Snake sighting prompts exotic pet warning

  • Unwelcome guest: a boa

The importation of exotic pets like snakes is illegal, the Government warned yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources said: “The adverse impacts of invasive species are considered to be the single greatest threat to island native biodiversity because island species have evolved largely in the absence of mainland predators, heavy competition, diseases and the need for life history traits such as earlier age of first reproduction.”

She was speaking after a young boa constrictor was spotted in Sandys and killed by a worried resident.

The environment spokeswoman said animals such as snakes posed an environmental threat and that the boa could not have been housed in the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo in Flatts.

She added: “BAMZ does not have space to hold any more such animals. Furthermore, such snakes do not meet BAMZ’s mission to inspire appreciation and care of island environments.

“If persons with exotic pets wish to turn them in, they can do so by contacting the department’s animal control section.”

The spokeswoman said that if non-native species such as snakes were able to establish themselves, the effects could be devastating.

She added: “Island species can readily fall victim to invasive alien species, making easy prey, succumbing to the diseases they carry, and failing to effectively compete for resources like food and shelter.

“Invaders, on the other hand, encounter better resources, fewer natural enemies and a more advantageous physical environment to live in.”

The brown tree snake almost wiped out forest birds in the Pacific island of Guam when it was introduced by accident.

Pythons and boa constrictors have also established populations in the Florida Keys.

The spokeswoman added: “Public outreach, education, early detection and rapid response are critical components of invasive species management and are essential in preventing the establishment of exotic invasive alien species.

“The department appreciates the public’s vigilance and rapid response to these types of sightings. It recommends that should the public see a snake, or any other unusual animal, they call the Bermuda Police Service, who will, in turn, contact the department’s Animal Control Section.”