TLP: My Portfolio? I'm Long in Mutant Pythons

Monday, February 15, 2010 , , , 0 Comments

more fun than it looks

Sometimes, a snake is only a snake. And other times, it could be on its way to being defined, by law, as an "injurious animal."

Seems that certain pythons and boa constrictors, those with genetic mutations that create rare coloring, had been a winning investment. Demand surged in recent years, but quicker than a snake can shed its skin, serious shrinkage has hit the market. And by the way, this isn't the first time a snake with, um, shall we say, "distinguishing characteristics" has caused an uproar in Washington.


The turning point: Senate Bill 373, which Florida Democrat Bill Nelson proposed in February 2009 to prevent situations like one in the Everglades, where escaped Burmese pythons have devoured native animals. The bill would ban importation and interstate transport of boa constrictors, anacondas and large pythons. A similar antisnake bill followed in the House.

Neither bill has passed yet, but "no one is willing to give me $10,000 for a snake when they think they may be added to an injurious-species list," says Mike Wilbanks, 41 years old, an Oklahoma python breeder. ...

The rarer the mutation, the more expensive the snake, and investors paid huge sums for snakes that could produce babies that brought big returns. Adam Wysocki, a Maryland computer programmer, sold his house in 2006 and spent $40,000 on a rare "lesser platinum" ball python. He had money to invest, he says, but he "wanted to do something with it that was more than investing in Microsoft or something." In 2007, he says, three of the prized snake's young sold for $18,000 each.

Last year, Mr. Wysocki's most expensive snake sold for just $7,000. While the relatively small ball python isn't on the Senate bill's trade-ban list, the market for it has been depressed, he says, because investors are afraid the snake will be added to the list.

The Lazy Paperboy has never had pets without feet, unless you want to count that week or so in the fifth grade when a lazy goldfish lived in a bowl in his dresser. Let's just say things ended badly. So there's a bit of a disconnect in what it means to love a snake. But there's more to it, according to opponents of Nelson's legislation.

"What they don't realize is the economic impact this is going to have," Florida reptile breeder Tom Crutchfield told the WSJ. He says the squeeze (sorry, blame the Journal for that pun) will be felt more broadly, for instance, with suppliers of snake food. "What about the guy who sells rats? Who's going to buy jumbo rats?"

The Lazy Paperboy

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.