Are There Snakes in Hawaii? 7 Species Found in Hawaii!

Are there snakes in Hawaii? This is one of the most common questions asked by individuals planning to visit Hawaii.

YES, Hawaii is home to a number of species of snakes but that should not worry you.

They will not be found in your hotel room’s closet or on the beach where your children are playing.

The Island Blind snake and the Yellow-bellied Sea snake are the only two snakes that are quite widespread in Hawaii, but both are evasive and imported.

There are no venomous spiders, crocodiles, or tigers.

Unless you’re at a zoo.

So, hop on that plane and have the adventure of a lifetime in this tropical paradise.

Are There Snakes in Hawaii? Brief Overview of Hawaii

Hawaii’s islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, are abundant in creatures.

Yes, from endangered monk seals to mongooses, humpback whales to attractive honeycreepers, a colorful crew of wildlife, birds, mammals, and aquatic creatures reside in and around America’s 50th state.

But, are there snakes in Hawaii?

Because this blip on the map of the United States is so distant, humans have brought practically all of Hawaii’s larger mammals and insects, either directly or indirectly.

The introduction of snakes could have a terrible effect on the natural environment of Hawaii, which has a very delicate ecosystem.

Border patrols and conservationists have gone to considerable lengths to prevent serpents from establishing a foothold.

So yet, just two snake species have been identified in Hawaii, neither of which poses a threat to the local ecosystem.

Furthermore, the penalties for importing snakes are now rather harsh, including a penalty of $200,000 or three years in prison.

However, some snakes may have slipped through the net, and there’s a slim possibility you’ll come across one of them

Why Are There Few Species of Snakes in Hawaii?

Not that you’d want snakes in any travel destination you plan to visit, but it’s unusual that there are no native snakes in a tropical environment that supports a vast diversity of plant and animal life. Why?

There is a legitimate explanation for this, and it is why there are no native snakes in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian archipelago is located over 2,000 miles from the US mainland in the Pacific Ocean.

The volcanic activity of underwater volcanoes formed all 137 Hawaiian Islands millions of years ago.

The islands were gradually filled by life as they rose from the ocean, including plant seeds, birds, and animals.

They all had to fly or wade to the islands, or they were carried by the wind like seeds. Few of them survived.

According to scientists at the University of California, an invertebrate “successfully colonized Hawaii once every 70,000 years, a plant once every 100,000 years, and a bird once every million years.”

Even for birds that can fly long distances, introducing new species to an isolated island like Hawaii is a complex and hit-or-miss task.

This is obviously far more difficult for land species, such as land snakes, therefore they arrived in a different method – they were brought by people.

Some arrived by chance, hitchhiking in the cargo of aircraft or boats, while others arrived on purpose, as pets or as part of someone’s snake collection.

Only two snakes survived and expanded across the islands, becoming extremely abundant and nearly native, the Brahminy Blind Snake and the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake.

Snakes in Hawaii – Different Species of Snakes in Hawaii

Brahminy Blind Snake

Are there Snakes in Hawaii
Image courtesy of Florida Museum

The Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) is a little black snake native to Asia and Africa that is now found worldwide.

It is one of the planet’s smallest snakes, reaching no more than 20 cm (6 inches).

Brahminy snakes resemble earthworms, with black or dark brown bodies and tails that are nearly identical.

They are nearly blind, unable to see fixed images but highly responsive to light.

These snakes consume ants and termites and reside in dark, moist areas beneath logs, humus, and leaves.

Because they are most usually encountered in gardens, they are also known as Flowerpot Snakes.

Brahminy snakes are completely non-venomous. Nothing consumes them since they have no other predators of their own.

It’s worth noting that there are no male Brahminy blind snakes.

All of them are female! They produce eggs that do not require fertilization to hatch.

It is thought that the Brahminy blind snake was transported to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1930s with planting materials from the Philippines.

Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

Are there Snakes in Hawaii

The yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platurus) is a poisonous snake found in tropical waters around the world, with the exception of the Atlantic Ocean.

They are common in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans, and is one of the snakes in Hawaii.

The snakes are occasionally carried into temperate seas by currents, but they do not breed or reproduce there.

The upper part of the snake is black or bluish-brown, while the lower half is yellowish.

The paddle-shaped yellow tail has a dark bar or dots. It is relatively thin, with a total length of roughly three feet (one meter).

The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake is found in the broad ocean, far from beaches and reefs.

There are no predators of yellow-bellied sea snakes.

Their bright hue deters predators, but it’s also plausible that their high toxicity makes them unappealing to any potential predator.

Only if an injured or sick animal drifts with the current to shallow waters or the coast where humans are likely to encounter them.

