East Hawaii News

Keaau Store Workers Discover Snake in Shipping Container

April 25, 2014, 2:31 PM HST
* Updated April 25, 2:53 PM
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Employees unloading a container at a store in Keaau Thursday found more than merchandise when a two-foot brown gopher snake slithered out.

The workers prevented it from escaping by striking it, said a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.

The shipping container had been sent from California, where the non-venomous snakes are common.

The two-foot-long snake later died from the injury and was shipped to Honolulu this morning.

“We appreciate the quick action taken by store employees to stop the snake’s escape,” said DOA Director Scott Enright.

“Hitchhiking snakes are a constant concern for the department,” he said. “This situation demonstrates how important it is for all of us to be on the lookout for invasive species.”

DOA officials note that snakes are illegal in Hawaii where they pose a serious threat to Hawaii’s environment because of a lack of natural predators.

Many snake species prey on birds and their eggs, increasing the threat to endangered native birds. Large snakes can also be a danger to the public and small pets.

Officials are constantly on the lookout for brown tree snakes from Guam.

Because of Hawaii’s amnesty program, officials declined to identify the Keaau store where the snake was found.

Anyone with information on illegal animals is asked to call the state’s toll-free pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378). Illegal animals may be turned in to any HDOA Office, municipal zoo or Humane Society, with no questions asked and no fines assessed. 

Agriculture officials said gopher snakes are commonly found in North America and can grow up to seven feet in length. Their diet consists of small rodents, young rabbits, lizards and birds and their eggs. Prey is killed by constriction and suffocation.

The last snake discovered on the Big Island was a garter snake discovered in July 2013 by tourists inside their Kona vacation condominium.

DOA officials say the snake may have hitchhiked in the visitors’ luggage.

Hawaii's blind burrowing snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus). Pacificislandparks.com photo.

Hawaii’s blind burrowing snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus). Pacificislandparks.com photo.

According to the National Park Service’s blog, only two types of snakes are found in Hawaii.

One is a small, blind burrowing snake usually mistaken for a worm. The non-biting snake was introduced to Hawaii from the Philippines around 1930.

The other is the yellow-bellied sea snake which is a rare visitor to the state’s waters.

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