Bad enough that we're up to our eyeballs in alligators (metaphorically speaking) across the economy.
Now, The Wall Street Journal tells us, the market for teenage mutant ninja snakes, and regular old mutant pythons and boa constrictors, has collapsed. (Access to this article may require a subscription, which you can well afford, now that you can get a piebald boa constrictor for a lot less than you could a year ago.)
I hadn't realized that we were living in a snake bubble as bubble-worthy as Florida condos and tulip bulbs.
Early in 2009, "investment grade" big snakes—critters with genetic mutations that create rare colorings—still held their premium values. But since last spring, the mutant-snake bubble has burst.
Premium pythons that could fetch $40,000 in 2007 now go for half that sum, breeders report. The price for a hypomelanistic boa constrictor, one with a mutation that lightens its skin tone, was $99 on Feb. 1, down from $5,000 in 2007, on Kingsnake.com, a classified-ad site that acts as a market-maker for snakes.
This market constriction may not be helped any by the general economic flattening, but the real culprit behind it may be the potential for federal laws against import and interstate commerce restrictions on snakes deemed "injurious":
... "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 bills promoting these not-yet-enacted laws were prompted by fears that escaped (or discarded) snake-pets are invading the Everglades and body-snatching native animals, pets, and even toddlers. (Think Meryl Streep was making things up when she cried "A dingo ate my baby"?)
While Pink Slip doesn't usually get political, I'm all for laws that provide homeland security around run-amoks like feral pigs, zebra mussels, and other creepy, crawly, rampaging, yucky out of place, stay in your own territory creatures. (I guess I have to exempt from this the iguanas of Boca Grande, Florida, which - I take it - were there first. However, I do have to sympathize with my cousin Laura who, after a long drive from Chicago with two-kids and a husband who likes to drive right through, found her bleary-eyed way into her brother-in-law's house. Only to find a three foot iguana hanging out in the kids' bedroom. Those iguanas are also known to come up through the toilets, making them, I guess, commodo dragons. Reason to be very, very careful in Florida, I'd say.)
Anyway, the snake market that's being depressed is not so much for run of the mill snakes as it is for freaks of snake nature: snakes bred with odd color schemes (albino, platinum, piebald, 'sunglow'). But for a while, snakes looked like a safe bet:
Tom Burke, a 55-year-old former tugboat driver in Long Island, expected his snake investments to be a fallback during the recession. Mr. Burke says his snake sales went up in late 2008, even as the rest of the economy crumbled.
Mr. Burke explains mutant-boa business economics thus: In 2008, an albino male boa and a motley female with an albino gene cost $1,000 for a pair. Within 30 months, the pair would likely produce at least five motley albino young, which sold for $1,500 each, at 2008 prices. Minus $1,000 or so in equipment and rats and mice to feed the snakes, profits would still be greater than 100%. "People who want to diversify their income or get a better income or a higher income, they do this," Mr. Burke says. "It's just like stocks."
Just. Like. Stocks.
And, just like stocks, those prices can slither right into oblivion.
But there are, apparently, unintended, blowback consequences to the snake's bubble's bursting.
Mice suppliers, who sell to snake breeders, are impacted big-time here.
Oh, where does it all end?
Actually, although I do have tiny bit of sympathy for those who fall on hard economic times, I don't personally care where this game of snakes and ladders ends. I don't have a reptile, as it were, in this hunt, thank you.
But snakes just don't charm me, I'm afraid. And I would be just as happy if the northern progress of pythons and boa constrictors - albino, sunglow, or plain vanilla - stops at, say, the southern border of New Jersey.
(OMG, could we even spot an albino snaking across a snowfield?)