Why are there no snakes in Hawaii? Is there a historical reason?

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Why are there no snakes in Hawaii? Is there a historical reason?

Erik Painter

Votes: 9763

Geography. Hawaii is one of the most isolated places. It is 2,285 miles from California and 3,850 miles from Japan and about 2,100 miles from Alaskan islands. All land vertebrates had to come by water. There are no direct currents or other regular pathways. The islands are volcanic. They were never part of another land mass. The highest spots rise 33,000 feet from the ocean floor. So, historically there was no way for a snake to get there. There was no way for one to evolve there.

The first people arrived from islands that also did not have snakes. Some people may have arrived as early as 300-500 AD but most came between 800-1200 AD. They brought rats, dogs, pigs and chickens, not snakes.

Today importing snakes is illegal. Many native animal s would be harmed if they got loose. There is the blind snake which was introduced in the 1930s from the Philippines and is parthenogenic. It is a lot like a worm. There is also the yellow bellied sea snake that is found all over the pacific. There are some reports of isolated brown tree snakes. This is an invasive species that would cause a lot of problems if it was established.

Lono Kahiwa

Votes: 3791

There were no snakes here originally because of our geographical position, being the most secluded spot on earth makes it hard for snakes to get to Hawai’i naturally, and Polynesians didn’t bring snakes when they settled here either.

But I wouldn’t say there’s NO snakes here now, some snakes have found their way here over the years, every once in a while a snake is spotted. Also, sea snakes make their way here sometimes.

Jay Byrne

Votes: 4234

Snakes are not allowed in Hawai’i. They are considered an invasive “species”.

Like Republicans.

Note: Snakes are actually of the suborder Serpentes in the order Squamata. There are over 3,000 species of snake”.

Tracy Nicole Jenkins

Votes: 7512

I don’t know that there’s a historical reason but a big part of why there are no Hawaiian snakes is simply because Hawaii is a series of islands and while all snakes can swim, no snake is able to swim far enough to get to any of the islands before either a storm or a predator get them.

Peter Alau

Votes: 2247

The historical reason is geological history – they never got there on their own. It’s not like they could swim there, and birds weren’t about to carry eggs there. Polynesian wayfarers weren’t about to bring them – they weren’t food or necessary animals.

Also, this isn’t technically true – there are burrowing ground snakes – tiny little things that look like worms – too small to eat bird eggs. I used to catch them when I was a kid.

Charles Knouse

Votes: 5063

As other answers have noted, Hawaii has no snakes [1] because of its isolation in the middle of the Pacific. Any snakes would have to be brought to Hawaii by human activities. That is a constant danger that Hawaiian authorities guard against, in particular the Brown Tree Snake that has become endemic in Guam, where it has devastated native bird species. Eight brown tree snakes have been found in Hawaii between 1981 and 1998, all associated with civilian or military vehicles or cargo from Guam. Hawaiian authorities are using sterile male brown snakes to scent train dogs to detect them (Hawaii just purposely imported 4 brown tree snakes. Here’s why).

Another answer mentioned mongooses. Mongooses are indeed fierce predators of snakes, but they were not brought to Hawaii for that purpose. Rather they were imported to prey on rats in the sugarcane fields. But in addition to preying on rodents, the mongooses also devastated native bird populations and are considered invasive pests in Hawaii.

[1] Except for the earthworm-sized Brahminy Blind Snake, which is believed to have arrived in potting soil from the Philippines in the 1930s (Are There Snakes in Hawaii? YES! – Explanation in our Maui Blog).

Wood Butcher

Votes: 1559

It is too far for the snakes to swim. They did not come by themselves. When I was young, there were snakes in the Honolulu Zoo. All were males, and it was illegal to bring a female snake of any kind into Hawaii.

Today, I understand that even those snakes are gone.

People brought many new animals, from the first settlers maybe 1,500 years ago and down to today. These changed the balance of Hawai’i’s inhabitants.

Nature does not care about these things, as it goes about it’s business of living. But the creatures who live there have largely no place to go, being in the middle of the great ocean. And so, after many millennia of learning to live in island communities, they learned not to shit in their own little nest. That is a lesson that is always hard to learn, and those among us who are wise learn from the experience of those who came before.

