Snakes in Hawaii are a big concern. As a visitor, you may be wondering are there snakes in Hawaii and if you should be worried, given the proliferation of venomous snakes in most tropical destinations including Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Hawaii ecosystems are completely unprepared for invasive predators. If snakes were to invade Hawaii, they could cause irreparable damage to native species.
Historically there have been no snakes in Hawaii, that is until they were brought here. For the most part. The distance between Hawaii and nearby Pacific islands and other continents is too vast for most snakes to survive traveling here.
Case in point.
You may have heard that not long ago a 20-year old man brought a live predator snake in his backpack to Hawaii. The snake wasn’t noticed until he checked into his vacation rental and the snake slithered out to enjoy the islands. The young snake, one foot long, was a black racer snake, which is not venomous and is widely seen in Florida. At the time, the USDA said, “the brown-colored snake appears to be a newborn, measuring about a foot long and 1/4 inch in diameter.” When full-grown, the snake could have reached up to 6 feet long, and could have caused significant damage.
Officials said the man was not aware of the snake until it emerged at a vacation rental property. Okay, well you can ponder that.
DNLR was notified and captured the creature, and it was transported to Honolulu. Hawaii Department of Agriculture said, “it is fortunate that the owner of the rental was aware of the seriousness of the snake being transported to Hawaii and took appropriate action and reported it. Visitors to our islands may not fully understand the threat that snakes pose to our community and our unique environment.”
Agriculture Department intentionally imported snakes into Hawaii.
Recently, Hawaii Agriculture imported four brown tree snakes for the special purpose of helping four specially trained dogs detect snakes that could enter the state via passengers or cargo. Brown tree snakes were responsible for decimating Guam’s bird population when they invaded that island.
Hawaii does have one near-native snake, the yellow-bellied sea snake.
It does not come on land and it is rare to see it in Hawaii. Somehow with our focus on cheap flights to Hawaii and Hawaii travel tips, we’ve just never seen one. They have a bright yellow bottom and a dark-colored top. It is reclusive by nature. Read on for its true story.
This will cost you a fine of up to $200,000, imprisonment up to three years; and paying all costs for capture or eradication of the pest.
These are the snakes now found in Hawaii.
Brahminy Blind Snake. Hawaii is also now home to the Brahminy blind snake, also known as the island blind snake, which came in a potted plant from the Philippines in a potted plant around 1930. These are largely harmless, and it is believed that their populations in Hawaii are significant. They are not a native species. These smallest snakes measure up to 6″ in length. They are so small that some people have mistaken them for an earthworm. Blind Snakes prey on a diet of termites and ants, both of which are other real problems here in Hawaii. These are all female, and they lay eggs that hatch and do not need to be fertilized. Blind Snakes are thought to have little impact on Hawaii’s vulnerable native animal population.
Ball Python. Grows up to 6 feet long and is frequently kept as a pet. Some have made their way to Hawaii. In fact there have been several sightings in recent years. A four-foot specimen was seen on Oahu in the Kahaluu Forest, and another one was found not long ago in Hilo on the Big Island by an ambulance crew. Their diet consists of birds and small mammals and would be very damaging should they get loose. These snakes kill by constriction rather than by venom.
Boa Constrictor. These large and exotic snakes have been seen a number of times in Hawaii as well, one of which was nearly 10 feet in length. They have been found on Oahu. Boa’s made their way to the Hawaiian Islands as illegal pets largely. There is a black market here for such pets.
Brown Tree Snake. These biting and venomous snakes can be hitchhikers on boats or planes. They eat birds, bird and reptile eggs, lizards, small mammals including rats and mice, and even small pets. Brown Tree snakes are considered voracious eaters which are dangerous. They have done tremendous damage in Guam, where they face no natural predators.
Garter Snake. These creatures, common to the mainland, and kept there as a pet snakes, may have hitchhiked their way to Hawaii on Christmas trees multiple times, and as recently as 2020. They are distinguished by having light-colored stripes along their bodies. Garters are considered to be mildly venomous and can cause swelling. They feed on assorted insects, fish, and other critters.
Corn Snake. The most recent Hawaii sighting of a corn snake was 3 years ago in Waipahu (Oahu). These large snakes reach up to 6 feet in length and feed on bird eggs and other animals. There was just one orange corn snake seen in Hawaii, several years ago, when it was mysteriously found in someone’s backyard.
Yellow-bellied sea snakes. These are ubiquitous water snakes found in tropical waters and oceans worldwide and rarely come onshore. They are venomous but try to avoid humans. Nonetheless, their bite can be deadly. Yellow-bellied are not indigenous to Hawaii and are the only sea snake to have reached the islands via the Pacific Ocean. They are undoubtedly great swimmers. These snakes are seen in many places including Southern California, Costa Rica, and Peru.