Officials ban Floridians from having pet anacondas, other exotic species

Any Floridian who wanted to own a pet anaconda has missed an opportunity to do so after wildlife officials banned them as pets.

Anacondas are not native to the Sunshine State, but they can and wildlife officials believe they can cause economic and environmental harm, and threaten human safety. During a Thursday meeting, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously on a list of animals banned from private ownership, or breeding them for commercial use.

The move is meant to prevent populations of "high-risk" species from growing in Florida, according to Carli Segelson, a spokesperson for FWC.

"It costs much less to prevent a species from becoming established than it does to control them once they are here. Our focus is on prevention so that we can stop another species from becoming established here," she explained to FOX 13.

FWC decided to specifically add yellow anacondas, Beni anacondas, and Deschauensee's anacondas to the state's "Prohibited List." People who already have the specific species as pets have been "grandfathered in" and can keep them. They are just required to obtain a no-cost permit.

Segelson said anacondas have always been recognized as non-natives to Florida. They may have been added to the list of banned pets, but they were already on a separate list -- on the federal level.

"These species were already listed as injurious by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," she said. "A federal law known as the Lacey Act prohibited interstate transport of injurious wildlife, unless permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, in April 2017, a court ruling removed federal oversight of interstate transport, resulting in potential importation of injurious species into Florida."

FWC said breeders have 90 days to get rid of their inventory. Other non-native species that were added to the list include:

Raccoon dog
Brushtail possum
Flying foxes

Red-whiskered bul-bul
Java sparrow
Pink starling

Brown tree snake

FWC's Nonnative Fish and Wildlife Program operates to remove these types of species that can threaten Florida's ecosystem. Anyone who spots any invasive species are asked to call FWC's Exotic Species Hotline at 888-483-4681.