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Visitors Discover Garter Snake in Kona Vacation Condo

July 3, 2013, 5:16 PM HST
* Updated July 5, 10:59 AM
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A family vacationing in Kona on Tuesday found an extra visitor in their Kona vacation condominium – a 16-inch garter snake.

The snake may have hitchhiked on or with the family’s luggage, said Janelle Saneishi, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture. The family had just arrived in Kona that evening.

The snake was given to the condo’s security, which turned it over to state agriculture officials. It was kept at the Hilo Plant Quarantine Office before being transported to Honolulu, where it will be kept for educational purposes until it can be shipped out of state, Saneishi said.

The snake will be used for educational purposes before being shipped out of state. DOA photo.

The snake will be used for educational purposes before being shipped out of state. DOA photo.

Native to North America and Central America, garter snakes’ diet consists of small prey such as lizards, worms, insects and amphibians, the department said. Their bite may release a mild neurotoxin which is not lethal to humans.

She noted that snakes are illegal in Hawaii.

The only kind native to the state is a worm-like blind variety several inches in length.

Individuals who have illegal animals are encouraged to turn them in under the State’s amnesty program, which provides immunity from prosecution. Illegal animals may be turned in to any DOA Office, at the Honolulu Zoo or at any Humane Society – no questions asked and no fines assessed.

Because no questions are asked, it is not known where the family lives.

Saneishi could not recall the last time a live garter snake was discovered in Hawaii, although she said a dead one was found in an imported hay bale several years ago.

The last snake discovered in the state was an ornate tree snake – also known as a flying tree snake for its ability to spring between trees – which was found in May by military personnel Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu.

The last snakes to turn up on the Big Island were a boa constrictor and an albino Burmese python which were surrendered under the amnesty program in June 2011 at the Hilo Plant Quarantine facility.

Saneishi said anyone with information on illegal animals should call the Pest Hotline at 808-643-PEST (7378).

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