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My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

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  • My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

    This is an 8 page letter I'm sending out in the morning along with nearly everything I can find on why the USGS report is bunk.

    Here's Sen. Nelson's testimony:
    YouTube - Nelson implores lawmakers to pass a ban on Burmese pythons

    Here's my response:

    January 4, 2010

    Bill Nelson
    716 Hart Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510
    Phone - 202-224-5274
    Fax - 202-228-2183

    RE: Senate Bill S373

    Senator Bill Nelson –

    My name is Michael Lynch. I am a husband, father, and responsible keeper of Boa Constrictors - with over 11 years experience in keeping these reptiles. I am also the leader of the local 4-H herpetology club (Morris County, New Jersey).

    I am writing to you in response to your testimony before committee regarding you support and sponsorship of S373. The testimony I’m speaking of specifically can be found on your YouTube page. Video entitled “Nelson implores lawmakers to pass a ban on Burmese pythons.” I have written to you before - via email - regarding your stance on the feral Burmese Python issue that is going on in the Florida Everglades. Specifically my last correspondence with you was regarding your on-air interview with US1 Radio – The Florida Keys Most Listened To Station, which aired December 15, 2009.

    To be honest I wish I had come across this video sooner, because I have to say I am amazed at the information you presented in your testimony. In your testimony you claimed that biologists were giving you information about these reptiles. That is an perplexing statement since so little of your testimony was accurate. Any biologist or herpetologist who knows these reptiles would not have given you the same information you presented before committee.

    I’d just like to address these points in order of mention from your testimony, and include the time marker of each statement from the video for easy reference .

    • 00:29: You stated that these reptiles were being imported into the US. The majority of the Burmese Pythons (and other large constrictors) that are in the United States, and that are purchased within the pet trade are captive bred right here in the USA. Yes, there are reptiles that are being caught natively and being imported for sale, but the vast majority are captive bred by breeders residing in this country. Buying and selling wild caught animals has a direct impact on the ecosystems these animals are native to. It also means that the animals are prone to parasite infestation and other health issues making the care of these reptiles difficult, uncertain, and costly. As a result the practice of buying and selling wild caught reptiles is widely frowned upon in the herpetecultural and pet trade communities. Being as such most pet owners and pet store owners will not buy wild caught animals. This activity has actually forced a reduction in the number of wild caught reptiles we see in the pet industry over the past few decades.

    • 00:35: A Burmese Python can grow as much as 7 feet in one year… but this is only a result of irresponsible pet care and what is called “power feeding” “Power feeding” is feeding a reptile more than it should eat in a single feeding, or feeding it more frequently than is healthy. A snake that grows as much as 7 feet in one year is going to be exceptionally obese, suffer from varying health issues as it ages, and have a truncated life span. …Essentially all of the same issues you or I would face if we ate 2 to 3 times our suggested amount every single meal.

    A healthy and responsibly kept/fed Burmese Python may grow about 4 feet in a year – but this is in captivity. In the wild feeding does not occur on a regular basis as it does in captivity. Snakes are opportunistic feeders, but in the wild a snake may have to wait 2, 3, 4, or even 5 times as long as they would in captivity for that opportunity to arise. If suitable prey is not found the snake will have to wait until it is. And being that Pythons – like so many other snakes – are ambush predators, and not hunters, so it may be weeks before suitable prey crosses its path. As a result very few Burmese Pythons would grow as fast as those in captivity. …And fewer still would grow as extravagantly as those that are kept irresponsibly and power fed.

    • 02:48: You state that the Burmese Python has fangs. Burmese Pythons do not have fangs. Venomous snakes have fangs and use them as a delivery system for their venom when striking prey. Non-venomous snakes – such as the Burmese Python – do not have fangs. They have teeth. Fangs are enlarged hollow, or grooved, teeth that are considerably longer than all other teeth present in the mouth and have one purpose: a means of effectively injecting venom into prey. Burmese Pythons – like all other non-venomous snakes - have teeth that are curved back towards the rear of the mouth to aid in restraining prey. The teeth at the anterior of the mouth may be slightly larger than those towards the rear, but this gradation in size is normal in non-venomous snakes and does not mean the python has fangs. Actually, in all non-venomous snakes this type of tooth arrangement is called Constrictor Dentition, and is called such regardless if the snake is a constrictor or not.

