideration.
    Compared to the alternative of listing all nine species (2A), 
Alternative 3 would have no effect on current sales revenues or 
indirect economic impacts from the loss of such revenues, since there 
are currently no sales revenues from these two species. It would, 
however, allow consumers to substitute these two species (in addition 
to the many other substitute species already available) for the 
purchase of the prohibited species, thus reducing

[[Page 3364]]

economic impacts to the degree that there would be substitute purchases 
of these two species. However, the possibility of substitute purchases 
is itself a potential problem in that the two currently nontraded 
species are so similar in appearance to the green and yellow anacondas 
that it would be difficult for enforcement officials to distinguish 
green or yellow anacondas that were mislabeled as Beni or 
DeSchauensee's anacondas. In addition, acting to prevent the 
importation of these two species before trade in them emerges means 
that environmental injury from them can be prevented, which is far more 
effective than waiting until after injury has already occurred to act 
to limit it.
    Alternative 4 (listing only the five species determined to have a 
high ``overall risk potential'' in Reed and Rodda (2009)) would limit 
the rule to the species with the greatest potential for environmental 
injury. Of the four species that would not be listed under this 
alternative, two are not currently in trade in the United States, and 
one (the green anaconda) is in very limited trade (less than half a 
percent of imported constrictor snakes of the genera Python, Boa, and 
Eunectes). Of the four that would not be listed, only the reticulated 
python is the subject of noticeable trade, and that is less than 4 
percent of imported constrictor snakes of the genera Python, Boa, and 
Eunectes. The economic impact of the five-species alternative 
(Alternative 4) would be less than the nine-proposed-species 
alternative (2A) primarily because of the exclusion of the reticulated 
python; less than the seven species in Alternative 3, primarily because 
of the exclusion of the reticulated python; but greater than the four 
species in Alternative 2B, primarily because the boa constrictor is 
included. The relative level of risk associated with each species is 
determined by the criteria specified in the section Lacey Act 
Evaluation Criteria above. Even in the case of those species with 
medium risk, the particular areas where the climate match occurs are 
notable for the number of endangered species found there (e.g., Hawaii, 
southern Florida, and Puerto Rico). That fact, the potential that 
yellow anacondas would be difficult for enforcement officials to 
distinguish if mislabeled as DeSchauensee's anacondas, and the fact 
that the opportunity to act preventively before most of these species 
became established would be lost under this alternative, and all of 
these factors argued against its adoption.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (as amended by the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act [SBREFA] of 1996) (5 
U.S.C. 601 et seq.), whenever a Federal agency is required to publish a 
notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare 
and make available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis 
that describes the effect of the rule on small entities (that is, small 
businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). 
However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of 
an agency certifies that the rule would not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. Thus, for a 
regulatory flexibility analysis to be required, impacts must exceed a 
threshold for ``significant impact'' and a threshold for a 
``substantial number of small entities.'' See 5 U.S.C. 605(b). SBREFA 
amended the Regulatory Flexibility Act to require Federal agencies to 
provide a statement of the factual basis for certifying that a rule 
would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities. A Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, which we 
briefly summarize below, was prepared to accompany this rule. See 
ADDRESSES or http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-FHC-
2008-0015 for the complete document.
    This rule lists four constrictor snake species: (Burmese python, 
Northern African python, Southern African python, and yellow anaconda) 
as injurious species under the Lacey Act. Entities impacted by the 
listing would include: (1) Companies importing live snakes, gametes, 
viable eggs, and hybrids; (2) companies (breeders and wholesalers) with 
interstate sales of live snakes, gametes, viable eggs, and hybrids (3) 
entities selling reptile-related products and services (pet stores, 
veterinarians, and shipping companies); and (4) research organizations, 
zoos, and educational operations. Importation of the four constrictor 
snakes would be eliminated, except as specifically authorized. Impacts 
to entities breeding or selling these snakes domestically would depend 
on the amount of interstate sales within the constrictor snake market. 
Impacts also are dependent upon whether or not consumers would 
substitute the purchase of an animal that is not listed, which would 
thereby reduce economic impacts.
    For businesses importing any of the four large constrictor snakes 
in this final rule, the maximum impact of this rulemaking would result 
in 14 to 19 small businesses (20 percent) having a reduction in their 
retail sales of 3 percent.
    In addition to companies that import snakes, entities that breed 
and sell large constrictor snakes will also be impacted. These entities 
include distributors, retailers, breeders and hobbyists, and exhibitors 
and trade shows. We do not know the total number of businesses, large 
or small, that sell or breed the listed four species domestically. 
However, we know approximately the number of businesses that sell or 
breed large constrictor snake species of the genera Python, Boa, and 
Eunectes and that overall, the nine listed species originally proposed 
represent 58 percent of all U.S.-bred large constrictor snake sales of 
those three genera. Because we do not know exactly how many businesses 
sell the listed species, we extrapolated the percentage of sales to 
determine the number of affected businesses. Thus, we assume that 16 to 
22 percent of businesses sell or breed the four snake species in this 
final rule and that approximately 62 to 85 percent of these entities 
would qualify as small businesses. Therefore, approximately 979 to 
2,874 small businesses would be affected. Impacts to this group of 
businesses as a whole could represent a 16 to 22 percent reduction in 
retail value.
    In addition to snake sales, ancillary and support services comprise 
part of the snake industry. Four major categories include: (1) Food 
suppliers (such as for frozen or live rats and mice), (2) equipment 
suppliers (such as for cages, containers, lights, and other nonfood 
items), (3) veterinary care and other health-related items, and (4) 
shipping companies. The decrease in constrictor-snake-industry economic 
output and related employment from baseline conditions is $10.7 to 21.8 
million for the four species. This estimate includes impacts to the 
support service businesses. The number of businesses that provide these 
services to the large constrictor snake market is unreported. Thus, we 
do not know the impact to these types of individual businesses.
    Under the final rule, the interstate transport of the four 
constrictor snakes will be discontinued, except as specifically 
permitted. Thus, any revenue that would be potentially earned from this 
portion of the business will be eliminated. The amount of sales 
impacted is completely dependent on the percentage of interstate 
transport. That is, the impact depends on where businesses are located 
and where their customers are located.

