Hawaii is paradise in more ways than one. Not only is the weather perennially sublime, but the islands are also literally peacefulat least when it comes to the animal kingdom.
As the most isolated archipelago on the planet , the only way birds, animals, flowers, insects, reptiles, amphibianseven peoplecould and can reach Hawaiis sunny shores is by crossing thousands of miles of open ocean. Upon Western contact, many of Hawaiis native plants were destroyed by goats, cattle, mongooses, wild and domestic cats, and more; by now, its unique bird population has seen some of the most devastating losses.
This place was a giant aviary at one time, says Dr. Leonard Freed, a biologist at the University of Hawaii, who studies the islands birds, a number of which, including the Hawaiian stilt , have become acutely endangered, while others, such as the Oahu Petrel , have become outright extinct.
How common are snakes in Hawaii?
Snakes are fairly rare on land in Hawaii, but its waters are home to a fairly venomous variety of snake: the yellow-bellied sea snake. As their name suggests, these snakes are recognizable due to their bright yellow underbellies. They have a brown upper body and can reach up to 35-inches in length.
Are there poisonous snakes in Hawaii?
The Island Blind snake and the Yellow-bellied sea snake are the two species of snakes found in the Hawaiian Islands. … Contrary, the Yellow-bellied sea snake carries highly potent venom, just like most other sea snakes.
Why are there no snakes in Hawaii?
Snakes are illegal in Hawaii. They have no natural predators here and pose a serious threat to Hawaii’s environment because they compete with native animal populations for food and habitat. Many species also prey on birds and their eggs, increasing the threat to endangered native birds.
What is the only snake in Hawaii?
There is one snake that does live in Hawaii, likely an import from the Philippines: the Island Blind Snake. This snake is harmless and so small that it is often mistaken for an earthworm. In general, it is safe to say that the chances of you coming across a snake on your Hawaii vacation are pretty much zero.
Snakes are up there on the list of creatures to fear. It is an understandable reaction, given that there are many types of poisonous snake. When choosing your next holiday destination, fear of snakes (Ophidiophobia) could feature high on your list of priorities. You need to know where to avoid! Even if you are a lover of snakes (Ophidiophile), you might want to check out all the native creatures you could spot!
Snakes wreak havoc on native animal populations if they escape from owners homes and live in the wild. Native only to the islands that sit between the Indian and Pacific oceans, its presence has rippled out through tropical countries with the introduction of international industry, and boats and planes taking people and cargo across the seas.
The arrival of brown tree snake in Guam in 1952 decimated many of the local animal populations on the island. well, it is hoped the program will cease population growth, and stop the species from taking root on the islands and destroying local wildlife.Photo by Smithsonian Yellow bellied sea snakes are common to the tropical coastlines of Mexico and North America amongst other places.
So called because of their signature black body and yellow belly, they tend to lurk around rocks to avoid humans and predators, and are fairly slow to attack. This is why the HDOA are so committed to stamping out their presence, and can give another indication to why fines are so high if found harbouring these illegal pets.Photo by Uomo Libero on Unsplash The invertebrate is native to west central Africa, but have been found as far afield as greater Asia and parts of Bali.
If they are allowed to breed it could be game over for some endangered birds and mammals such as the Hawaiian hoary bat and the nene goose. The python was captured and safely delivered to the local humane society, who in turn handed it over to the plant quarantine inspectors. The snake was killed shortly after being found slithering from a large shipping container by workers at the scene in Keaau.
Urban legend has it that there are not any snakes in Hawaii. Unfortunately this urban legend is not actually true, in fact, there are many snakes in Hawaii. What is true, is that snakes are not native to Hawaii and therefore are regulated not to be introduced to the delicate Hawaiian ecosystem. If various types of snakes were introduced in large quantities it could pose as a threat to the unique environment.
