A New York City man is facing federal smuggling charges after he was caught crossing the U.S.-Canada border with three pythons in his pants.
Calvin Bautista, 36, is accused of bringing the hidden snakes from Canada into the U.S. aboard a bus, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office Northern District of New York.
"Bautista smuggled the snakes in his pants as he rode on a bus that crossed the U.S.-Canadian border" at the Champlain Port of Entry in northern New York, the Attorney's Office said. The incident happened back on July 15, 2018, according to the Associated Press.
The U.S. has banned the importation and interstate transportation of Burmese pythons and their eggs since 2012. The importation of Burmese pythons, one of the world's largest snakes, is regulated by federal law under the Lacey Act because they're considered "injurious to human beings, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, wildlife and wildlife resources."
The charge filed against Bautista carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.
Bautista, of Queens, was arraigned Tuesday on a federal smuggling charge and released from custody, pending a trial.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In recent years, Burmese pythons have become especially problematic in Florida. The snakes, native to Asia, are considered invasive in Florida and were brought to the state in the 1970s, presumably in the exotic pet trade.
Adult Burmese pythons caught in Florida average between six to nine feet in length. The largest Burmese captured in Florida measured over 18-feet long, its head at nearly six inches, and the widest part of its body at 25 inches.
Since 2000, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has removed or killed more than 15,000 pythons, but it is unknown how many more live in the ecosystem.
Burmese pythons are tan in color with dark blotches along the back and sides. The blotches look like puzzle pieces or the markings on a giraffe. They have a pyramid-shaped head with a dark, arrowhead-shaped wedge extending toward the nose.
Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and are often found near or in water. The snakes have been found to prey upon a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles -- even alligators. Burmese pythons can pose a threat to human safety, and may also prey upon pets such as cats and dogs, according to Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Because of their large size, adult Burmese pythons have few predators, with humans being the exception. In south Florida, the snakes can be captured and humanely killed year-round and without a permit or hunting license.