Gopher snake found, killed on Big Island

A live snake was discovered and captured Thursday afternoon at a Keaau store on Hawaii Island, according to the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture.

Ace Hardware workers say they were off-loading fertilizer from a 40-foot shipping container from California when one of the pallets collapsed. They spotted the two-foot-long brown snake as they sorted through the mess.

“The manager was there and I told the manager, ‘Look at this! It’s a snake!’ and one of the other associates took a 2-by-4 and hit it in the head,” said sales associate Lawrence Taniguchi. “Because if we didn’t find it, we don’t know if it could be a female. It could probably make babies and our whole warehouse could have been fill with snakes.”

Taniguchi says they put the dead snake in a trash can and covered it with shrink wrap before calling authorities.

The snake, which has been identified as a non-venomous gopher snake, was shipped to Honolulu Friday morning.

“We appreciate the quick action taken by store employees to stop the snake’s escape,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture. “Hitchhiking snakes are a constant concern for the department. This situation demonstrates how important it is for all of us to be on the lookout for invasive species.”

Snakes are illegal in Hawaii. Snakes have no natural predators in Hawaii and pose a serious threat to Hawaii’s environment. Many species prey on birds and their eggs, increasing the threat to endangered native birds. Large snakes can also be a danger to the public and small pets.

Gopher snakes are commonly found in North America and may grow up to about seven feet. Their diet consists of small rodents, young rabbits, lizards, birds and their eggs. Prey is killed by constriction and suffocation.

Anyone with information on illegal animals should call the state’s toll-free PEST HOTLINE at 643-PEST (7378).

Individuals who have illegal animals are encouraged to turn them in under the state’s amnesty program, which provides immunity from prosecution. Illegal animals may be turned in to any HDOA Office, municipal zoo or Humane Society – no questions asked and no fines assessed.

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