Employees of an O‘ahu home improvement store got a slithery surprise from a pallet hitchhiker earlier this week.
According to a news release from the state Department of Agriculture, a live snake was captured late Wednesday night, July 6, at the Kapolei Home Depot. Honolulu police officers, responding to a 911 call from store employees at about 11 p.m., used a bucket to capture the snake, which was spotted on a pallet in a shipping container of mixed goods.
The snake was taken to the Kapolei Police Station, where agricultural inspectors from the DOA took custody Thursday morning, July 7. Agriculture inspectors from the DOA Plant Quarantine Branch also went to the store to survey the area and informed the store to contact the DOA if any other hitchhiking animals were spotted.
The snake, identified by reptile experts as a non-venomous juvenile gopher snake, measures about 21 inches long. Gopher snakes are found in North America and can grow up to about 7 feet. Their diet consists of small rodents, young rabbits, lizards, birds and their eggs. The snakes kill their prey by constriction and suffocation.
Snakes are illegal to possess in Hawai‘i. They have no natural predators and pose a serious threat to the state’s ecosystem.
The DOA reminds the public that those with illegal animals can turn them in under the state’s Amnesty Program to any DOA office, the Honolulu Zoo, the Pana‘ewa Zoo in Hilo or any humane society, no questions asked and no fines assessed. The maximum penalty under state law for possession and/or transporting illegal animals is a Class C felony, punishable by up to a $200,000 fine and up to three years in prison.
Anyone with information about illegal animals should call the statewide toll-free Pest Hotline at 808-643-PEST (7378). Sightings or captures of illegal animals or invasive species should also be reported to the hotline.