Are There Snakes in Hawaii? Officials Are Worried About Invasive Species

If you suffer from ophidiophobia, Hawaii may be the place for you!

Lauren Wellbank - Author

May 1 2024, Published 3:12 p.m. ET

Coiled snake on the ground.
Source: Getty Images

Hawaii has so many things going for it, including pristine beaches, a diverse ecosystem, and unbeatable views. But, one thing the island state may not have is snakes. That could be good news for anyone with ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes) or bad news for an ophiophilist (that's the British word for someone who loves snakes), depending on which side of the line you fall on.

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That said, the answer to the question of snakes in Hawaii may not be straightforward, seeing as how even Hawaiians disagree over the reptile population. Read on to learn more about Hawaii's snake population and to understand why even one snake is too many according to official standards.

Lumahai Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Source: Getty Images
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Are there snakes in Hawaii?

When news of four snakes being found in Hawaii in a single year makes headlines, as it did in the Beat of Hawaii blog in 2023, you know that the state's snake population is basically non-existent. That's exactly how officials like it, based on a press release shared on the official website of the Office of Governor Josh Green.

The Department of Agriculture issued a stern reminder about why snakes aren't welcome in the Aloha State in 2023, and it doesn't sound like their tune has changed.

Snakes would likely have free roam on the island, as there aren't any natural predators to keep populations in check. The Department of Agriculture says that could spell disaster for the state's delicate ecosystem since endangered birds are likely among the reptile's meal choices. Not only that, but other animals native to Hawaii would also be forced to compete with the reptiles for food and shelter.

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Hawaii's officials take this threat very seriously, and they have a toll-free hotline where people can call to report illegal animals. If convicted, those folks could face up to three years behind bars and hefty fines that could cost as much as $200,000!

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The brown tree snake is a good example of why the reptiles are bad for Hawaii.

Hawaii's Invasive Species Council is sounding the alarm over Brown tree snakes (BTS), which are blamed for the extinction of three species of lizards and nine species of forest birds in Guam.

They've also been blamed for power outages after climbing up power lines and entering transformers. In Guam, those outages have created massive problems, costing the economy an estimated 4.5 million dollars annually.

While brown tree snakes haven't been found on Hawaiian soil in recent years, they have had a presence in the past. The organization notes that eight of these snakes were found between 1981 and 1998, and theory has it that they came over in military and civilian cargo and vehicles. Now that they know more about the dangers of these snakes (Guam hadn't yet seen the full impact of their presence), Hawaii remains on high alert.

It sounds like Hawaiian officials have done the math, and they estimate that the cost of an invasion of these snakes could reach as high as $405,000,000 a year!

In a state that has already been shaken by disasters, with a massive loss of life and property, it's no wonder why they are keeping an eye on potential danger and cracking down on the illegal (and unintentional) importing of snakes.

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