Located out in the Pacific Ocean, the islands of Hawaii are rich in wildlife. Yep, a motley crew of mammals, birds, and marine creatures live in and around Americas 50th state, from rare monk seals to mongooses, humpback whales to handsome honeycreepers. But are there snakes in Hawaii? Well, yes and no
Pavel Kirillov from St.Petersburg, Russia, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia CommonsThe brown tree snake is not native to Hawaii and, at present, it is assumed that theres a grand total of zero on these islands. Conservationists and the Hawaiian authorities go to extreme lengths to try and keep it that way, as the potential for damage should the brown tree snake make Hawaii its home is downright huge.
These tree-dwelling snakes have caused havoc on the neighboring island of Guam, for example, where they were accidentally introduced from the South Pacific inside cargo deliveries in the 1940s. The larger of the two constrictors was a massive nine feet long and spotted by two farm workers who managed to capture the snake and hold it overnight before handing it over to authorities the next day. In 2019, a southern black racer hitched a free ride to Hawaii inside the backpack of a traveler who had flown in for a vacation from Florida.
Known for moving at high speed (hence the name), the southern black racer eats anything that it can capture and kill and would no doubt have a field day in Hawaiis rich natural environment. Thankfully, the traveler who unintentionally brought the southern black racer into Hawaii was aware of the laws surrounding snakes, and contacted authorities ASAP after something was spotted slithering out of his backpack. Blaine Hansel, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia CommonsThere have been two instances in which a shipment of Christmas trees from the United States has brought Hawaii the unwanted present of a garter snake.
What snakes are in Hawaii?
Hawaii is touted as a sort of eden. Indeed, before humans existed on the islands, Hawaii was a utopian bio-dome of sorts. Even the native brown cane spider, which can in some extreme cases give a venomous bite, is fairly docile and would prefer to run than attack. Especially a creature so large as a human. This is how humans found the eco-system when they arrived.Though there are a handful of pretty dangerous animals on the islands, we are here to tell you, there were no native snakes on the Hawaiian islands!Having said that, snakes do actually inhabit the Hawaiian islands today. They exist as interlopers, brought over by planes and boats. Some hitched a ride, others were brought by nefarious persons hoping to make a buck or two. They are uncommon, therefore exotic, and many people are captivated by the idea of owning a pet snake. The black market caters to these people. This is of course highly illegal, and categorised as a class C felony on the islands. Snake-owners face fines of up to $200,000 American Dollars if caught, with a maximum jail sentence of three years!Snakes wreak havoc on native animal populations if they escape from owner’s homes and live in the wild. This is just one reason for the extreme fines and sentences. Since snakes began arriving on the island, several birds are now endangered. One species of bird, the Oahu Petrel, was thought to have gone extinct. Thankfully, a small enclave of the petrel species were rediscovered in 2019. Snakes have no natural predators on islands such as these. So, if populations are left to grow, they could overrun the islands and completely change the eco-system!An amnesty program was also introduced in 2017 to encourage snake owners to give up their prohibited pet. Whilst this has proved useful, and many have given up their illegal animals many wild snakes are still at large.So, what kind of snakes have been found out there? Lets dive into the undergrowth and find out!
Brown Tree Snake
Native only to the islands that sit between the Indian and Pacific oceans, its presence has rippled out through tropical countries with the introduction of international industry, and boats and planes taking people and cargo across the seas. They are fairly venomous to humans, and will bite if they feel threatened. They usually prey on birds and small mammals, and have been known to eat up to 70% of their bodyweight per day. Especially when growing.The arrival of brown tree snake in Guam in 1952 decimated many of the local animal populations on the island. Direct flights between Guam and Hawaii are commonplace since the eighties. Snakes can often hitch a ride on these planes, hiding in wheel arches and dropping down into the cargo hold. Many have been found upon arrival. Some go unnoticed, slithering out into the tropical forests and grasses to feed and reproduce. Watch out on those beautiful nature hikes!The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) have taken the appearance of these pests very seriously, and have recently introduced a new method of eradication. Not only are there brown tree snakes in Hawaii, but in 2018 four sterile male brown tree snakes were purposefully flown in to facilitate sniffer dog training. Why? well, it is hoped the program will cease population growth, and stop the species from taking root on the islands and destroying local wildlife.
