Are There Snakes In Hawaii? YES But There’s No Need To Worry!
The Hawaiian Islands were once a snake-free paradise. But that was before it became a popular vacation spot. Those who have a healthy fear of snakes may be disheartened to learn that several reptiles have made their way to the Aloha State’s shores. But just because you can now find snakes in Hawaii doesn’t mean the islands are any less beautiful. And, before you let your fear of slithering serpents derail your vacation plans, think about how, if at all, the presence of snakes will factor into your island getaway. So, to assist you, here is a guide to snakes in Hawaii.
Does Hawaii Have Snakes?
There are no native snakes in Hawaii. Unfortunately, this does not mean it is snake-free. Because of travel, stowaways, and illegal smuggling, the islands have seen their fair share of snake species. However, Hawaii is far from overrun, thanks in part to the fact that owning snakes is illegal.
All snakes in Hawaii share two characteristics: they are invasive and illegal. The isolated location of Hawaii has resulted in a delicately balanced ecosystem. With no natural predators, the introduction of invasive predators such as snakes has the potential to devastate Hawaii’s native wildlife populations. Because of the potential threat to native species, Hawaii made owning a pet snake illegal on the islands. Owners who willingly turn over any pet snakes can receive amnesty and face fines of up to $200,000 and three years in prison.
Visitors to Hawaii won’t have to worry about encounters with snakes due to the state’s zero-tolerance policy. In fact, you’re more likely to encounter a shark than a snake—and, before you get too worried, there’s very little chance of encountering the ocean’s kings.
Why Aren’t Snakes Native To Hawaii?
From what we know, the islands in the tropics have been around for more than 30 million years.
The islands of Hawaii seem to be cut off from the rest of the world because of where they are on Earth. They are 3200 kilometers from the United States mainland.
So it makes sense that snakes wouldn’t have been able to get to the islands by boat or ship until fairly recently.
Why are there snakes in Hawaii?
We now know that snakes are not from Hawaii.
Even though this tropical paradise is far away from other countries, how did snakes get there?
The answer is awfully easy to figure out. People helped these snakes get to the islands of Hawaii by putting them on a boat or a plane.
Even though snakes weren’t part of the original plan for Hawaii’s ecosystem, the islands have the perfect climate and environment for a species of slithering reptile to make it their home.
Snakes have cold blood and don’t like it when it’s cold. But that doesn’t mean they like it when it’s too hot.
Hawaii is a tropical island, so it is warm most of the year. From November to March, rain and rare storms come to the island.
In Hawaii, how common are snakes?
Fortunately, the snakes found in Hawaii are not common. Or, at the very least, they are rarely seen. The Brahminy Blind Snake, also known as the Island Blind Snake, and the yellow-bellied sea snake are the two most common types of snakes in Hawaii.
It’s unusual to see either of Hawaii’s most common snakes in the wild. When this is done, the Brahminy Blind snake becomes relatively harmless. However, if you come across a yellow-bellied sea snake, keep your distance because their venom is potent enough to cause paralysis.
Do these snakes bite?
Usually, no. Bite incidents have occurred in the past. Brown Tree Snake venom is usually insignificant for adults, but it can be fatal for children.
The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake is highly poisonous. Seek medical attention if you have been bitten by a snake.
Where can you find them in Hawaii?
The majority of Brown Tree Snake sightings have been concentrated on Oahu. However, you’ll be relieved to know that there have been fewer than ten sightings of Brown Tree Snakes in Hawaii since 1981, according to hawaii.gov.
Brahminy Blind Snakes can be found all over the island, but they pose no threat to humans. They’re frequently seen in gardens, but they may actually do more good than harm by eating invasive insect species.
The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake lives in tropical waters all over the world. Sightings in Hawaii, on the other hand, are extremely rare.
What should you do if you find one?
If you come across a snake in Hawaii, leave it alone. You can call the state’s PEST HOTLINE at 643-PEST (7378) to report a sighting.
Are There Poisonous Snakes in Hawaii?
The venomous (sometimes incorrectly called poisonous) yellow-bellied sea snake is one of only two venomous snakes on the Hawaiian Islands. The brown tree snake is the second. However, when compared to its sea counterpart, the brown tree snake is only mildly venomous.
Of course, venomous snakes aren’t the only ones to keep an eye out for in Hawaii. Scares with various types of nonvenomous serpents, including ball pythons and boa constrictors, have occurred on the islands.
9 Snakes in Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands have had their fair share of encounters with illegal animals, ranging from exotic snakes like the boa constrictor to common reptiles like the garter snake. However, exotic or not, they are all uncommon in Hawaii (with one notable exception). So, here are some snakes you might encounter on the islands, but probably won’t.
Hawaii’s Nonvenomous Snakes
The vast majority of snakes seen in Hawaii are not poisonous. However, while this makes them less dangerous to humans, it has no effect on the Hawaiian ecosystem. If you see one of these creepers crawling around Hawaii, call the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA).
1. Ball Python
Nonvenomous snakes known as ball pythons are popular as exotic pets in the United States. What begins as a small and cute snake quickly grows to be several feet long. While they do not pose a significant threat to humans, they can cause irreversible damage to native wildlife and Hawaii’s populations of birds and small mammals if released into the wild.
Despite Hawaiian government regulations, the islands have seen several ball python sightings in the last decade. The most recent were discovered in Hilo in 2020 and Honolulu in 2021.
2. Brahminy Blind Snake
There are no native snake species in Hawaii. Having said that, the Brahminy Blind snake has been around for so long that many people consider it a native of Hawaii. Brahminy Blind snakes are one of the world’s smallest snake species, measuring only six inches in length. If you see it in the wild, you might mistake its slim frame for an earthworm, and its size is one of the reasons it’s also known as the flowerpot snake.
