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Climate-matching predictions for spread of giant snakes in U.S. “grossly exaggerated”

Editor’s note: The letter published on this page is a response by professional breeders of pythons to ongoing coverage and debate of the issue of whether or not the U.S. climate –now or in future–could make parts of the United States suitable habitat for exotic constrictor snakes. The larger issue at stake is whether or not commerce in such snakes should be restricted in order to try to stop the spread of the invasive reptiles into habitats where they may have a serious impact on indigenous wildlife.

Please scroll down to the bottom of this letter for a full list of the overall coverage of the climate study and the arguments for and against restrictions on commerce. The publication of this letter or the comments of anyone we interview does not imply National Geographic endorsement, association, or criticism of the views expressed. News Watch publishes different perspectives so that readers can be informed of a wide cross-section of views and gain a holistic understanding of the issue. We have also provided many links on all blog pages about this issue to the original studies and the Web sites of agencies and experts, so that you may do further research.

We encourage you to post your own comment at the bottom of any of entries posted about this issue.–David Braun, News Watch editor.

In Response to the Defense of the USGS Report on Giant Constrictors, Posted by Dr. Susan Haseltine

By David and Tracy Barker

This letter is written in response to comments posted by Dr. Susan Haseltine, Assistant Director of Biology, U.S. Geological Survey. Dr. Haseltine wrote to address charges of poor and improper peer review of the USGS report on giant constrictors. This report was written by USGS biologists, Robert Reed and Gordon Rodda, and published as an Open File Report by the USGS in December 2009. We make the following observations.

Dr. Haseltine wrote that she was responding to “a press release issued by a reptile-trade organization and an accompanying letter by a group of veterinarians and other scientists”. That by itself sounds a little dismissive; in particular, we’d like to point out that the “group of veterinarians” are DVMs and also PhDs, as well as tenured professors. The letter makes a valid point and it is signed by an accomplished and respected group of scientists.

Dr. Haseltine wrote: “The USGS provides unbiased, objective scientific information upon which other entities many base judgments.” She then describes the minimum requirements of the USGS review process, including a minimum of two reviews, and an assessment of the authors’ responses to the reviews to be performed by both research managers and independent scientists within the USGS.

As described, this is what Dr. Haseltine refers to as “independent scientific review.” It is also referred to as “internal review” or “in-house review”; within government agencies and some universities this is usually the first step before sending a manuscript on to a journal for further review; papers are not considered to be “reviewed” until publication. In fact, the USGS report on the nine snake species is an “Open File Report”, not a refereed paper published in a scientific journal.

It’s difficult to imagine the review process described by Dr. Haseltine as being independent and it falls short of what is generally considered to be peer-review for several reasons. It is typical for authors to seek input from reviewers with expertise or experience. However, before publication, a formal review procedure would have the editor or editorial board send the entire manuscript out to independent and anonymous reviewers capable of evaluating the entire work with a critical eye.

Having the authors choose their reviewers, and then having “independent scientists within the USGS” (an oxymoron) evaluate if the authors sufficiently complied with the friendly reviews does not equal the editorial and peer review required by a refereed professional journal. It is tantamount to sending a manuscript on Intelligent Design to the Association of Anti-Evolution Fundamentalists for review–the expected critique is supportive, it is not an anonymous review, it might add or subtract minutia from the manuscript, it might correct grammatical errors, but it in no way subjects the manuscript, its details and conclusions, to rigorous and critical review.

The review process is further weakened when most reviewers see only portions of the manuscript. Dr. Haseltine claims that the authors far exceeded the minimum required two reviews, and solicited input from 20 reviewers. We point out that in the Acknowledgments of the report, the authors express their gratitude to the 20 reviewers for providing “thoughtful review of individual chapters, and in some cases the entire document…” [italics ours].

Having reviewers see only portions of the manuscript is a selective way to control the feedback of the reviewers. If the authors send a chapter that is primarily a taxon account based on a literature search, such as comprises the bulk of this report, the reviewer can be expected to provide a friendly review provided the topic of the chapter is competently researched.

For example, a chapter from an Intelligent Design manuscript that faithfully recounts the career of Charles Darwin can be sent to an evolutionary biologist for review who would return a favorable critique of the chapter, oblivious to the premise of the manuscript.

If the chapter on yellow anacondas was sent to an appropriate authority such as Dr. Tomas Waller of Argentina (included in the group of acknowledged reviewers), he likely provided comments that improved the scholastic aspects of the chapter, and perhaps added a personal observation or two. However, we question the reviewers’ qualifications to comment on the climate matches provided in section 10.2 of each taxon account, each illustrated with a map.