Brahminy Blind Snake
The Brahminy blind snake is approximately 5-10 cm in length, and known to be smallest snake in the world. The species is non-venomous and feeds on larvae, eggs, and pupae of ants and termites.All snakes of this kind are female, and lay eggs that are effectively clones of themselves. There are many brahminy blind snakes in Hawaii. It is suspected that one came over in the 1930’s from the Philippines in potting soil. Seemingly this one female was enough to create an eruption of the species due to its reproductive solvency.The snake is probably the most harmless in the line-up, and amazingly seems to have not effected the overall eco-system of Hawaii negatively overall. As they tend to stick to the undergrowth, you may never even see one! As they are so tiny, you might even mistake one for an earthworm.
Yellow Bellied Sea Snake
Yellow bellied sea snakes are common to the tropical coastlines of Mexico and North America amongst other places. So called because of their signature black body and yellow belly, they tend to lurk around rocks to avoid humans and predators, and are fairly slow to attack. If they do bite, however, their venom is highly dangerous and contains neurotoxins that attack the brain. Anti-venom is widely available however and no lasting damage will occur if the victim is treated quickly.There are yellow bellied sea snakes in Hawaii, yet there have been no reported incidents of attacks on humans on the coastlines of Hawaii. It is unclear how they came to dwell in Hawaiian waters. It is assumed by fishermen who accidentally catch them in nets. Still, these are definitely worth staying away from if you see one while snorkelling!
Rainbow Boa Constrictor
There are five types of rainbow boa, each with their own distinctive colours and markings. All beautiful, all potentially deadly. So we wonder, just how many types of rainbow boa constrictor snakes are there in Hawaii?These are perhaps the most exotic snakes that people love to own. This is why they are often smuggled in and sold on the black market with intent. As the name would suggest, the boa constricts. That is how it kills its prey, by crushing it to death. And as the boa can get pretty big, so can its prey!In 2013, a nearly three foot rainbow boa was found on a cross-walk in Honolulu’s Chinatown. The same year, another was run-over on Oahu’s highway. A six-foot Boa was also confiscated from a home in Kea’au on Big Island. But the biggest regular boa was discovered by the HDOA in Nuuanu in 2015. it was seven foot long!There have been many discovered lurking in the wild. Maybe they come over in shipping containers. Perhaps owners get scared when they see how big the invertebrates can get and ditch them. Probably a bit of both. Either way, these guys at their biggest have the power to crush full sized goats and pigs. A human wouldn’t be too much hard work for a six of seven foot boa, if you cross it! This is why the HDOA are so committed to stamping out their presence, and can give another indication to why fines are so high if found harbouring these illegal pets.
Python’s are discerned by the characteristic brown diamond-like markings on its light tan body. Its head is much wider than its body, and has large backwards-facing teeth, used to hold its prey. Usually small mammals and birds. The invertebrate is native to west central Africa, but have been found as far afield as greater Asia and parts of Bali.This year, a hunter out in Ouahu island’s Kahalu’u forest came across a 4ft ball python. While non-venomous, the python can still cause untold harm to local wildlife. Like the boa constrictor, they will kill prey by coiling around the animal and crushing it. If they are allowed to breed it could be game over for some endangered birds and mammals such as the Hawaiian hoary bat and the nene goose. The python was captured and safely delivered to the local humane society, who in turn handed it over to the plant quarantine inspectors.It is not known how the snake, native to west central Africa, arrived on the island. Either as stow-away or black market pet, but it is suspected the latter is true.
Corn snakes are a slender variety of snake, and are recorded to reach up to 72 inches in length. Their signature mark is the red spots/diamond shapes on their back, surrounded by a burnt orange colouring. The corn snake will eat small mammals, but has also been known to eat birds eggs. Even the odd bird if they are small enough. But are there many corn snakes in Hawaii?In 2019, a corn snake was found in backyard in Waipahu. Whilst the snake was captured by the HDOA and released to the plant quarantine inspectors, there has been no clue as to how it came to be there. As the corn snake is often touted as a great pet due to its docile, non-venomous nature it could be just another black-market pet that got out of its cage. There is only one reported case of a corn snake being. As they are nocturnal, however, this does not mean that they are not out there!
