Boa Constrictors now a major pest in Puerto Rico09/12/2012 23:01:01 Escapees from pet trade have established a breeding population
December 2012. Non-native boa constrictors, which can exceed 10 feet and 75 pounds, have established a breeding population in Puerto Rico, and one that appears to be spreading according to research published in the journal Biological Invasions.
Already a problem in Florida
Released from pet trade
No natural predators
Two snakes found some distance from the expanding Mayagüez population share genetic markers with that population, suggesting that people might be intentionally or unintentionally moving the snakes around the island. Such movement could potentially increase the rate of spread of this invasive snake. Because the snakes are secretive and difficult to spot, the researchers suspect the population size is large.
"We've learned from dealing with other invasive snakes that understanding the source of these populations and preventing spread as soon as possible is important to protect ecosystems," said USGS scientist and study co-author Bob Reed. "Once non-native snakes become established across a large area, especially in densely forested areas, they become much more difficult to find and almost impossible to eradicate."
Private ownership of boa constrictors and most other snake species is prohibited in Puerto Rico because of fears of non-native snakes becoming established.
The paper, "Genetic Analysis of a Novel Invasion of Puerto Rico by an Exotic Constricting Snake," was authored by R.G. Reynolds, University of Massachusetts, Boston; A.R. Puente-Rolón, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, R.N. Reed, U.S. Geological Survey; and L.J. Revell, University of Massachusetts, Boston.