[[Page 3365]]

    Therefore, this final rule may have a significant economic effect 
on a small number of small entities as defined under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.).

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This rule:
    a. Would not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million 
or more. According to the final economic analysis (USFWS 2011), the 
annual retail value losses for the four constrictor snake species in 
this final rule are estimated to range from $3.7 million to $7.6 
million. In addition, businesses would also face the risk of fines if 
caught transporting these constrictor snakes, gametes, viable eggs, or 
hybrids across State lines. The penalty for a Lacey Act violation under 
the injurious wildlife provisions is not more than 6 months in prison 
and not more than a $5,000 fine for an individual and not more than a 
$10,000 fine for an organization.
    b. Would not cause a major increase in costs or prices for 
consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government 
agencies, or geographic regions. Businesses breeding or selling the 
listed snakes would be able to substitute other species and maintain 
business by seeking unusual morphologic forms in other snakes. Some 
businesses, however, may close. We do not have data for the potential 
substitutions and therefore, we do not know the number of businesses 
that may close.
    c. Would not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based 
enterprises.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    This proposed rule would not impose an unfunded mandate on State, 
local, or tribal governments or the private sector of more than $100 
million per year. This proposed rule would not have a significant or 
unique effect on State, local, or tribal governments or the private 
sector. A statement containing the information required by the Unfunded 
Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.) is not required.

Takings

    In accordance with E.O. 12630 (Government Actions and Interference 
with Constitutionally Protected Private Property Rights), the rule does 
not have significant takings implications. A takings implication 
assessment is not required. This rule would not impose significant 
requirements or limitations on private property use. Any person who 
possesses one or more snakes from the four species can continue to 
possess, sell, or transport them within their State boundaries.

Federalism

    In accordance with E.O. 13132 (Federalism), this rule does not have 
Federalism implications. This rule would not have substantial direct 
effects on States, on the relationship between the Federal Government 
and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities 
among the various levels of government. The rule does not have 
substantial direct effects on States because it: (1) Imposes no 
affirmative obligations on any State, (2) preempts no State law, (3) 
does not limit the policymaking discretion of the States, (4) requires 
no State to expend any funds, and (5) imposes no compliance costs on 
any State. Executive Order 13132 requires Federal agencies to proceed 
cautiously when there are ``uncertainties regarding the constitutional 
or statutory authority of the national government,'' but there are no 
such uncertainties here. The statutory authority of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service to designate injurious species pursuant to the Lacey 
Act is clear, and the constitutional basis for the Lacey Act (a statute 
that has been in effect since 1900) is equally clear, limited as it is 
to the regulation of international and interstate commerce. The 
Executive Order also encourages early consultation with State and local 
officials, which the Service has done. Indeed, this rulemaking was 
initiated by petition from an agency of the State of Florida. 
Therefore, in accordance with Executive Order 13132, we determine that 
this rule does not have Federalism implications or preempt State law, 
and therefore a Federalism summary impact statement is not required.