    • 02:51: Burmese Pythons do not have “fish hooks” or barbs at the end of their teeth. This is completely false. If they did how would they ever eat their food? Their prey would get stuck in their teeth and be unable to be removed.

    • 04:21: I’m going to jump ahead for a moment and then come back to a previous statement because your concern about a visitor to the Florida Everglades being attacked does, in fact tie into your comments about the 2 year-old girl from Sumter County who was killed this past July (2009).

    As I have stated before (in my previous correspondence with you) tourists in the Florida Everglades are far more likely to be killed by native species of alligator, venomous snake, wasps, or even spiders than they are a Burmese Python. On average: 3 people die each year from wild alligator attacks, 12 people die each year from venomous snake bites, 54 people die each year due to bee, wasp, and hornet stings, and 5 people die each year from spider bites. Only 0.5 people die each year from large constrictors (that’s an average of 1 every 2 years). As a matter of fact there have been 9 deaths total in the past 16 years – 12 in the past 20, and every single one of those was due to the actions of an irresponsible pet owner. Every single one. In the wild (looking at the native localities of various species of large constrictor) human attacks are so rare that they are almost mythical – especially for the Burmese Python. Your tourists have far more to worry about than feral Burmese Pythons. Your threats to visitors are quite native.

    And compared to domestically kept dogs – which account for an average of 26 deaths per year large constrictors are one of the safest pets you could every have. As a matter of fact death by large constrictor is so rare the National Safety Council does not afford it a separate category in their statistics. …however, they do offer a category for accidents involving alligators and crocodiles.

    • 03:25: Regarding the death of the 2-year-old girl in Sumter County, FL that occurred this past July: that was a tragedy. No question. No debate. That should never have happened. However, the snake was not the villain. The girl’s mother and her boyfriend are who should by eyed here (Jaren Hare and Charles Darnell respectively). As I mentioned in the point directly above: every single human fatality that came as a result of an attack by a large constrictor is a result of the actions of an irresponsible pet owner. Let’s not over look that Charles Darnell was keeping the snake in an unsecured glass cage with a quilt draped over it for a top. Let’s not over look the fact that he himself even admitted that the snake had escaped before – and never did anything to try to remedy the situation. Let’s not over look the fact that the snake had escaped earlier that night and he had put it back in its cage in a cloth sack, but had not done anything to secure the sack or the cage. Let’s not over look the fact that he did not have a permit to own the snake – thereby keeping it illegally by Florida state law. Let’s not over look the fact that Charles Darnell was also found to be in position of narcotics when officials arrived to investigate the incident. Let’s not over look the fact that he had been arrested on several drug related charges in May 2009 (2 months prior to the incident). And let’s not over look the fact that Charles Darnell and Jaren Hare were charged with third-degree murder, manslaughter, and child abuse as a direct result of this matter. If you want to vilify anyone it should bet he mother and her boyfriend.

    • 04:52: The proliferation of a species cannot be judged by the number of eggs it lays. You stated a 16-foot Burmese Python was found with 56 eggs in its belly. Through the process of natural selection only about 1/3 of a litter (at best) will survive the first year. The rest will succumb to predation, illness, parasites, and so on. This is also not taking into account the number of unfertilized eggs that are laid in a given clutch, or the number of eggs that are laid with still born young inside. This means that after one year only 10-15 potential members of that clutch will likely have survived. Add to this that the Burmese Python doesn’t reach sexual maturity for 2-3 years and we are looking at further decreased numbers in the surviving clutch due to predation, illness, parasites, and what could be deemed “acts of God” (flood, fire, drought, etc.) before they are able to reproduce. We could be looking at 8-12 members of that clutch of 56 that ever reach sexual maturity. So I doubt your population figures of 150,000. And given that various “hunting parties” have turned up with very few specimens I would think your estimates would be far lower than what they are. Any one of your biologists could have told you this.

    This is not to say that I don’t see a very real problem in the Everglades. I do. And I feel it needs to be dealt with and addressed in a humane and scientific manner, but making wild guesses based on unlaid eggs is not the type of sub-clinical approach we need.

