A live snake was discovered and killed Thursday afternoon at a store in Keaau, according to state agriculture officials.
Workers offloading a 40-foot shipping container from California saw the 2-foot-long brown snake and prevented its escape by hitting it. The snake, which has been identified as a nonvenomous gopher snake, has since died and was shipped to Honolulu Friday morning.
“We appreciate the quick action taken by store employees to stop the snake’s escape,” said Scott Enright, state Department of Agriculture chairman. “Hitchhiking snakes are a constant concern for the department. This situation demonstrates how important it is for all of us to be on the lookout for invasive species.”
Gopher snakes are commonly found in North America and may grow up to about 7 feet. Their diet consists of small rodents, young rabbits, lizards, birds and their eggs. Prey is killed by constriction and suffocation.
Snakes, which are illegal in Hawaii, have no natural predators here and pose a serious threat to the local environment. Many 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.
State agriculture officials urge anyone with information on illegal animals should to the state’s toll-free pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378). 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 HDOA office, community zoo or Humane Society — no questions asked and no fines assessed.