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Keywords:

  • Boidae;
  • commercialization;
  • ecology;
  • Pythonidae;
  • snake

The growing international trade in live wildlife has the potential to result in continuing establishment of nonnative animal populations in the United States. Snakes may pose particularly high risks as potentially invasive species, as exemplified by the decimation of Guam's vertebrate fauna by the accidentally introduced brown tree snake. Herein, ecological and commercial predictors of the likelihood of establishment of invasive populations were used to model risk associated with legal commercial imports of 23 species of boas, pythons, and relatives into the United States during the period 1989–2000. Data on ecological variables were collected from multiple sources, while data on commercial variables were collated from import records maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Results of the risk-assessment models indicate that species including boa constrictors (Boa constrictor), ball pythons (Python regius), and reticulated pythons (P. reticulatus) may pose particularly high risks as potentially invasive species. Recommendations for reducing risk of establishment of invasive populations of snakes and/or pathogens include temporary quarantine of imports to increase detection rates of nonnative pathogens, increasing research attention to reptile pathogens, reducing the risk that nonnative snakes will reach certain areas with high numbers of federally listed species (such as the Florida Keys), and attempting to better educate individuals purchasing reptiles.