Snakes will destroy much of what is there, and it might be good to avoid that outcome.

Keith Higa

Votes: 3253

You should not find any. If you see any in the wild, that is a VERY BAD THING.

Snakes have long been illegal to bring into the state, and it is absolutely illegal to keep them as pets. This is, of course, part of a larger effort to keep invasive species of all kinds out of Hawaii.

(Which makes you wonder about the movie Snakes on a Plane, in which poisonous snakes were placed on a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, and not the other way around. How did those snakes get to Hawaii in the first place?)

There was a time in the 1980s and 1990s when brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis) was found in cargo holds of aircraft arriving from Guam, about eight altogether. Since then, there has been a concerted effort to keep them from making an appearance again. The state even intentionally imported four brown tree snakes to train snake-sniffing dogs.

So you should not see any snakes while you’re here. In the extremely unlikely event you do see one in Hawaii, call 911 immediately so that the police and Department of Agriculture personnel can get involved.

Christian Schaefer

Votes: 1294

Hawaii has always been geologically isolated from mainland regions. Therefore no snakes could reach the islands. The only snakes found around Hawaii are Yellow Bellied Sea Snakes that occasionally appear on the beaches around the islands. Also there were some stowaway blindsnakes that look like worms which were accidentally imported from the Philippines in the 1920s and 1930s.

Bringing snakes to Hawaii is illegal so if you want to see snakes you have to go to the mainland US because even zoos are not exempt from the ban on Hawaii.

Lisa Vitagliano

Votes: 6949

it is because Hawaii is islands not near any large continents. lots of islands don’t have snakes including Ireland and New Zealand. Britain has snakes because even though it is an island it is very close to mainland Europe.

Serge Elia

Votes: 9794

The following region was briefly mentioned in another answer, and it’s not really a country like Australia or Tanzania (which are also home to many venomous snakes), but it’s still worth talking about.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ilha da Queimada Grande (translated in Portuguese as “the island of slash-and-burn fire”), also known as “Snake Island”, an isolated land of around 430,000 square meters, located off the coast of Southeastern Brazil, which is (you guessed it) infested with snakes.

That’s right: in this remote Brazilian island, every single square meter is inhabited by one or more snakes, all of whom are some of the most venomous on earth – as such, if you have a phobia of the legless reptiles, then this isn’t at all the right place to spend your vacation in; and you’re in luck, because the Brazilian government has banned all entrances to the treacherous place (and even the Brazilian Navy hesitates in going there!), though that doesn’t stop the incredibly brave (or rather the incredibly stupid) from setting foot on the island’s shores.

Snake Island is home to a species of venomous pit viper called the golden lancehead (Bothrops insularis), whose numbers can reach around 4,000 individuals or more, roaming every single square meter of the island’s forests and rocky terrains! These serpents can grow to around 70–116 cm long (longer than a human arm); and yet, they are the ultimate apex predators on the island, unsurpassed and unstoppable. Their venom, the fastest-acting and deadliest of any snake alive (with toxins around five times stronger than their mainland relatives), can cause swelling, nausea, vomiting, blood blisters, bruising, intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, hemorrhage in the brain, severe necrosis of muscular tissue, and even death if the bite is not treated.

It’s still unclear to this day how the golden lanceheads got to Snake Island in the first place, although it’s most likely they became stranded there when, around 11,000 years ago, rising sea levels submerged all stretches of land connecting the island to the mainland – eventually, this event rendered the snakes isolated, and they adapted perfectly to the island’s environment, with so many prey items to hunt (mostly birds) and no natural predators to fear from, which ultimately made them thrive.

Because Snake Island is so scary with its remoteness and deadly reptilian inhabitants, numerous stories are told of unfortunate people who found themselves stranded on the island and attacked by the serpents. So it’s easy to see why the island is banned for outsiders, in order to protect humans and snakes alike.

The stuff of nightmares, huh?

