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Reptiles of Concern Technical Assistance Group to Discuss ‘Reptiles of Concern’

Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009, 1:09 p.m., EST

Burmese pythonA Florida task force charged with making recommendations on how to regulate the Burmese python and other “reptiles of concern” is scheduled to hold public meetings on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 in Orlando.

The task force, known as the Reptiles of Concern Technical Assistance Group (ROC TAG), is an initiative of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) to address and control certain reptiles that may adversely affect the environment or pose a threat to public safety. Such animals are classified by FWC as “reptiles of concern.”

Six snakes and one lizard are classified as such. They include the Burmese python, reticulated python, Northern and Southern African pythons, amethystine python, green anaconda and Nile monitor.

Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for the FWC, said the goal of the Dec. 2 and 3 meetings is for ROC TAG to at least identify possible regulation options regarding these animals.

Also on the agenda for discussion is a recent U.S. Geological Survey report that assesses the ecological risks associated with nine non-native large snakes. The report identified Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and yellow anaconda as having a high risk for invasiveness in the United States. The other four snakes studied — reticulated python, Deschauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda — were assessed as posing a medium-risk. The report was recently criticized by a group of scientists as being “unscientific.”

Hardin said the information discussed at these two ROC TAG sessions will likely be presented to FWC commissioners at their next public meeting, scheduled for Dec. 9 and 10. Additional ROC TAG meetings are scheduled for January and February, he said.

The public is encouraged to offer input to ROC TAG members, provide written comments, and attend the public workshops.

ROC TAG members include:

Eugene Bessette: Ophiological Services, Founder and Director; Venomous Reptile Licensee; Exhibit/Sale Licensee for Class III reptiles; former Captive Wildlife Technical Assistance Group member.

Bill Brant: The Gourmet Rodent, Inc. (Companion animal supplier), President; Member of the Board of Directors for Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC); Exhibit/Sale Licensee for Class III reptiles.

Jennifer Hobgood: Florida state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

John Irby: Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine in the Division of Animal Industry with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; extensive background regarding disease issues involving livestock/wildlife and emergency response to natural and man-made disasters.

Kris Serbesoff-King: Florida Invasive Species Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy

Paul Moler: Research Herpetologist, retired, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Jim Peters: Reptile hobbyist; Former President of the Central Florida Herpetological Society; Exhibit/Sale Licensee for Class III reptiles.

LeRoy Rodgers: Vegetation Management Division, South Florida Water Management District.

Click here for more information on ROC TAG and the meeting agenda. <HOME>

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