Unexpectedly coming across a slithering snake is a terrifying prospect for many people. Some experience ophidiophobia, or a fear of snakes. Others would simply rather not have to deal with wildlife that could potentially crawl up a leg or bite them.
Hawaii is an interesting place. It’s home to thriving ecosystems. Its isolation allows many unique creatures to survive here. The state is considered the “endangered species capital of the world.” More threatened and endangered animals exist here than anywhere else on the planet. In fact, Hawaii makes up just .2% of land in the United States but contains 25% of the country’s endangered species.
If you are thinking about native species, then the answer is no. You will not find any native snakes because there are none in Hawaii.
Much of this can be blamed on geography. The islands are surrounded by water. The only way for creatures to get there on their own is to swim or fly across the Pacific Ocean. That’s a tall order for an animal like a snake.
Does that mean there are no snakes in Hawaii? Not exactly. There are snakes, just not ones that are native to the region.
If you are worried about encountering snakes in general, then you should know that they do exist in Hawaii. Yellow-bellied sea snakes and Island Blind snakes live here.
The Island Blind snake is the most common. It originated in the Philippines and is completely harmless. It’s a tiny creature that’s about the size of an earthworm.
The one that you should be concerned about is the Yellow-bellied sea snake. This species bears highly potent venom. It’s not a common find in the water around Hawaii, but it can show up.
Hawaii has its share of invasive species, but snakes are the most concerning. That’s because they have no natural predators and can wreak havoc on native animal populations by competing for habitat and food. They also often prey on birds and eggs, making them an even bigger threat to endangered avians.
The state has made it a class C felony to possess or transport snakes. If caught with a snake, you could face up to three years in prison and a fine of $200,000. Despite the consequences, Hawaiian law enforcement has confiscated about 100 snakes since 2000.
Many locals have never seen a snake in person, which can make them an appealing commodity on the black market. Snakes are sometimes smuggled in inside luggage or shipping packages.
To encourage people to do the right thing and protect native species, Hawaii maintains an amnesty program for offenders. Illegal animals can be turned in with no consequences and no questions asked. The Department of Agriculture also emphasizes that any animals turned in will not be euthanized.
Unfortunately, there have been rare sightings of other snakes like a five-foot-long boa constrictor that was hit by vehicles on Pali Highway. Investigators hope incidents like this are isolated and not an indication of a trend of bringing snakes into Hawaii illegally.