The gopher snake is one of the more harmless reptiles on this list. Still, it could prove hard on the local eco-system if allowed to run rampant! The large brown coloured snake with sandy coloured squares along its back was found on Hawaii’s Big Island 2014. The snake was killed shortly after being found slithering from a large shipping container by workers at the scene in Keaau.A similar reported incident happened near a Honolulu Airport in 2012, and again in a shipyard in Honolulu in 2007. Are there more gopher snakes in Hawaii? Given that the gopher is a type of snake native to the west coast of America, It’s likely. So called because they eat gophers amongst other small mammals, this particular snake only eats every 10-14 days, meaning it is probably one of the least harmful snakes to have on the Hawaiian islands. Still, their breeding could eventually cause harm to the local wildlife!
Brahminy blind snake
The brahminy blind snake is one of only two snakes known to live in Hawaii. Originally indigenous to certain areas of Africa and Asia, it has now managed to colonize large parts of the globe. It’s believed that all brahminy blind snakes are female and they are the only species of snake that is parthenogenetic. This means that it only takes a single snake to produce offspring by laying unfertilized eggs that will hatch. In fact, as Hawaii has seen, it only takes a single brahminy blind snake to create aThe brahminy blind snake is the smallest species of snake on earth, only reaching around six inches in size. For that reason, and thanks to the pinkish hue of its skin, it is often mistaken for a large worm. As the name suggests, brahminy blind snakes are totally unable to see. They’re also completely nonvenomous (phew!), living mainly off ants and termites. They are commonly seen in Hawaii but pose no threat to humans.
Yellow-bellied sea snake
The yellow-bellied sea snake is the only other snake that can be called a full-time resident of Hawaii, or at least the waters around Hawaii. Easy to spot due to its unique appearance, the yellow-bellied snake has a dark brown back and a bright daffoldil-dashed body. Commonly found living in open seas and oceans (except the Atlantic Ocean) around the world, the yellow-bellied sea snake very rarely ventures onto dry land.For that reason, it’s extremely unlikely that you’d actually encounter one of these as you hop from the golf courses of Princeville and the surf breaks of Waikiki. That’s good news, too because, unlike the brahminy blind snake, the yellow-bellied sea snake is highly venomous. Symptoms of a bite from a include drowsiness, vomiting, muscle pain and a particularly nasty bite could ultimately prove to be fatal.
Brown tree snakes
The brown tree snake is not native to Hawaii and, at present, it is assumed that there’s a grand total of zero on these islands. Conservationists and the Hawaiian authorities go to extreme lengths to try and keep it that way, as the potential for damage should the brown tree snake make Hawaii its home is downright huge. These tree-dwelling snakes have caused havoc on the neighboring island of Guam, for example, where they were accidentally introduced from the South Pacific inside cargo deliveries in the 1940s.Since arriving on Guam, the brown tree snake has devastated much of the island’s habitat. With no natural predator, its population has grown rapidly, leading to the localized extinction of a number of bird and lizard species. On top of that, the snakes also cause hundreds of electrical blackouts a year by climbing onto power lines and into electrical boxes and transformers. They’re not the best neighbors.Authorities fear that if introduced in Hawaii the brown tree snake would have a similarly catastrophic effect on the local environment. Though there are no brown tree snakes in Hawaii at present, a number were found in the 1980s and 1990s, thought to have hitched a ride on flights arriving from Guam. Today all planes and cargo boats arriving from Guam are checked thoroughly for these slitherers.