In the case of yellow anacondas, for example, the map illustrating the regions of suitable climate for the southern yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus) included all of peninsular Florida, and much of East and South Texas. In fact, surface water in at least 70% of these areas was frozen during the first two weeks of January 2010; high temperatures remained below freezing for days in a row and night time low temperatures were in the teens–such conditions are fatal to yellow anacondas.

The climate-match maps are similarly exaggerated for the seven of the eight species that are provided maps. The map for the northern yellow anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei) showed zero suitable climate in the continental USA. No map was provided for the Beni anaconda, but based on the climate-space graph illustrated in figure 9.3, it would have shown no suitable climate in the continental USA other than possibly extreme South Florida.

Perhaps the sections in the accounts regarding climate-matching were not included in portions of the manuscript sent for reviews. Possibly the reviewers asked to comment on the taxon accounts were not aware of the actual weather in the areas of the continental USA identified as suitable climate.

We used Google to check out the 20 reviewers identified in the Acknowledgments and to whom Dr. Haseltine referred. Recognizing the constraints of those searches, particularly considering the dated information that sometimes remains online, it appears that six are government biologists (three with USGS); twelve are Americans and eight are internationals; six have either co-authored articles on the “dangers” or “problems” of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, or have been featured in popular media making such statements (both authors have done both); at least five have worked or are currently working in South Florida on Burmese python management and eradication; eight can be considered as experienced and knowledgeable on some of the nine species analyzed in the USGS report. At least eight are identified as invasion-science biologists, or have co-authored papers on that general topic.

In our opinion, none of the reviewers can generally be considered to be critically inclined to the premise of this manuscript. Indeed, several of them will directly benefit financially and professionally if the nine species are placed on the Injurious Wildlife List.

It is a matter of public record that the authors, Gordon Rodda in particular, and the USGS program that employs them, have garnered tens of millions of dollars in research grants and other support from the government and the military over the past 20 years in order to study the only snake species ever registered on the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act, that being the brown treesnake.

It is not hard to understand why the USGS and its biologists would be strongly interested in seeing nine more species added to the Injurious Wildlife List. They have decades of experience getting funding for injurious snake research–they are expert at it. Because of this history and the fiscal incentives involved, there exists a tangible potential for bias, impropriety and a lack of impartiality. Due to the obvious possibility of conflict of interest and bias, the USGS should have recused itself from the contract and funding to create this report.

In her comments, Dr. Haseltine states: “While allegations have been made that the USGS report is being used as the justification of regulations on the reptile trade, it is important to note that the report offers no recommendation on policy or legislation.” We point out that the “allegations” to which she referred came from the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar himself, who refers to the report as the science necessary for USFWS to proceed with the action to place the nine species on the Injurious Wildlife List [italics ours].

Neither Reed nor Rodda are oblivious to the fact that this report provides the ONLY scientific evidence, such as it is, that would justify any regulatory action regarding these nine tropical snake species. Perhaps Dr. Haseltine is not aware that in an interview with Wired Science, Rodda defends and recommends the action to add these nine snake species to the Injurious Wildlife List, justifying that action with a poorly contrived and incorrect argument based on his apparent naïve understanding of economics.

The review written by Dr. Daniel Simberloff and published in Biological Invasions (2009), to which Dr Haseltine refers, falls short of enthusiastically embracing this report. It is better described as a brief summary of the paper with a very few qualified endorsements. It might be that with his decades of experience, Dr. Simberloff was a little suspicious of the climate-matching predictions made in this report forecasting that Burmese pythons can survive in the climate of his university there at Knoxville, Tennessee.

The fact is that the report is flawed. The USGS in-house review process failed the authors and the agency, and a badly flawed report is the result. The climate matching is incorrectly done. All statements and conclusions regarding the potential and the consequences of the nine species to establish are grossly exaggerated. All risk assessments must therefore be discounted. It is not to the credit of the USGS that this report was, as stated by Dr. Haseltine, reviewed by research managers and scientists employed by USGS.

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Pythons in Florida: Who are you Going to Call?

