Mention Hawaii, and most people think of beautiful beaches, sunshine, and maybe volcanoes. What people rarely stop to consider are the less inviting sides of Hawaii. Isolated by thousands of miles of ocean, Hawaii has evolved a unique array of wildlife and plant life. If you are one of those people who have a fear of snakes, you may wonder if there are snakes in Hawaii.
Currently, at least seven species of imported snakes have been found on the Hawaiian Islands. Technically, there are no snake species native to Hawaii. Of these seven species, only two are believed to have established a foothold and begun breeding. Man is responsible for introducing these legless reptiles to Hawaii either accidentally or on purpose.
Of these seven species, only one, the Brahminy Blind Snake is the only land-based snake known to actively be living and breeding on land in Hawaii. The Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake is not really a resident of the islands. This water-living sea snake inhabits the water around the Hawaiian Islands. The other 5 species known to have been found in Hawaii include pythons, boa constrictors, and the Brown Tree Snake.
About the Snakes in Hawaii
Your chances of encountering a snake roaming about in Hawaii in even the most remote spaces are practically nil. However, there is always a possibility that an imported snake that has been released accidentally may be found. There is so much international travel to and from the Hawaiian Islands that almost anything is possible.
Snakes have been known to hitch rides aboard shipping containers amid the cargo on sea-going vessels and on airplanes. Hawaiian officials are constantly on the watch to prevent any unwanted species, especially snakes, from being introduced to the islands. Several species of snakes have been found in luggage, cargo containers, and aboard aircraft.
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Brahminy Blind Snake
The Brahminy Blind Snake is native to parts of Africa and Asia and is a unique specimen in the snake world. No one is sure about how the Brahminy Blind Snake managed to colonize Hawaii, but it is known that this snake has established itself around the world. It doesn’t take a pair of Brahminy Blind Snakes to get started. You only need one. All these species of snake are female and can reproduce by laying unfertilized eggs that will hatch.
Your chances of finding A Brahminy Blind Snake are not very good. This is the smallest true snake in the world, rarely getting more than six inches in length.
Most people who see one misidentify the snake as a large earthworm. These snakes are sightless and nonvenomous. As such, they pose no threat to humans.
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Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake
Don’t expect to come across a Yellow-bellied Sea Snake unless you spend almost all your time in Hawaii snorkeling or SCUBA diving.
These are true sea snakes who tend to spend their entire lives in the ocean waters. It is very rare to find one of these sea snakes on the beach.
Yellow-bellied Sea Snakes are, however, common in the ocean waters around the Hawaiian Islands. Still, swimmers rarely encounter one of these creatures. On the off chance you do see the distinctive brown and daffodil-yellow coloration in the water, it is best to leave this snake alone.
The venom of the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake is venomous and can cause some rather nasty results. The bite of a Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake has the potential to be fatal if the snake is large and the bite is severe and goes untreated.
Brown Tree Snake
The Brown Tree Snake is indigenous to the south pacific but has spread across other islands in the Pacific Ocean by hitching rides. Much of this expansion occurred during the 1940s before rigorous inspection and control procedures had been introduced.
These tree-dwelling snakes have become a serious problem in some island nations in the Pacific Ocean, and authorities in Hawaii take extreme measures to keep this snake species off the islands.
In Guam, the Brown Tree Snake has led to the extinction of several bird and lizard species. Hawaiian officials fear the same could happen on the Islands if Brown Tree Snakes are accidentally introduced into the habitat.
\Several of these snakes have been found on aircraft and among the cargo, mostly coming from Guam. At present, there are no known populations of brown tree snakes on the Hawaiian Islands.
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Over the past several years, a number of boa constrictor species have been found in the wild in Hawaii. The tropical areas of Hawaii offer an inviting habitat to boa constrictors and, if allowed to become established, could damage the local ecology.
There have been at least 5 separate incidents on Oahu since 2019, with one of the boa constrictors being over nine feet long when it was captured.
Boa Constrictors are non-venomous, but larger specimens can be dangerous to adult humans under some circumstances. However, boa constrictors rarely attack humans and live mainly on small rodents.
It is believed that the boa constrictors found in Hawaii were imported illegally as pets and then released either accidentally or on purpose.
Pythons are another species of constrictors that are typically native to warm tropical climates. These non-venomous snakes capture their prey by constricting to squeeze the life out of their target.
These snakes are commonly kept as pets in other parts of the world, and it is believed that the pythons captured in Hawaii were imported illegally and then released.
At least three Ball Pythons have been captured in the wild in Hawaii. The danger from these snakes is to the ecology and wildlife of the islands more than to humans.
The main prey of these snakes is rodents and birds, which could potentially devastate many of the unique species found only on the Hawaiian Islands.
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Southern Black Racer
The Southern Black Racer is native to Florida and some other southeastern states on the North American Continent. This non-venomous species is also a constrictor that hunts rodents, birds, and other reptiles.
At least one instance of a Southern Black Racer being found in the luggage of a traveler arriving from Florida has been recorded. There is no indication the incident was malicious or intentional.
It is illegal to possess snakes of any kind as pets in Hawaii. Importing snakes to Hawaii can result in hefty fines. The Hawaiian authorities are adamant and serious about keeping invasive species from gaining a foothold in the state. Fortunately, only intentionally bringing a snake to Hawaii will subject you to fines.
In 2004 Hawaiian inspection officials got an unexpected Christmas gift. A load of Christmas trees imported from the United States also included a thirteen-inch garter snake. This has happened twice, and in both instances, the Christmas trees had been shipped from Oregon to Hawaii.
Garter snakes are indigenous to North America. Garter snakes are venomous though the toxins are generally so weak that they pose no threat to humans.
However, the bite can cause local pain and swelling. Garter snakes prey on small animals and insects and could be a potential problem for some native species in Hawaii.
Are There Poisonous Snakes in Hawaii?
Technically, yes, there are poisonous snakes in Hawaii. However, the venomous snakes that are native to Hawaii are the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake which doesn’t really live on the islands.
This snake inhabits the Pacific Ocean waters that surround Hawaii. Your chances of encountering one of these creatures are really rather low.
Some Yellow-Belly Sea Snakes have been observed on the beach, but, in most instances, these snakes were accidentally washed ashore by the surf and weren’t active on dry land.
There are no venomous snakes known to inhabit the dry parts of the islands at this time. Hawaiian officials work diligently to ensure that no snakes get accidentally introduced into the environment.
How Come There Are No Snakes in Hawaii?
The sheer isolation of the volcanic Hawaiian Islands is the main reason there are no native species of snakes. Birds can, either accidentally or intentionally, make the journey across the ocean to settle on the islands. Plant seeds can drift on the wind or ride ocean currents to gain a foothold in the rich volcanic soil.
Snakes, however, cannot swim the great distances involved, so no snakes have made the journey unassisted to inhabit the islands. The only snake population known to now be actively breeding in Hawaii are the Brahminy Blind Snake, and no one is sure how they came to be on the islands.
Why Are Snakes Illegal in Hawaii?
Keeping snakes of all kinds is a popular hobby in many parts of the world. However, keeping snakes as pets is illegal in Hawaii. The chief reason is to protect the native species as well as the human population on the islands.
Any snake species introduced to the wild in Hawaii could have devastating impacts on many unique and rare wildlife species that exist nowhere else. Any introduced snake species would have no natural predators to control the population, so explosive growth would be expected. This could forever change the ecological balance of the islands.