When intimidated they will bite, and their very poisonous venom may lead to paralysis and death if not dealt with swiftly.

Because of its vibrant colors, the snake is easily identified.

Although it is exceedingly uncommon, if you encounter anything on the beach or in the sea, notify the authorities immediately.

Even if it appears to be dead, refrain from touching it. They are extremely quick to react.

If you plan on hiking in Hawaii, you won’t be concerned about anything, but it’s always a good idea to be cautious.

Snake in Hawaiian – Other Species of Snakes Found in Hawaii

Are there snakes in Hawaii? The answer is YES.

Other snakes are occasionally seen on the Hawaiian Islands.

Non-native animals are always a source of concern because they have virtually no predators in Hawaii and may propagate quickly.

Snakes can hitchhike to Hawaii on flights or ships in our highly mobile society.

It’s also likely that some snakes kept as pets escape or are reintroduced into the wild.

Some of these other species include:

Brown Tree Snake

Are there Snakes in Hawaii

The brown tree snake is not unique to Hawaii, and it is currently considered that there are none on the islands.

Conservationists and Hawaiian authorities go to great pains to preserve it that way, because the potential for devastation if the brown tree snake makes Hawaii its permanent residence is enormous.

These tree-dwelling snakes have wreaked havoc on nearby Guam, where they were mistakenly brought from the South Pacific inside freight shipment in the 1940s.

The brown tree snake has damaged most of the island’s environment since its arrival.

With no native predator, its population has exploded, resulting in the loss of a variety of bird and reptile species.

Furthermore, the snakes cause hundreds of power outages each year by jumping onto power wires and into electrical boxes and transformers.

Authorities are concerned that if the brown tree snake is introduced to Hawaii, it will have a similarly disastrous impact on the local environment.

Though there are currently no brown tree snakes in Hawaii, a handful were discovered in the 1980s and 1990s, believed to have hitched a ride on flights coming from Guam.

Today, all planes and cargo ships arriving from Guam are extensively inspected for these snakes.

Ball Python

Are there Snakes in Hawaii

The ball python (Python regius), a beautiful, colorful, and non-venomous snake, is popular as a pet in the continental United States.

When they are born, they are little and adorable but, like all adorable newborns, they grow.

Adult ball pythons measuring six feet in length are not uncommon.

They feed on small birds and mammals. They are indigenous to Africa and reside on grasslands.

Although keeping ball pythons is officially prohibited in Hawaii, people take risks and sneak these magnificent animals for their collections, despite the fact that they are cognizant that the snakes could threaten the island’s ecosystem if they escape.

And it happens: they flee or their owners release them because they no longer desire them or for other reasons.

Ball pythons are occasionally seen roaming the Hawaiian Islands.

A four-foot-long ball python was captured by a hunter on Oahu Island in 2020.

He brought it to the attention of the local humane society.

Because ball pythons are not venomous, they pose no threat to people.

However, because they are not endemic to Hawaii, there are no recognized predators.

They can consume all the birds and tiny creatures until there are none left, destroying the island’s ecological equilibrium.

Because snakes are not part of their environment, birds are unaware that they are deadly to them.

This is especially deadly with snakes that climb trees, such as ball pythons.

Boa Constrictor

Are there Snakes in Hawaii

Boa constrictors are maintained as pets in the United States and many other nations.

Boas come in four different color and pattern subspecies.

All are native to tropical South America but can now be found worldwide.

Boas are incredibly gorgeous, with very distinct big patterns that vary between subspecies.

They can grow to enormous sizes, are not venomous, and kill by squeezing their prey before swallowing it.

This snake enjoys eating small creatures such as birds and even small home pets.

A muscle-powered death embrace is used to overcome the victim’s bodily functions and knock them unconscious.

A lucrative black market in exotic pets contributes to the problem.

As long as people desire to keep enormous snakes as pets, someone will supply them, thus new boas and other snakes are transported to Hawaii.

The fact that they are so hazardous to the ecosystem of the islands does not stop people from keeping them and releasing them into the wild, regardless of the environmental ramifications.

Garter Snake

Are there Snakes in Hawaii
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The garter snake is a small to medium-sized snake from the genus Thamnophis in the Colubridae family.

North and Central America are home to the snakes but it is among the snakes in Hawaii.

The appearance of each subspecies varies widely, although they all have stripes around the body and occasionally markings.

Garter snakes first arrived in Hawaii with a consignment of Christmas trees.

A shipment of Christmas trees from an Oregon manufacturer arrived in Hawaii in 2004 with a hitchhiker – a 13-inch garter snake.

Fortunately, the hitchhiker was apprehended before it could flee into the wilderness.