    • 06:27: In an attempt to explain how a snake feeds you state that a snake’s jaws separate to accommodate large prey items. Snakes’ jaws do not separate when feeding – this is a common misconception, and one a biologist would be well aware of. The bones are connected by elastic ligaments. The joint of the upper and lower jaws is placed at the extreme posterior of the skull. This allows the mouth to open as wide as possible. Also, the bones of the lower jaw are not fused together at the front, which allows for lateral movement when the snake is swallowing large prey. In addition, a snake has a “loosely attached” bone called a quadrate on each side. This provides a "double hinge" at the joint so as a snake swallows, it will alternately move the jaws on each side of the mouth and "walk" the prey into its mouth.

    • 06:54: You stated that a 12 foot Burmese Python and an 8 foot alligator thrashed around and engaged each other in the water for 30 hours right outside the Headquarters of the National Park in the Everglades. …30 hours! I’m sorry, Senator but I cannot believe this. I would still have a hard time believing this if you had said it was 3 hours. I would really like to see the report on this as well as video footage documenting this because what you describe is the stuff of Hollywood.

    We are talking about 2 cold-blooded animals – animals that don’t have that kind of stamina. …I don’t even know of any warm-blooded animals that have that kind of stamina (outside of a Hollywood production studio). Anyone who has kept reptiles, or observed them in the field will tell you that they spend the vast majority of their life doing surprisingly little. They only expend energy when they have to, and when they move quickly it’s only for very short bursts. They are not prone to all out conflict if a feeding attempt goes awry. If, and when, conflicts arise between reptiles its over very quickly as one will often make for a hasty retreat if it is outmatched or intended as potential prey, or badly wounded… and I can only imagine that the python would have sustained some serious injuries after only a couple of minutes of tangling with an 8 foot alligator. Even if the confrontation was on-again off-again for a while one would have eventually backed down and made for cover after a short time. At best I could believe several minutes. …but 30 hours?

    What if it was 30 hours? …Which I cannot believe – but let’s just say it was for the sake of argument. In all of that time no one in the National Park Headquarters tried to intervene? No one tried to save the native alligator from the invasive python? No one called in officials from Division of Fish and Wildlife? No one called Animal Control? No one called the media? People just went about their jobs and let it happen? People just stood by and watched? Shifts ended, people went home and no one tried to do anything except estimate how large the animals were? They just let it go on for 30 hours? Amazing! I find that type of negligence on the part of National Parks staff to be truly alarming. Who’s doing more harm to the Everglades in this scenario: the Burmese Python, or the National Parks staff?

    Senator I strongly urge you to have your information double-checked, and triple-checked before presenting it in a public forum. Whoever gave you that information was giving you either an extremely exaggerated report, or a flat out fabrication - because I can tell you with all certainty that no reptile (regardless of size) would engage in a 30 hour open conflict with another animal. That’s outrageous. And all this story does is make you look uninformed and the National Parks staff look negligent and incompetent.

    • 07:39: You stated that a Burmese Python tagged with a radio transmitter could not be found by a team of biologists - and the snake was directly in front of them and concealed on the native foliage. Were these United States Geological Survey staffed or sanctioned biologists? Were these biologists familiar with the Burmese Python? I’d have to say that these were, in fact, USGS staffed/sanctioned individuals, and that they had no real experience in working with or observing a Burmese Python in a wild setting. Never once did you state that a herpetologist was involved in the studies and fieldwork in the Everglades. And I’m sure that if you had your experiences and information would be very different. Someone with experience and the proper knowledge would most likely have been able to locate the tagged snake.

    This little incident also throws some serious doubt on the USGS’ claim that these animals are expanding their territories at a rate of 1.5 miles a day. If the biologists brought in to study these animals and monitor them cannot easily locate them with radio tracking, and obviously lack the necessary experience in working with, and observing these reptiles in the wild then how can these claims be taken with any degree of sincerity. How can you, or the USGS, expect us to believe these findings when you yourself are showing their studies are inherently flawed and lacking in proper clinical grounding?

    • 08:35: You claimed that Burmese Pythons pose a threat to personal safety as well as environmental stability. Burmese Pythons (as well as other large constrictors) pose less risk to humans than domestically kept dogs (domestic dogs account for an average 26 human fatalities per year). They pose less risk to humans than farm-raised livestock – which account for a yearly average of 65 human fatalities). Large constrictors account for an average of 0.5 human fatalities per year.