The Brahminy snake has established a sizable population since its introduction to Hawaii’s shores. While this would be cause for concern in any other species, it poses no risk to the Hawaiian ecosystem. Indeed, many people value its presence because of its feeding habits—a steady diet of ants and termites.
3. The Corn Snake
Corn snakes, which can grow to be six feet long, are common in southeastern states such as Florida. The most dangerous aspect of these serpents is their voracious appetite. They eat every few days and eat everything from lizards and tree frogs (babies) to rats and birds (adults). These snakes pose little threat on the mainland, but they could quickly establish themselves as an invasive predator on the Hawaiian Islands.
Fortunately, only one corn snake has ever been discovered in the Hawaiian Islands. When it was discovered in someone’s backyard, it was quickly apprehended by police and turned over to the HDOA.
4. The Garter Snake
The garter snake is distinguished by a distinctive pattern of three stripes down its back. However, due to the fact that there are over thirty-five different species, its appearance can vary. What doesn’t change, thankfully, is its relative innocuity. Garter snakes are venomous, but their venom is only strong enough to cause minor swelling if bitten.
While garters are fairly common in North America, they are not in Hawaii. The islands have only had two encounters with these colorful creatures, both involving Christmas trees. The first was discovered in 2004, when a garter snake was discovered in a Christmas tree shipment in Kailua, and the second in 2020, during a secondary inspection of a shipment in Honolulu. Fortunately, despite their Christmas tree invasion, the islands have remained garter-free.
5. The Boa Constrictor
Because of its striking appearance and large size, the boa constrictor is another popular pet among exotic snake owners. Boa constrictors have distinct markings in a variety of colors and patterns and can grow to be as long as twelve feet. Unfortunately, because of their exotic nature, boa constrictors are even more likely to be smuggled into Hawaii than ball pythons. As a result, there have been far more boa sightings on the islands in the last decade. A nine-foot boa constrictor captured by pig farmers in 2011 was the largest. Others were turned over to the HDOA or discovered along the highway.
Because boa constrictors are land snakes that eat birds and other native wildlife, if left unchecked, they could decimate Hawaii’s native populations.
6. Southern Black Racer
The southern black racer is frequently confused with its venomous counterpart, the cottonmouth. Nonvenomous, its thin body, jet black coloring, and white chin help distinguish it from other snakes. The southern black racer, unlike many other snakes on this list, is active during the day, making it much easier to spot.
However, given that the only reported sighting of this snake was a backpack stowaway from Florida in 2019, you’re unlikely to see it on your next trip to Hawaii.
7. The Gopher Snake
The gopher snake’s appearance is far more frightening than the reptile itself. Despite its size, the gopher snake is a nonvenomous snake. It eats small mammals, birds, bird eggs, and, of course, gophers. They do an excellent job of controlling rodent populations in North America. However, in Hawaii, where native bird populations are unaccustomed to the threat of terrestrial snakes, their hunting abilities could quickly spiral out of control.
There have only been a few reports of gopher snake sightings in recent years. One was discovered in a shipping container in 2014, and police just this summer apprehended another gopher snake in the aisles of a Home Depot in Honolulu.
Hawaii’s Venomous Snakes
Don’t be concerned about deadly snake bites. In Hawaii, venomous snakes are few and far between. Nonetheless, the islands have had a few troubling encounters in the past, making seeing these serpents a possibility, however remote. So, if you see either of these snakes, keep your distance and contact the HDOA right away.
8. Tree Snake, Brown
You shouldn’t have to look too hard for these serpents or their cat-like eyes. In Hawaii, brown tree snakes have an interesting backstory. Between 1981 and 1998, only eight were discovered on the islands.
If allowed to spread, the brown tree snake could pose a serious threat to Hawaii’s native species. Brown tree snakes nearly wiped out the island’s native bird population after being accidentally introduced in the 1950s. Because they eat small mammals, birds, and other creatures and have no natural predators in Hawaii, it’s feared that if they manage to smuggle their way in, a similar story could unfold.
To prevent this, the Hawaiian government imported them to the islands. While bringing them in may appear counterintuitive, their purpose is preventative. In 2018, four sterile brown tree snakes were brought to the islands to aid in the training of dogs to search for them in plane and boat cargo.
9. Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake
In Hawaii, yellow-bellied sea snakes are the most “native” snakes. The sea snake is an aquatic species found off the coast of Hawaii, distinguished by its black back and bright yellow belly. It rarely comes on land, which is a good thing given that it is the most venomous snake on the islands. Its toxins are potent enough to cause paralysis and, if untreated, can be fatal.
However, despite its lethal bite, there have been no reports of a yellow-bellied sea snake attacking anyone in Hawaii. They are generally timid and prefer to hide rather than attack. So, if you see one, keep your distance and contact the HDOA.
Summing Up Snakes in Hawaii
Although, in general, Hawaii is a snake-free zone, reports indicate that there are some snakes on the island, the most common of which are the harmless Brahminy Blind Snakes.
Other species with venom include the Brown Tree Snake and the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake, both of which are rarely seen in Hawaii.
The majority of sightings have occurred on Oahu, so keep an eye out if you’re in the area. However, most Oahu residents will never see a Brown Tree Snake or a Yellow-bellied Sea Snake in their lives.
If you’re afraid of snakes, that’s no reason to avoid Hawaii. The chances of encountering a snake here are extremely remote, but the experiences you will have by visiting this stunning island are unparalleled.
Topic: Are There Snakes In Hawaii? YES… But There’s No Need To Worry!
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