Heated exchange foreshadows FWC invasive species debate

'You’re going to get some facts tomorrow.'

A reptile keeper spokesperson and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chair exchanged words in a prelude to the expected fireworks when the Commission takes up proposed rules to address nonnative wildlife.

The Commission didn’t hold public comment on an FWC Law Enforcement presentation on recent enforcement actions regarding venomous snakes. The actions covered by the presentation, however, did not include one in Broward County resulted in the disputed killing of nearly three dozen pythons and a pregnant boa constrictor.

“It was an agenda item, so it’s not an ‘item not on the agenda,’” Daniel Parker of the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers Florida (USARK) said regarding the time when reptile advocates are scheduled to speak at the Commission meetings in Miami.

“I just wanted that noted, because we had a bunch of reptile keepers who were interested in speaking on that, and they weren’t allowed to sign up for that agenda item, to speak.”

Reptile advocates argue the owner had legal possession of the pythons, which they say were legal at the time acquired. A 2021 rule prohibited possession of the snakes, and their owner didn’t rehome them within the 90-day period to do so. An FWC enforcement action later required the owner to continue caring for the snakes until the agency could do something about them, which ended up occurring with officers killing the snakes in April.

Commissioner Steven Hudson recommended the reptile keepers save their comments for the time allocated Thursday.

The proposed rule under discussion regarding nonnative species comes with a couple options. One would restrict the importation of any new species undocumented or involved in commerce in Florida. The other would prohibit import of any species yet to be evaluated for risk in the state.

“Once again, I do commend the Commission for its interest in humane treatment of animals,” Parker said.

“This was not apparent a few weeks ago when FWC officers cruelly and inhumanely killed over 30 pet snakes. That was done with a single-step process of a bolt gun to the head, without anesthesia, without following up by pithing to destroy the brain and make sure that the animal was dead and didn’t have any sensory impulses.”

He characterized it as one of the worst stories to involve the agency.

“If they’re interested (in the matter) they’re going to hear about it tomorrow, because it’s on for tomorrow,” FWC Chair Rodney Barreto said.

Parker said the Commission should show more interest than what’s been shown so far. He noted FWC Acting Executive Director Thomas Eason didn’t remark on the situation in his comments.

“It’s easy for you to spew your comments, but you don’t know all the facts,” Barreto said. “You don’t know all the facts.”

Parker said that is indeed true, as the agency hasn’t released all the body cam footage USARK requested.

“You’re going to get some facts tomorrow,” Barreto said.

FWC looked into the incident and came away with the conclusion that with the exception of killing the boa constrictor, which was a mistake, the process otherwise went forward as intended.

Reports confirm that while communicating with the owner he requested that officers take possession of, and euthanize, all 34 of his unpermitted pythons,” according to an FWC news release. “The owner formally relinquished the prohibited pythons and requested that the officers conduct the euthanasia activities on-site at the facility.”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


  • Kayla Kretschmer

    May 10, 2023 at 5:38 pm

    They were NOT prohibited pythons… they were all documented, microchipped, and registered animals with the FWC that were MURDERED!

  • Tom Stem

    May 10, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    All snakes @ wild animals from out of the country should not be allowed in this country. None natives cause nothing but problems, like these snakes!

    • Ash

      May 11, 2023 at 11:01 am

      Cats (love them, but they’re a bigger ecological problem than any reptile, with their much higher metabolism and tendency to hunt for fun), dogs, many rabbits, parakeets, hamsters, gerbils, goldfish, horses, etc. You’d ban all that? Unless you only have a problem with reptiles, despite the fact that mammals and fish have contributed to more ecological trouble and are more likely to continue to do so, with their higher winter tolerance.

      The vast majority of pet reptiles (bearded dragons, leopard geckos, ball pythons, etc.) have never been any danger to native wildlife. And with the exception of another event like Hurricane Andrew taking out a Burmese python breeding facility and releasing the snakes into possibly the only really tropical environment in the country, there’s not much cause to fear they will. Reasonable precautions are one thing; taking and killing people’s beloved pets because you dislike that entire order of animals is quite another.

  • just sayin

    May 11, 2023 at 3:14 pm

    A guy who keeps snakes in a one foot by three foot glass case is lecturing others about animal cruelty?

Comments are closed.


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