    They do pose an environmental risk – in the Florida Everglades, but that is all. In the decades that these reptiles have been in the pet trade they have never posed an environmental threat, or gained a foot hold in any ecosystem as they have in Southern Florida. And they have yet to show any true indications of moving northward or expanding from this locality. You and the USGS claim that the entire sunbelt is at risk and poised for being over run by large constrictors – this is utterly false. If this were at all true the Boa Constrictor would be a native species of the United States, being that part of its native locality is Mexico – with specimens found only a few hundred miles south of the US/Mexico border. However, they have not moved northward in thousands of years, and likely never will due to the climates of the southern portion of the United States.

    Much of the projected terrain that the USGS as slated as ideal for habitation for large constrictor snakes is far from ideal. The regions are far too arid, or far too temperate. The USGS study is almost completely based on temperature ranges alone, which is far from being a deciding factor for a reptile to call home. Simply because it’s warm enough at one point in the year doesn’t mean one of these reptiles can live there. What is the relative humidity in the region? What is the light exposure like? Is there suitable prey? What is the average temperature in the region? Do these factors change to any degree over the course of the year, and by how much? I’ve seen the USGS' map: it’s very pretty, but far from accurate. And at times down right laughable: large constrictors living wild in Delaware? And I can’t help but ask: why was this study done by the USGS? A Geological Services… Why not a scientific service that has an understanding of herpetology and the reptiles in question?

    I find it interesting that you slipped up when stating that these snakes pose and environmental risk and started to state that they pose an economic risk… because banning trade, sale, and transport across state lines of large constrictors via Senate Bill S373 is just that: a huge economic risk. Regulating the 9 “large constrictors” under the Lacey Act will decimate a $3 billion a year industry, create mass unemployment, and bankrupt thousands of people and businesses over night. The Chamber of Commerce has already condemned S373 because of this, and in a shaky economy such as this is cutting $3 billion in annual revenue a wise decision? Do you think the US would bounce back from that overnight? Do you really want to be known as the senator that pushed us further into a recession? How well will that bode for you on election day? And what problems in the Everglades will you be solving by regulating the trade, sale, and transport of the 9 large constrictors? Have you thought of how many problems will arise should S373 pass? Have you considered the number of people who will release their pets into the wild should they have to move to another state rather than have their pets euthanized? Have you considered the rise of a reptile black market that will emerge to ferry banned reptiles across state lines? Or how these individuals will likely release the animals they sell into the wild for fear of getting caught? How well do you think that will bode for you on election day? You sponsored the bill that not only pushed us further into a recession, but also brought on the release of even more non-native animals into the wild.

    I would also like to say that I find your means of attacking the giant constrictors to be less than admirable. You are using age old phobias, poor science, and media fueled paranoia to push through a bill that will hurt tens of thousands of working people, and millions of responsible pet owners across the country. Are you aware that approximately 1 in 27 US citizens owns a large constrictor as a pet? I’m guessing not.

    I was appalled when I watched your testimony – and not because I disagree with your position on S373, but because of how you presented your material. It was poorly researched, poorly presented, and some of it appears to be complete fabrications – all in an attempt to vilify an animal. The fact of the matter is those whose irresponsible actions lead to constrictor related deaths should be in question here, as well as those responsible for releasing their snakes into the wild. Not the snakes themselves. I could vilify German Shepards if I choose my language carefully enough and presented misinformation backed with pretty maps, but would that really make the animals the bad guys? No. The blame would still fall on irresponsible pet owners. And restricting trade, sale, and import across stateliness will do nothing to improve irresponsible pet ownership. If anything it will only increase: Should S373 pass we will eventually see a decline in the husbandry resources relating to the regulated reptiles. As these resources decline irresponsible actions will rise – the end result will be more accidents. Which could be one more thing tacked on to your legacy should S373 pass.