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Comments

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    December 8, 2012, 9:33 pm

    That’s the latest fashion.I am familiar with the casual atmosphere in the company.We look forward to your visit.He has to take care of his sick mother.Don’t count on me.What I do on my own time is nobody else’s business.I was alone

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    December 19, 2011, 7:41 pm

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  3. Husker
    June 21, 2010, 9:43 pm

    n our opinion, none of the reviewers can generally be considered to be critically inclined to the premise of this manuscript. Indeed, several of them will directly benefit financially and professionally if the nine species are placed on the Injurious Wildlife List.
    Auto transporters
    It is a matter of public record that the authors, Gordon Rodda in particular, and the USGS program that employs them, have garnered tens of millions of dollars in research grants and other support from the government and the military over the past 20 years in order to study the only snake species ever registered on the Injurious Wildlife List of the Lacey Act, that being the brown treesnake.

  4. Rick B
    May 18, 2010, 1:19 am

    Levelhead hit the nail on the head with feral cats and hogs. They are far more devestating than a few large snakes, and they both eat snakes as well. Will congress throw money at folks who hunt kitty cats? Will ther be pics of piles of dead cats at a hunters feet under the headlines that the everglades are a safer place for the natives?
    Snakes are sensationalized way out of proportion in the shows people watch because of ratings.This makes them an easy target. Animal Planet will never air a show about how destructive cats can be because cat lovers are watching.
    Whats really frightening though is the folks that want to turn this country into a dictatorship. They can’t hang black people or beat up gays anymore, so who are they going to go after? People who like keeping snakes and other exotics are a minority, thus an easy target.
    Its sad that as other counties around the world expand freedoms, our own country…
    Well, you get the point. I love mycountry and don’t feel good about badmouthing it.
    Lets hope that the fear mongerers wise up and try to find an honest way to make their money.
    I don’t claim to cite any scientific paper or anything, just my opinion and good old fashioned American common sense.
    Thank You

  5. the constriktor
    March 18, 2010, 9:35 am

    scienceadvicate and seethruit AKA Rodda and Reed….thanks for replying gentlemen!!

  6. seethruit
    March 17, 2010, 10:11 am

    LevelHead, you seem to “guess” a lot for someone who professes to do a lot of research?
    The both of you (Mike P incl.), kiss your snakes good night and tuck them into their cages. Find something else to profit from because pythons will go the way of the pitbull someday soon.
    … And I was at ground zero in Hurricane Andrew … and never saw a python heading west?

  7. Mike P
    March 17, 2010, 1:58 am

    Seethruit, good choice for someone who doesn’t let facts influence them.
    The facts of the matter are pythons are at the bottom of the list when it come what is impacting Florida. As to them affecting other states, how will that be possible if they can’t even leave the sub-tropical southern portion of Florida, let alone come close to a border with another state?
    Also concerning your statement about making sure little johnny letting his snake go, one kid in the US letting his pet snake go does not create a population of snakes. Even a thousand people in the US letting a species of snake go will not create a sustanable population unless they are all in the same area and they are able to survive the climate and are not to heavily predated on, and that still leaves out so many factors that will stop a population from forming.
    Concerning people letting reptiles go, I don’t understand how people believe this is so widespread a practice. How many people do you know who have abandoned any type of animal? Reptiles are probably one of the least likely to be abandoned simply due to the fact that they die from neglect way before the owner decides to abandon in the wild, and by then they will be in to poor health to survive long.
    Plus the equipment involved in keeping tropical reptiles healthy outside of the small area in the US where they might possibly survive is expensive and it does not make sense to waste such a large investment. Plus most people who own reptiles love them just like any other pet owner loves theirs, the snakes I currently own I plan to have long after my children have grown and moved away and I could not imagine throwing them out to die.

