By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. proposal to ban the import and interstate sale of boa constrictors and four other snake species prompted protests from exotic pet owners and concern among Florida wildlife regulators who fear it could lead to more reptiles being released into the wild.
In Florida, a hotbed for the exotic pet trade where the ban would be keenly felt, an estimated 150,000 Burmese pythons descended from pets have ended up in the wild, wreaking havoc on the ecologically fragile Everglades.
Banning the sale of the boa, along with the reticulated python and three anaconda species, could diminish their value and compel breeders to set them free, Kristen Penney Sommers, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official, warned in a letter sent last week to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
If approved, the federal ban would place the snake species in the same category as the Burmese python, as well as the African python and yellow anaconda, which are illegal to import or move across state lines under the Lacey Act.
There is no deadline for the agency to decide on the ban, which it proposed in January, spokeswoman Laury Parramore said.
Phil Goss, president of the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers, said the restrictions would affect tens of thousands of snake-loving Americans.
"Listing additional species will harm animal welfare and destroy education programs, conservation efforts, biomedical advancements in human healthcare and family businesses," he said by email.
(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Eric Beech)