Giant snakes likely to damage tourism in parts of Florida, southern US


Giant snakes, such as boa constrictors and pythons, are likely to damage tourism in parts of Florida and the southern U.S., a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey finds.

The report, released Tuesday, didn’t put a dollar amount on the economic impact of the big snakes, but said the largest economic costs, although uncertain, are likely to be associated with damage to tourism.

Pythons, thought to have been released after pet owners tired of them, have become established in the Everglades and southern Florida. In July, a nine-foot pet python strangled a central Florida toddler in her bed after it escaped.

“Fear of snakes is not entirely rational and one well-publicized attack on a human could jeopardize considerable tourism business,” the report said.

The report noted that all giant constrictors would be unpopular with some potential tourists, though the impact is likely to be greater in places that are heavily dependent on tourism, such as Florida, southern California, or Hawaii.

Other economic impacts from the snakes could come from invasion of urban areas; tendency to eat live poultry and carry diseases; and damage to wildlife popular with bird-watchers and other tourists.

Pythons may be controllable in the vicinity of bird rookeries and wildlife officials may be able to protect isolated places like the Lower Florida Keys from giant constrictors, but the costs could be high, according to the report.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., introduced legislation to allow python hunts in the Everglades and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. introduced legislation to ban the imports of snakes.

The federal report, however, notes that there could be costs associated with enforcing trade bans on snake imports.