Angel Jamison

Votes: 1649

How come Iceland, Greenland, and New Zealand don’t have snakes either, like Ireland? Did St. Patrick visit those places as well?

ummm…. no?

saint Patrick didn’t visit New Zealand, and as far as i know, he didn’t visit Greenland or Iceland either.

these countries don’t have any native species of snake, and were careful not to let any snakes into the country because they are dangerous and kill people. I’m not sure St. Patrick has anything to do with this

Renee Westervelt

Votes: 1304

The Flowerpot Snake is the only snake in Hawaii. It is a snake not a worm. It is named that because it has a bad habit of borrowing in flowerpots and being transported around the world. All flowerpot snakes are female and reproduce through parthenogenesis. They are utterly harmless to humans. You’ll also sometimes hear about someone’s pet escaping. One time it was a California Kingsnake.

Gregg McDonald

Votes: 9485

Long ago, there were no snakes in Hawaii. However, some arrived on ships and boats, and reproduced. Those snakes ate many of the small beautiful birds which had no natural fear of snakes.

There weren’t any in the beginning because the Hawaiian Islands are very isolated, and God did not put any snakes there.

David RichardsonLars BertelsenTimo Vidgrén

Votes: 6900

Yes, although not many. I’ll write about snakes you can find in Sweden … though the ones in the other Nordic countries are the same.

This one is the adder:

It’s the only poisonous snake in Sweden, but even then, it isn’t very poisonous. People can get allergic reactions from being bitten by an adder, but it’s usually their dogs that get bitten (and sometimes die). You’ll find adders among rocks and in tall grass. They usually avoid people, but you have to watch out if you’re moving through tall grass or bushes on warm days in the spring and summer. The Swedish name for this snake is ‘huggorm’. It’s best to get checked by a doctor, if you get bitten by an adder, but you don’t need to panic.

I once saw a buzzard with a large adder in its claws. This was kind of ‘appropriate’, since buzzards are called ‘ormvråk’ in Swedish (‘orm’ being ‘snake’).

Then there’s the grass snake:

These aren’t poisonous and you often find them near water (frogs are one of their favourite foods). They often look totally black, with bright yellow band just behind the head. This is called ‘snok’ in Swedish.

Finally, there’s a legless lizard called a slow worm:

These certainly look like snakes! They’re quite small (about 20 cms long) and not poisonous. They’re called ‘kopparorm’ in Swedish.

Kim Ellingsen pointed out that I’d forgotten the smooth snake (‘hasselsnok’ in Swedish):

Thanks, Kim!

I’ve never actually seen one of these myself, which is probably why I forgot it.

Linda Butts

Votes: 7772

Thank you for asking, Mizuchi!

We don have big snakes, don’t want them, either! Be sure to get to the bottom of this answer, so you’ll know that it isn’t true what they say about no snakes in Hawaii. No natural predators, so they’d snack on our birds and animals, with nothing to stop them. I don’t know if snakes are day or night critters but, whichever they are, they’d join the rat and mongoose in killing off the animal life we want, tho.

The Rat-Mongoose Tag Team is Literally Killing the Game | Hawaii Reporter

Importing animals can wreak havoc with our ecosystem, we learned the hard way!

Rat vs Mongoose

For example: Rats that sailed the ships hopped off after the ships berthed. Those rats not only made baby rats, but there was no natural predator to keep their population under control. So the rats ate not only whatever food was ground level, but also climbed the coconut trees to get the coconuts before they could be picked for people food. Nasty invaders, those rats!

Then, someone had a brilliant idea! Mongoose will challenge the rats, pose all kine problems for them. So mongoose were imported.

But, guess what? Rats are nocturnal (night lovers) but the mongoose are diurnal (day lovers). So the rats never met the mongoose!

Now we have rats …and… mongoose as pests! Party, day and night!

Remember I said, we don’t have big snakes? We don’t. We have LITTLE SNAKES! They’re quite innocuous, never bothering anyone. They’re called the Blind Snake. Little things, easily mistaken for worms, and not real plentiful. First one I saw, I knew it was a snake for two reasons: its body is long and slithery, no segments and it has an iddy-biddy forked tongue!

Are There Snakes in Hawaii? YES! – Explanation in our Maui Blog

We also don’t have, or want, some other things, like rabies or squirrels.

Not that they’d bother big snakes we don’t have.

Edit: There is a sea snake found in Hawaiian waters, the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake. It’s one of a few dozen found in the Pacific.