  8. LevelHead
    March 16, 2010, 3:54 pm

    Mr. “seethruit” obviously you have not really research this issue. Its plain to see you are getting your information from sensationalized media reports.
    Yes in fact at this point it can be refuted because there is no proof one way or the other that Burmese Pythons in the “ENP’ are destructive to the ecology of the “ENP” and environment.
    These are not an invasive species , how do I know this here is how
    Invasive species definition by law
    Is the Burmese python an invasive species?
    No. We have it on presidential authority that the Burmese
    python in Florida is not an invasive species. They
    can be correctly identified as an “exotic species,” or an
    “established exotic,” a “non-native species,” or even an
    “alien species.” They are not by legal definition an invasive
    species.
    Presidential Order 13112, signed into law by President
    Bill Clinton on February 3, 1999, and titled Invasive
    Species, provides the following definition [Section 1 (f)]:
    “invasive species means an alien species whose introduction
    does or is likely to cause economic or environmental
    harm, or harm to human health.”
    OK we’ve covered that , now lets get to the numbers of Pythons in the “ENP”.
    Here are the figures I researched:
    [QUOTE]
    http://www.shannontech.com/ParkVision/Everglades/Everglades.html
    Everglades National Park is one of the largest and most well-known of America’s national parks. It was also the first of America’s parks to be preserved not for its scenic wonders (although these certainly exist) but because of the magnificence of its biological resources. Currently covering [COLOR=”Red”]1,506,539 acres[/COLOR], it is the third largest national park in the contiguous 48 states, smaller only than Death Valley and Yellowstone NationalParks.[/QUOTE]
    66 x 660=43,560 sqr feet ( 1 acre)
    Total Burmese 150,000 / Divided by number of Acres 1,506,539
    150,000 / 1,506,539 = 0.99562 Burmese Pythons per Acre
    If my math is correct
    The problem is not all of the 1,506,539 Acres
    is suitable habitat for Pythons
    So using those numbers you will find at least 1 Python per Acre. Finding Pythons should be fairly easy then shouldn’t it ?
    Well since 1979 I believe only about 1000 Pythons have been found.
    Here this info taken from
    http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2009/05/creature-feature-burmese-pythons-prowl-everglades-and-s-not-good-thing
    “Burmese pythons were first reported as established in Everglades National Park (ENP) by Meshaka et al. (2000), based in part on specimens collected on the Main Park Road in the mid-1990s. Since then, the number of Burmese pythons captured or found dead in and around ENP has increased dramatically (Figure 1). From 2002 (when the numbers first began to climb) to 2005, 201 pythons were captured and removed or found dead. In 2006-2007 alone, that number more than doubled to 418. These totals include pythons that were killed by farm machinery or removed after encounters with workers during water management and ecological restoration projects. Although the size of the wild population is not known”
    More Info from this NatGeo Blog an earlier addition
    What it’s like to be a Florida python hunter
    What it’s like to be a Florida python hunter
    Posted on January 25, 2010
    http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2010/01/florida-python-hunter.html
    “The first phase of the FWC program to capture or kill “reptiles of concern” on state-managed lands in South Florida began July 17 and ran through October 31, 2009. Ten of 15 permit holders made trips on the wildlife management areas, capturing a total of 39 Burmese pythons, according to FWC. No other reptiles of concern were found.”
    I can agree on one thing there is an unwanted Feral Burmese Python issue in the “ENP”. I can only guess the estimated numbers to be 5000 or less but certainly no where near 150,000. I doubt they are nearly as destructive as the Feral Domestic Cat Population or Feral Boars/Hogs are.
    My guess is that Alligators and American Crocs feed on those same species endangered wading birds as well as any mammal that comes to the waters edge to drink. Much same as the Burmese Python’s do.
    The Pythons do not belong there in the “ENP” but certainly is wrong and far over kill to impose a Far reaching Ban in every state on the other species such as 4 species of Anaconda or certainly not Boa Constrictors. Boa Constrictors that for about the last few million years have and do live just 120 miles South of Texas border in Mexico. IF they could live in the U.S., they would already be here in TX, AZ, N.M..
    Banning the reproduction and sale of other non indigenous species will do nothing but hurt hard working Americans in all other 48 states. This will not address any Python issue already found in the “ENP”.
    These Pythons are only found in extreme South Florida.
    That makes this a problem for Florida to deal with, in fact South Florida to deal with. The Senate or US House of Representatives is not the place to settle this, The only effect such legislation or Lacey listing would have for the other 48(not Hawaii) states is to put hard-working Americans out of work, and decimate a now-thriving 3 billion dollar a year hobby/industry.
    I’ll say this again
    Are you aware that just a little south of the U.S. border down in Mexico species of Boa constrictor live and thrive and have been doing so for a couple million years now? If these Boa Constrictors could live in any state besides extreme South Florida, they would already be here.
    Pythons need very similar conditions to the South American Amazon Basin species of Boa constrictors.
    Pythons will not survive anywhere else in the U.S. beside extreme South Florida
    The population of Pythons in the “ENP” are not released by little Johnny or other Pet Python owners !
    The populations in the “ENP” come from specific genetically related group.
    http://usark.org/uploads/FloridaBurmGenetics.pdf
    FINAL REPORT
    GENETIC CHARACTERIZATION OF POPULATIONS OF THE
    NONINDIGENOUS BURMESE PYTHON IN EVERGLADES NATIONAL
    PARK
    The results of the above report determined that the Pythons found in the “ENP” are all closely related genetically. They originate from one specific point in time from a specific group.
    So that tells us not a bunch of releases at different points in time but one large release
    The most likely point of introduction is due to the hurricane Andrew that hit South Florida in 1992. That hurricane destroyed some Python breeding facility in South Florida. This caused a mass release of about 1000 baby pythons into the “ENP”.
    So to ban owning, breeding or selling Pythons and Boa Constrictors is a completely uncalled for unnecessary action. Taking such actions will not solve any South Florida Python/constrictor issue. There is and will never be any other feral issue in any other state concerning these reptiles (Constrictors)
    I suggest Mr. “seethruit” you do your home work and investigate this issue more closely.
    Lar M