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the Office of the 
Solicitor has determined that the rule does not unduly burden the 
judicial system and meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) 
of the Executive Order. The rule has been reviewed to eliminate 
drafting errors and ambiguity, was written to minimize litigation, 
provides a clear legal standard for affected conduct rather than a 
general standard, and promotes simplification and burden reduction.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This rule will not impose new recordkeeping or 
reporting requirements on State or local governments, individuals, 
businesses, or organizations. OMB has approved the information 
collection requirements associated with the required permits and 
assigned OMB Control No. 1018-0093. An agency may not conduct or 
sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of 
information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have reviewed this rule in accordance with the criteria of the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the 
Departmental Manual in 516 DM. This action is being taken to protect 
the natural resources of the United States. A final Environmental 
Assessment and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) have been 
prepared and are available for review by written request (see 
ADDRESSES) or at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R9-
FHC-2008-0015. The final environmental assessment was based on the nine 
proposed species of snakes and revised based on comments from peer 
reviewers and the public. By adding Burmese python, Northern African 
python, Southern African python, and yellow anaconda to the list of 
injurious wildlife, we intend to prevent their new introduction, 
further introduction, and establishment into natural areas of the 
United States to protect native wildlife species, the survival and 
welfare of wildlife and wildlife resources, and the health and welfare 
of human beings. If we did not list these constrictor snakes as 
injurious, the species are more likely to expand in captivity in States 
where they are not already found in the wild; this would increase the 
risk of their escape or intentional release and establishment in new 
areas, which would likely threaten native fish and wildlife, and 
humans. Burmese pythons and Northern African pythons are established in 
southern Florida. Releases of the four constrictor snakes into natural 
areas of the United States are likely to occur again, and the species 
are likely to become established in additional U.S. natural areas such 
as national wildlife refuges and parks, threatening native fish and 
wildlife populations and ecosystem form,

[[Page 3366]]

function, and structure. The reticulated python, green anaconda, Beni 
anaconda, DeSchauensee's anaconda, and boa constrictor remain under 
consideration for listing.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments and the Department of the Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we 
readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with 
recognized Federal tribes on a government-to-government basis. In 
accordance with Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian 
Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the 
Endangered Species Act), we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to 
work directly with tribes in developing programs for healthy 
ecosystems, to acknowledge that tribal lands are not subject to the 
same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to Indian 
culture, and to make information available to tribes. We have evaluated 
potential effects on federally recognized Indian tribes and have 
determined that there are no potential effects. This rule involves the 
importation and interstate movement of three live python species and 
one live anaconda species, gametes, viable eggs, or hybrids. We are 
unaware of trade in these species by tribes.

Effects on Energy

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. This rule is not 
expected to affect energy supplies, distribution, and use. Therefore, 
this action is a not a significant energy action, and no Statement of 
Energy Effects is required.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references used in this rulemaking is 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket 
No. FWS-R9-FHC-2008-0015.

Authors

    The primary authors of this rule are the staff members of the South 
Florida Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 16

    Fish, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, 
Transportation, Wildlife.

Regulation Promulgation

    For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service proposes to amend part 16, subchapter B of chapter I, 
title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:

PART 16--[AMENDED]

0
1. The authority citation for part 16 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 18 U.S.C. 42.


0
2. Amend Sec.  16.15 by revising paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  16.15  Importation of live reptiles or their eggs.

    (a) The importation, transportation, or acquisition of any live 
specimen, gamete, viable egg, or hybrid of the species listed in this 
paragraph is prohibited except as provided under the terms and 
conditions set forth in Sec.  16.22:
    (1) Boiga irregularis (brown tree snake).
    (2) Python molurus (including P. molurus molurus (Indian python) 
and P. molurus bivittatus (Burmese python).
    (3) Python sebae (Northern African python or African rock python).
    (4) Python natalensis (Southern African python or African rock 
python).
    (5) Eunectes notaeus (yellow anaconda).
* * * * *

    Dated: January 10, 2012.
Eileen Sobeck,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2012-1155 Filed 1-18-12; 4:15 pm]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P