    Senator Nelson, try working with members in the pet industry such as PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Counsel), or coordinating efforts with various state agencies and Federal Agencies such as Fish and Wildlife to come up with responsible pet ownership certification programs. Try working with organizations other that the USGS to find a resolution to the situation in the Everglades that will not result in joblessness and a reduction in the pet industry. Try working with an organization that is not pandering to media fueled paranoia, but rather education and science. Your public position demands better than what you have done so far with this. You have a responsibility to do what is best for the people as well as the country, and regulating these reptiles under the Lacey Act is not it. Look to science and education – not knee jerk responses based on sensationalized media stories and sketchy science.

    I oppose S373. And I’m hoping that you will come to oppose it as well since it will only cause more problems than solve, and will not alleviate any of the issues now being faced in the Florida Everglades. …If anything it may only server to add to it.

    I’m including additional material to review and consider indicating why the USGS’ claims and reports are inaccurate, and should not be considered.


    Michael D. Lynch

  • #2
    Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

    very well thought out response, but unfortunatley he will probably either not read it, or decide that some of the words are too big about 4 lines in!
    you should read this out in your own youtube video and use it as a video reply to his, so that those who veiw his video may also click on yours.
    again, amazing essay(?) i wouldn't have had the patience to write it!


    • #3
      Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

      I was... inspired, shall we say, after seeing the video of his testimony. And I not a man of few words words when moved.

      He may not read it, but I'm also sending a modified version of this to my senators, various other senators, and President Obama (along with material showing the USGS' failings in science). Those should be gong out tomorrow.


      • #4
        Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

        You put alot of work into that Mike

        I'm alot like that I start writing and keep going

        I've sent a couple long ones in but as naja says

        doubtful they even read our letters

        Especially the longs ones.

        In the beginning of your letter to yours Sens

        try using Bullet type Cover points to

        Cover the main issue topics

        Then a busy person can glance at those main points

        and get the skinny on the main issues.

        That might draw them in to further examine the rest of the text

        Just a thought , something you might want to try.

        Lar M
        Boas By Klevitz



        • #5
          Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

          Excellent suggestion, Lar! Thanks.

          Much appreciated.


          • #6
            Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

            At least he said not all constrictors, still not the solution because when one goes the others are soon to follow. This guy is such a douche and he looks like an alien haha. Why don't we just say all of our boas are dwarf boas that don't get big accomplished through genetic manipulation and they will be happy, after all all these politicians are old and already believe that robots are out to get them so they will believe anything. I really like his story about the "python ambush" and how big the one was they caught holding his hands out like some kind of giant car tire. What a jackface


            • #7
              Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

              someone needs to go talk to these people in person.

              bring a snake.


              • #8
                Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

                Very amazingly thought out!


                • #9
                  Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

                  Originally posted by MLynch View Post
                  I was... inspired, shall we say, after seeing the video of his testimony. And I not a man of few words words when moved.

                  He may not read it, but I'm also sending a modified version of this to my senators, various other senators, and President Obama (along with material showing the USGS' failings in science). Those should be gong out tomorrow.
                  I am amazed at how well thought out that response was. I am so annoyed with this guy. Anyway, thank you for sharing. I agree with the suggestions that you should post a response video as should others. I think that if you revise you need to stay scientifically objective and not seem emotional. You did that very well, but at parts you could detect your agitation. I look at it as this guy is trying to save his ecosystem and prevent what he feels might be an accident in the process. Cannot blame him for that...where he falls short is in not working with several associations like you site PIJAC, etc to come to a solution that works for everyone.


                  • #10
                    Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

                    Great letter.
                    Would it be wrong and how far would it go to sue Sen. Nelson for such a bogus Statement? Probally make it in the Media for that.


                    • #11
                      Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

                      I did try to keep my emotional side down to a minimum. This was the product of the third revision. ...The first got pretty hot at times. No profanity, just heated statements.

                      I do agree that my emotions seeped through in places, but I didn't want to remove it all together. I wanted to remind him that what he is sponsoring will effect human lives, and that we are not without passion.

                      I'm not sure a lawsuit would get the results desired, or be effective in any way. Though we may take offense to his ignorance and stance on the matter that is all he is guilty of at this point. He hasn't slandered anyone, or done anything that a lawsuit would stick to. Besides, a lawsuit against a politician could broil for years... Not worth it IMO.


                      • #12
                        Re: My resposne to Sen. Nelson's Testimony.

                        Sen Nelson was a lawyer prior to becoming a politician. My guess is any lawsuit would need to be airtight to have a prayer. He's got too many friends.