  9. seethruit
    March 15, 2010, 3:49 pm

    Biased or unbiased journalism aside, can anyone refute the magnitude of destruction hundreds of thousands of these invasive pythons are capable of? And make no mistake … THEY are already impacting Florida and will impact other states as well! Ban the commercial production of all nonindigenous snakes. It won’t stop what has already been set into motion, but at the very least it will slow the addition of released snakes by “Little Johnny”.

  10. dangles
    March 14, 2010, 7:15 pm

    mr. “scienceadvOcate,”
    based on your comments, you seem to be suggesting that those with a stake in the issue have no right to present their own evidence in the case. that is just absurd.
    with this particular piece, the authors are questioning the scientists’ motives for presenting such evidence – which is a perfectly legitimate question (the claims made by those scientists have already been countered here: http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2008/08/giant-snake.html and here: http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2009/12/547.html as well as other places not addressed in this blog).
    to say that the scientists won’t gain from the successful listing of these animals as ‘injurious wildlife’ under the lacey act is blatently ignoring logic. if listed, the federal government will begin funneling SERIOUS amounts of cash into programs led by these same scientists. they won’t necessarily have their pockets lined by these funds, but what WILL happen is their particular departments and programs will be safely funded for DECADES to come. it’s a question of job stability. that’s what they are REALLY after here.
    one needs only to consider the recent cold-snap that crippled the eastern US earlier this year to realize that if those same scientists were to seriously consider the likelihood of these animals’ long-term survival and include it in their “findings,” they would not have a leg to stand on. if that were the case, we would not even be discussing this.
    as for the barkers being biased, there’s no doubt they have ALOT to lose if this proceeds as proposed. but when you REALLY think about this, regarless of how biased (or not) they are, i would stake my life on the fact that these two people have spent more time observing and studying these animals than those USGS scientists have. i would venture to say that they have FORGOTTEN more about pythons and their natural history, native habitats and requirements for survival than those USGS scientists know.
    one final point i would like to make, mr. “scienceadvOcate” is that your OWN credibility was smashed to pieces with one comment: “These pythons are a menace, whether or not the climate science model is right or wrong.” a menace? you are simply afraid of something about which you do not know.
    to mr. braun: i would again like to THANK you for allowing the other side of the story to see the light of day. to not allow its unveiling would have been a slap in the face of journalism. by posting pieces such as this regardless of how unpopular they are in the scientific community, you have shown yourself to be fair and unbiased through this, and you are a better man because of it. THAT is character. so THANK YOU!
    -chris

  11. Daniel
    March 14, 2010, 6:30 pm

    I would like to thank you David for putting this blog up .
    Thanks to Mr. Dave and Tracy Barker for writting this . Interesting that the two scientists that wrote the USGS report Rodda & Reed actually use Dave and Tracy Barker in their list of references so when the references write something of a correction of a 300 page report you know someone is stretching the facts until they are unrecognizable shame on Rodda & Reed for that. Of course they also list themselves in that long list of references of the USGS report that is kinda like me writting a report on something and listing something i wrote for my grade 8 biology exam as a reference if i wanted a failing grade.
    Interesting how so many people are now convinced that a cold-blooded reptile that requires tropical temperatures to do the simple metabolic task like breathing, heart function. From all the incorrect submissions placed as true facts on these pythons. As the reptiles produce no heat of their own so for this reason alone anyone with high school science understanding would realize that the burmese python would never be able to live or adapt to a colder climate anymore than Florida alligators living and migrating to the great lakes. It was also barely reported the cold freezing weather that Florida had a couple of months ago killed more than half of the current population of the Pythons in the everglades.