In March 2019, a five-foot-long boa constrictor was found in Kunia on the island of Oahu. How the snake got to Hawaii is a mystery, though it’s not the only boa constrictor to have made its way to the island. In 2011, two other boa constrictors were found in two separate incidents. The larger of the two constrictors was a massive nine feet long and spotted by two farm workers who managed to capture the snake and hold it overnight before handing it over to authorities the next day. In 2013, another boa constrictor was accidentally killed after it was run over as it crossed a highway.Though they are non-venomous, boa constrictors are well known for the deadly way in which they attack their prey. That involves a muscle-powered death hug that overpowers a the victim’s bodily functions and knocks them unconscious. Thankfully, boas ery rarely attack humans. Their diet is mainly small rodents and other amphibians. Native to South America, boa constrictors are also common pets and can live to around thirty years in captivity. Due to the potential damage they could do the local environment if they escaped, owning a snake as a pet is 100% illegal in Hawaii.
The boa constrictor is far from the only interloping snake in Hawaii. Since 2015, three different ball pythons have been found in the Aloha State. Native to Western and Central Africa, the ball python is another snake commonly kept as a pet, especially on the mainland of the United States. What’s more, in all three instances, the ball pythons appeared to be in very good condition, indicating that they had probably been kept as pets at some point in time.Just as with any other breed of snake, if allowed to roam free the ball python could devastate Hawaii’s finely balanced ecosystem. Capable of growing up to six foot in length, the ball python lives off small rodents and birds, of which there are plenty in Hawaii. Another non-venomous snake, the ball python is also constrictor, suffocating its prey by cutting off the blood supply to its victim’s vital organs before chowing down.
Southern black racer
Despite the hefty punishments for snakes as pets and all of the local authority’s protocols aimed at making sure there are no snakes Hawaii, occasionally there’ll be one that manages to somehow slip through the net. In 2019, a southern black racer hitched a free ride to Hawaii inside the backpack of a traveler who had flown in for a vacation from Florida. The southern black racer is common in Florida and, though non-venomous, it’s also a constrictor like the boa before it.Known for moving at high speed (hence the name), the southern black racer eats anything that it can capture and kill and would no doubt have a field day in Hawaii’s rich natural environment. Though the punishments for illegally importing snakes into Hawaii are severe, there are no such penalties for bringing in snakes accidentally. Thankfully, the traveler who unintentionally brought the southern black racer into Hawaii was aware of the laws surrounding snakes, and contacted authorities ASAP after something was spotted slithering out of his backpack.
There have been two instances in which a shipment of Christmas trees from the United States has brought Hawaii the unwanted present of a garter snake. In 2004, a 13-inch garter snake was discovered at a supermarket when a shipment of the festive items were unloaded from a shipping container. The Christmas trees had been delivered from a company in Oregon. In 2020, another garter snake was found inside a delivery of Christmas trees, though on this occasion the snake was injured in transit and died shortly after arriving in Hawaii.The garter snake is commonly found throughout North America. Though they are venomous, they’re considered to be essentially harmless to humans. The venom of the garter snake is a very weak neurotoxin and they can only produce a very small quantity of the stuff, nowhere near enough to do any serious harm to a person. That said, their bites can be painful and lead to swelling; hardly the best start to a sun-splashed holiday on the Na Pali Coast, eh?
How do snakes get to Hawaii?
In most cases snakes are accidentally imported into Hawaii either inside cargo shipments or inside planes or boats that come from other countries or islands where snakes are common. The only snake to reach Hawaii by its own means is the yellow-bellied sea snake which lives mostly in the waters around Hawaii. There may also be black market traders who import snakes to be kept as illicit pets, despite the serious risk of punishment.
Are there any dangerous snakes in Hawaii?
Of the two snakes that live in Hawaii, it’s the yellow-bellied sea snake is the most dangerous, producing a powerful venom that is capable of killing a person. The brahminy blind snake, however, is one of the world’s smallest and poses no danger to humans.
Are there any snakes native to Hawaii?
There are no snakes native to Hawaii. Of the two species of snake that live on Hawaii, one was accidentally introduced, whilst the other swam from the waters of the Indo-Pacific. All other snakes found in Hawaii have either been accidentally or illegally imported.