It happened again in 2020, but this time the hitchhiker perished in the car.

Garter snakes consume small animals such as fish, bugs, and frogs.

They have no known predators in Hawaii, and if they manage to establish themselves in the vibrant environment, these generally innocuous animals may wreak havoc.

Southern Black Racer

Are there Snakes in Hawaii

Despite the harsh penalties for keeping snakes as pets and all of the local authorities’ measures geared at ensuring that there are no snakes in Hawaii, one will occasionally escape between the cracks.

In 2019, a southern black racer hitched a free ride to Hawaii inside the rucksack of a vacationer flying in from Florida.

The southern black racer is prevalent in Florida, and while it is not poisonous, it is a constrictor like the boa.

The southern black racer, known for running at fast speeds, consumes anything it can capture and kill and would no doubt have fun in Hawaii’s rich ecosystem.

Though the consequences for illegally importing snakes into Hawaii are high, there are no similar repercussions for accidentally bringing in snakes.

Fortunately, the visitor who mistakenly smuggled the southern black racer into Hawaii was aware of snake restrictions and called authorities as soon as it was detected slithering out of his luggage.

The Guam Snake Disaster

Whenever a new predator enters an area with no natural predators, then the balance of the ecosystem is lost.

Guam has lost a significant number of its native animal species to extinction.

The brown tree snake is thought to have arrived on Guam in the 1950s aboard cargo ships from New Guinea, where it is native.

Brown tree snakes proliferated during the next several decades and are now a top predator, residing at the top of the food chain.

Because it is not controlled by predators, rivals, or illnesses in its natural area, the Brown tree snake can have a disastrous effect on the confined ecosystems of islands.

Birds, reptiles and bird eggs, lizards, small mammals such as mice, rats, and even small domestic pets are all food for brown tree snakes.

These reptiles are currently responsible for the extinction of 9 of Guam’s 13 woodland bird species and 3 lizard subspecies.

Other bird species have seen significant population declines.

Terns, shearwaters, and noddys are no longer stopping to nest on the island.

The issues just become worse from there.

After annihilating their favorite prey, the snakes began preying on lizards and skinks.

Because these creatures reproduce more quickly, they supply adequate feed for the brown tree snakes, allowing them to maintain their abnormally high population.

After the snakes destroyed the insect-eating birds and lizards, the total number of insects in Guam increased dramatically, impacting crop productivity.

There’s more: Brown tree snakes scale power wires and crawl into electrical boxes and transformers, resulting in regular power outages.

Between 1978 and 1997, snakes led to over 1600 power disruptions on Guam.

Over a seven-year period, the costs to the Guam economy exceed $4.5 million per year, not including transformer and electrical substation damages.

Final Thoughts on the Question: Are There Snakes in Hawaii?

Are there snakes in Hawaii? The Answer is YES.

Whether you’re into snakes or not, if you are considering taking a vacation or relocating to the islands, you will want to find out if there are snakes in Hawaii.

While the answer is yes, there are snakes in Hawaii, they are not a cause for concern.

One is a harmless worm-like animal that lives in deep seas, and the other is a common and reasonably native creature.

So, enjoy yourself, and appreciate the islands’ tropical richness, of which snakes aren’t common.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do snakes get to Hawaii?

Most snakes are brought into Hawaii mistakenly, through cargo shipments or on aircraft or boats from other nations or islands where snakes are widespread. The yellow-bellied sea snake, which lives largely in the waters near Hawaii, is the only snake that has made its way there on its own. There may possibly be black market traders that import snakes to keep as illegal pets, despite the severe penalties.

Are there any dangerous snakes in Hawaii?

The yellow-bellied sea snake is the more dangerous of the two snakes that exist in Hawaii, delivering venom that is capable of killing a person. The Brahminy blind snake, on the other hand, is one of the world's tiniest and presents no threat to people.

Are there any snakes native to Hawaii?

There are no native snakes in Hawaii. One of the two snake species that reside in Hawaii was accidentally introduced, while the other swam from the Indo-Pacific. All other snakes discovered in Hawaii were either unintentionally or illegally imported.

How come there are no snakes in Hawaii?

There are snakes in Hawaii, but only those that humans have unintentionally introduced throughout the millennia. Because the islands are so isolated from the rest of the world, there are no snakes naturally living there, and much of the local wildlife evolved separately to organisms found in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Why are snakes illegal in Hawaii?

Keeping snakes as pets is prohibited in Hawaii due to the potential effect they have on the ecological balance of the islands. Snakes are unlikely to have a natural predator here, therefore they might disrupt the food chain by eating excessively, causing their population to expand out of control.

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