There are no native snakes in Hawaii.
Despite the strict regulations in place to prevent snakes from being brought to the islands, they still manage to find their way to places like Maui; any snake sightings on the islands are most likely the result of a snake catching a ride on a person or cargo shipment, or a pet owner releasing their snake into the wild.
While most snakes that are sometimes spotted on the island are harmless, they all can pose a threat to the local ecosystem. The most common snake accidentally imported to Maui is the brown tree snake (from Guam), so shipments from that island are closely scrutinized.
What should you do if you encounter a snake on Maui, and how can yo help to prevent non-native snakes from being introduced to the island in the first place?
How Do Snakes End Up on Maui?
Snakes can make their way to Maui in a few different ways. One way is through cargo ships, which can unknowingly transport snakes that are stowaways in cargo containers. Another way is through irresponsible pet owners who release their pet snakes into the wild when they no longer want to care for them. Both of these scenarios can result in non-native snakes being introduced to the Hawaiian islands, which can have serious consequences.
The Hawaiian government has strict laws prohibiting the importation of snakes, but irresponsible pet owners continue to ignore these laws, leading to an increasing number of snakes being found on the islands.
What Types of Snakes Have Been Sighted on Maui?
In the waters around Maui, you might, if you are VERY LUCKY (or not) spot an invasive eel-like snake (poisonous to humans) called the yellow-bellied sea snake. You don’t want to approach this eel, as its bite is venomous and will hurt and cause you problems.
On a less-ominous note, if you garden on Maui or happen to look closely at the forest floor amongst some leaves, you might mistake a small blind snake called the brahminy snake for a worm. This blind snake is harmless to humans, so don’t worry about it; it eats ants and small insects that happen to walk into it. Try not to step on one of these little guys while you’re out hiking.
But as for usual land snakes most think of when they think of snakes, the Hawaiian islands are home to none. Zip. Nada. So if you do spot a snake, that’s a big deal.
Why Does Hawaii Lack Snakes?
Hawaii is the only state in the United States that does not have any native snake species, due to Hawaii’s isolation and lack of land connections to other parts of the world. It is a special zone of special flora and fauna. This has allowed for unique and distinct ecosystems to evolve on the islands, free from the potential disruptions that non-native snakes could cause. Diversity is not always a strength; if every area were diverse, everywhere would be the same.
Consequences of Snakes on Maui
The introduction of non-native snakes to Hawaii can have serious consequences and far-reaching effects. Snakes have the potential to prey on native bird species, disrupt the food chain, and impact the natural balance of the local ecosystem. Some species of snakes, such as the Burmese python, can pose a threat to human safety.
Snakes are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything they can catch: rodents, lizards, birds… some larger snakes, such as the Burmese python, can even consume small mammals like rabbits, squirrels, and wild chickens.
Snakes Let Loose by Irresponsible Pet Owners?
As mentioned earlier, most of the snakes found on Maui are likely the result of stowaways on cargo shipments, not pet owners releasing their snakes into the wild, since owning a snake as a pet is illegal in Hawaii.
Some of the snake species found on Maui include the brown tree snake, ball python, corn snake, garter snake, and Burmese python. Non-native snakes such as the brown tree snake in particular can prey on endangered bird species and be exceptionally devastating to the ecosystem.
Funny Snake Stories on Hawaii
While snakes on Maui are no laughing matter, there are some amusing snake stories from Hawaii. One such story involves a snake that hitchhiked from Florida to Maui in a backpack, unbeknownst to the traveler. The snake was discovered by a surprised homeowner, who promptly called animal control.
Encounters with Snakes in Hawaii
While most snake encounters in Hawaii are harmless, some can be dangerous. The Burmese python, for example, is a large and potentially dangerous snake that has been found on Maui. These snakes are not native to Hawaii and have no natural predators, making them a significant threat to the local ecosystem. If you encounter a snake on Maui, it’s essential to keep your distance and contact Maui pest control immediately — the statewide pest hotline is 643-PEST (808-643-7378).
643pest.org’s instructions: “If you have observed and are reporting a snake, contact the police at 911 immediately!”