Sea Snakes in Hawaii

Kim E Ellingsen

Votes: 9061

There are three species of snake:

Hoggorm, viper. Venomous. Several coloration variants. Note zigzag coloration on back.

Buorm, grass snake. Not venomous. The longest snake species in Norway, topping out around 120 cm. Several colorations. Note typical yellow ‘cheeks’ on photo.

Slettsnok, smooth snake. Two rows of dark spots along back. Not venomous.

And one species of snake-like lizard:

Stålorm, deaf adder. The poor dude being eaten in the above picture. Small, up to about 40 cm lenght.

All images from snl.no

GJ CoopThomas Sinclair

Votes: 6961

Desolate?

On the road from Oodnadatta to Finke

I had thoughts of “desolation” early on with my fairly extensive travels around the heart of Australia on a bicycle a few years ago.

South Australia was slightly more interesting than this image might suggest

Mt Chambers in the Flinders Ranges offered a great view of a fairly desolate gorge.

Here’s the thing.

Down in the watercourse were some petroglyphs, rock carvings, that have been dated as being around 10,000 years older than the Egyptian pyramids. (The more visible petroglyphs are considerably younger than that.)

I noticed a patch of sand on a hill just past Chambers Gorge. Nearby was a sign, out in the middle of not much, that gave the local Adnyamathanha people’s story associated with the hill. Vardna, the sand goanna entered and buried her egg, then went through the hill to the western side and lies there sunning herself. These stories were used instead of maps, and once you heard the story the landform was obvious. To Aboriginal people the landscape is replete with meaning, and filled with malevolent spirits.

Vardna Wartathinha/Prism Hill.

Where was all the wildlife?

During the day there was little to see from the Animal Kingdom.

A few days later I arrived at Coward Springs on the Oodnadatta Track and for once, rather than retreating to bed on nightfall, I stayed up chatting, and just on dusk started noticing noticed many small marsupials fossicking around the spinifex, a hugely spiky grass.

Wildlife makes an appearance at night. Mystery resolved.

That’s despite being an area with the lowest rainfall in Australia. Anna Creek Station, not far from Coward Springs averages around 140 mm a year. You can see the lizards, etc, tracks in the loose sand.

At times the actual wildlife, rather than their tracks, can be seen during the day. The following images are just from random things spotted in my travels.

I eventually went to stay with a friend at his house just outside Barron River National Park in far North Queensland. He lay in bed in the morning and identified the bird calls. He reckoned he could tell the difference in the 30 to 40 different calls that he had trained himself to recognise.

I couldn’t even hear most of them, let alone discern any differences.

He was able to imitate most of them, and could rattle their names off, both common and scientific, when I asked him. It had taken him 15 years of living in the area, and a lifetime of ornithological work, including a PhD, to learn the details of the local avian richness.

I was oblivious.

I looked, but I didn’t see.

I spent many months in the Outback, even the “desolate” Outback of the north of South Australia, but here’s the thing. It seldom felt desolate.

There was always something to see, even if it was only slight variations in soil type, and therefore plant life. Changes of light and shadow.

(Or something to do, like clearing some termite mounds, although I fear that is a hopeless task.)

Just move this out of the way.

You just need to slow down. Oh, and look more carefully.

There’s plenty to notice. It’s just unfamiliar.

Many travellers make the assumption of desolation, and it might be at first glance but the reality is that it is anything but.

The Aboriginal people who have lived for around 3000 generations in the Outback don’t think so.

Desolation would seem to be in the eye of the beholder.

Gary Meaney

Votes: 6893

Very few, as snakes are a very successful and wide-ranging group of reptiles. In fact, there are only two countries which have no native snake species. They are Ireland and Iceland.

Iceland is over a thousand kilometers from the nearest snake-inhabited land, and is thus far too isolated to be colonized by serpents – in fact, Iceland has no reptiles or amphibians to speak of, and only one native land mammal (the Arctic fox, which probably got there via sea ice).

Then there’s Ireland, my nation, which is a bit more fortunate, harbouring one species of reptile and three of amphibian. The island of Ireland was once connected to mainland Europe; along with Great Britain, it formed a landmass called Doggerland. However, the Pleistocene landbridge was covered in ice, and when that ice went away, sea levels rose and Ireland was once again cut off.