  12. Jonathan Brady
    March 14, 2010, 6:11 pm

    “scienceadvicate” (you did mean to spell advocate wrong, didn’t you?), perhaps you should read some of the scientific papers published by the Barkers before your emotions get the best of you. They have written extensively on the topic.
    This particular response was geared towards a letter published by an employee of the USGS. There was no science in that letter, and therefore no need to combat with science.
    As for the USGS scientists making money off of this, they absolutely will. You wrote that only the top scientists in the field make money off of it, and despite the fact that the conclusions reached in the papers published by the USGS are wrong, they ARE the leading scientists in the field. So by your own admission, they WILL make money from this spectacle. If you need evidence, do some research on the brown tree snake and Gordon Rodda.
    *Just to clarify, I’m not questioning the results of their papers, the results are fine given the methods and data set. There were no errors made. However, the methods and data points are absolutely NOT the industry standard and the USGS knows this. Therefore, the results are not APPLICABLE.*
    Everyone agrees that the pythons do not belong in the Everglades so there’s no point in arguing that point.
    Mr. Braun addressed your final point in paragraph 1.
    As for the Barkers being biased, I can see how you would see it that way. However, the rest of the world who knows who the Barkers are, what they have achieved, and the knowledge they hold understand that what you see as bias, is actually knowledge.
    jb

  13. David Braun
    March 14, 2010, 11:44 am

    Editor’s note: The letter published on this page is a response by professional breeders of pythons to ongoing coverage and debate of the issue of whether or not the U.S. climate –now or in future–could make parts of the United States suitable habitat for feral exotic constrictor snakes. The larger issue at stake is whether or not commerce in such snakes should be restricted in order to try to stop the spread of the invasive reptiles into habitats where they may have a serious impact on indigenous wildlife.
    Please scroll down to the bottom of this letter for a full list of the overall coverage of the climate study and the arguments for and against restrictions on commerce. The publication of this letter or the comments of anyone we interview does not imply National Geographic endorsement, association, or criticism of the views expressed. News Watch publishes different perspectives so that readers can be informed of a wide cross-section of views and gain a holistic understanding of the issue. We have also provided many links on all blog pages about this issue to the original studies and the Web sites of agencies and experts, so that you may do further research.
    We encourage you to post your own comment at the bottom of any of the entries posted about this issue.–David Braun, News Watch editor.

  14. scienceadvicate
    March 14, 2010, 3:13 am

    This is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever read, and I’m embarrassed to see it on NatGeo news. David, are you serious? This is obviously a press release by someone who DOES have a vested interest in the pythons and snakes NOT being listed on the Injurious snake list (because of the pet industry). They claim the scientists stand to gain $$ from grants. What scientist do YOU know that makes substantial personal income from a grant?! (which is what was implied) Give me a break! Only the top scientists in a field typically make money from writing and speaking on a topic not from doing the hard grunt labor of field work, which is what grant $ goes to. These pythons are a menace, whether or not the climate science model is right or wrong. But for you to present the Barkers biased crap as if it almost came from you, and/or Nat Geo – that is very disappointing indeed.
    And the saddest part is that your readers somehow think this is unbiased journalism based on the comments. How can anyone think that a letter from a python author is JOURNALISM?! Obviously it’s two people’s personal opinion over some actual science that they happen to personally disagree with. They did not conduct their own scientific research, or show mathematically or statistically that the science is incorrect. They just argued their point, using smear techniques. I know nothing of the study but I’m just ashamed at Nat Geo for publishing this kind of complete and utter PR and passing it off as some kind of “news watch.”

  15. LevelHead
    March 13, 2010, 10:03 pm

    Mr Braun, thank you for continuing to allow unbiased journalism. This allows readers to hear from different perspectives. Allowing people to form an opinion using all the information, instead just little biased blurbs.
    To David and Tracy Barker, thank you for taking the time to ad an extremely educated well thought out response to this on going threat. That threat is to America’s small business / hobby of keeping reptiles such as Boa constrictors and the other 8 species facing rule change via Lacey listing.
    Any intelligent level headed person can read the facts and come to the conclusion that listing these 9 species of Constrictors is bad for America and bad for the entire world!
    Lar M

  16. Jonathan Brady
    March 13, 2010, 4:29 pm

    PHENOMENAL rebuttal!
    Thank you for taking the time and effort to write it and shed light on the extremely biased and even more misleading statements made by the USGS.
    jb

  17. Dirty Boas
    March 13, 2010, 3:31 pm

    Thank You, David, for allowing BOTH sides of this debate to be heard. This kind of unbiased journalism is why I continue to use NatGeo News Watch as my primary source for daily news. Dave and Tracy Barker are highly respected in our industry and I want to thank them as well for their very insightful blog.