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Are There Water Snakes in Hawaii?

Hawaii is a beautiful state that has long been the ideal tropical getaway for millions of people and is home to over one million residents. It is filled with over 20,000 different species of animals, which is impressive, especially when you consider that Hawaii is not a large state. Despite this vast number of animals, what you won’t find in Hawaii, however, are water snakes.

Are There Water Snakes Living In Hawaii?

There are no water snakes in Hawaii, and snakes are actually illegal in this state. These slithering reptiles pose a threat to Hawaii’s environment, since they don’t have any natural predators on the island. Additionally, snakes are known to prey on birds and their eggs, which poses a serious risk to the native birds of Hawaii.

Yellow-bellied sea snake
Yellow-bellied sea snake | image by Luis Correa via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Hawaii is home to one sea snake, however, the yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platurus). This snake is purely aquatic, staying in the sea and not coming onto land. Because this sea snake lives entirely out in the ocean, it is rare to see it in person.

Despite not being seen often, the yellow-bellied sea snake is actually found throughout the world’s oceans. Besides this sea snake, you won’t see any other aquatic or semi-aquatic snakes in Hawaii.

Why Are There No Water Snakes In Hawaii?

There are no water snake species native to Hawaii, as well as no native land snakes either. Being an island means that Hawaii is cut off from other landmasses, which is usually how species begin to move into other areas.

Additionally, Hawaii has strict rules restricting the plants, animals, and even foods that are allowed on the islands. This is because many things can cause harm to its natural ecosystem, and there are practically no large predators in Hawaii. Allowing the wrong things into the state can quickly become a devasting mistake that wipes out native species.

Does Hawaii Have Any Type Of Snakes?

Snakes are not native to Hawaii, but that doesn’t mean there are no snakes on the island. The said truth is that people have brought snakes into Hawaii and they have either escaped or were purposely let loose.

While these snakes are not native to Hawaii, they have found a way into the state and some have even started to reproduce and become more common place. This is a threat to Hawaii’s native species, which is why the state has put tough restrictions on importing these creatures to the island.

1. Brahminy Blind Snake

Brahminy's blind snake
Brahminy’s blind snake | image by Rushen via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Indotyphlops braminus

Around the 1930s, the Brahminy blind snake made its way to Hawaii by hiding out in a potted plant from the Philippines. While they are not a native species, their numbers are rather significant on the island. These snakes are rather small, measuring only up to 6-inches long, and are often mistaken for earthworms.

Their diet consists of ants and termites, and every Brahminy blind snake is a female who lays eggs that will hatch. These eggs do not require fertilization. The good news is that these snakes have very little impact on the native animal population in Hawaii.

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2. Brown Tree Snake

Brown tree snake
Brown tree snake | image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Boiga irregularis

While the brown tree snake is venomous, the effects of its toxins are not a serious concern for adult humans, though it can cause problems with children. The real threat to this snake is the devastation that it can cause to the ecosystem. The brown tree snake is well-known for being the invasive species responsible for the extinction of Guam’s native bird population.

The brown tree snake is not common in Hawaii, but it has been spotted over the years. Because this snake is extremely damaging to the ecosystem in Hawaii, officials request that any sightings of the brown tree snake be immediately reported.

3. Garter Snakes

Common garter snake
Common garter snake | image by Greg Schechter via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Thamnophis

This species of snake is extremely common on the mainland, but not native to Hawaii. Experts believe that they may have made their way to Hawaii by hitching a ride on Christmas trees.

Garter snakes are not harmful to humans, but they can cause problems with the Hawaiian ecosystem. Thankfully, they are not widely spread throughout Hawaii, at least not yet.

Can You Be Arrested for Having A Snake in Hawaii?

Hawaii is serious about stopping any potential threat to its ecosystem. So much so that anyone convicted of possessing, owning or transporting any species of snake, or other restricted animal, microorganism, or plant, could face a fine of up to $200,000. Those convicted can even spend up to 3 years in prison and be responsible for paying all the costs of capturing and/or eradicating the pest.

Hawaii rarely provides permits for animals on their injurious wildlife list, which includes all snake species. It has, on occasion, granted permits for species on the list for educational display and research. They won’t, however, grant a permit for commercial or personal use.