But what about Greenland? Greenland’s an autonomous region of Denmark, so it doesn’t count as a country.

But what about Antarctica? Also not a country.

But what about New Zealand? Now this is interesting, as New Zealand is usually cited as being snakeless. However, it shouldn’t be in my book – various sea snakes, such as the yellow-bellied sea snake, are found in New Zealand’s water.

So, it turns out there are only two countries which have no snakes at all, though some – namely Russia, Canada, the US, Chile, Argentina, NZ, and the Scandinavian nations – have large regions where snakes do not occur. Also, the UK, France and (ironically) Australia should be in there, since they own parts of Antarctica.

Bill Arnold

Votes: 2236

What would happen if snakes were to populate Hawaii?

Snakes in Hawaii would surely decimate the few indigenous birds and wildlife that’s left in the islands.

Prior introductions of invasive species ate up most of the Hawaiian animal life, leaving very little original animals to procreate and continue existing on the islands.

The mongoose, introduced to kill rats living and damaging sugar cane, cutting into sugar profits for the western owners, proved disastrous for Hawaii,

Mongoose sleep when rats are active, and rats sleep when mongoose are active. Rats proliferated while the mongoose found indigenous birds, eggs, and fledglings delicious, wiping

Belinda Mellor

Votes: 1181

Why don’t snakes like to stay in New Zealand?

I would imagine that snakes would love to stay in New Zealand, given a chance. It would be a snake paradise – very few predators, lots of defenseless ground-nesting birds, small lizards, lots of places to hide, decent weather with lots of sunshine. Luckily, despite all the other destructive creatures brought here by idiotic settlers, no one thought that releasing lots of snakes would be a good idea.

Bill Chee

Votes: 8808

Is the brown tree snake native to Hawaii?

Born and raised in the islands.

There are no native species of any type of snake in the islands. Even pet stores are not allowed to bring any snake no matter how harmless.

A brown tree snake came in from Guam hidden in a cargo shipment a few years ago.

Brett Carter

Votes: 9911

What is the reason that there are no snakes in New Zealand or Australia, but there are plenty of them on Hawaii?

Australia is home to 20 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world, including all of the top 11, with a total of 140 species of land snake, and 32 recorded species of sea snakes.

New Zealand has none because snakes never evolved in New Zealand, and no snakes ever made their way across the ocean to make the islands their home.

Christian Schaefer

Votes: 315

Are there any snakes native to the United States?

There are dozens of snake species native to the US. Corn snakes, king snakes, milk snakes, bull snakes, garter snakes, hognose snakes, rosy boas, various species of rattlesnakes, water moccasins, copperheads, and coral snakes are just a few examples of snakes native to the US.

Joseph Yang

Votes: 2314

Why does Hawaii have snakes?

It’s illegal to have snakes in Hawaii, and snakes are not established in the natural environment, although every couple of years one is found.

The main cause of snakes coming to Hawaii are twofold: (1) “pets” illegally brought in; and (2) snakes hitching a ride from elsewhere (mostly in the holds of cargo planes). As a cautionary note, at Honolulu airport, there is a glass display of (preserved) snakes caught by agricultural inspectors.

Hawaii is vigilant against snakes. Residents are encouraged to call 911 if they spot a snake.

Subhayan Purkayastha

Votes: 9354

What would Saudi Arabia have been doing if oil had not been discovered in the Middle East?

Today when we think of Saudi Arabia, the images that floods our imagination are these:

But Saudi Arabia was not always like this. Saudi Arabia before it was modernised looked something like this:

So, without oil Saudi Arabia would have still looked like the later three pictures. Saudi Arabia is the 12th largest country in the world. Saudi Arabian economy was dependent on pilgrims and somewhat on farming, may be. In today’s world may be they would have got some foreign aid and relief. However, Saudi Arabia’s condition would have been still sorry and gloomy without much education and health care f

Marie E. LeBlanc

Votes: 6095

Which part of the USA has the most snakes?

I’m not American, but I would say Washington, DC and any state with a Republican majority, has the most “snakes”. 😄

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