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Snake's alive!

A boa constrictor discovered in Waiawa Gulch was probably someone's pet

By Paige L. Jinbo

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 12:28 p.m. HST, Jul 06, 2011


Pig hunters found a 9-foot-3-inch boa constrictor in Waiawa Gulch Monday, and though the snake — one of the largest ever found in Hawaii — was secure in state custody Tuesday, officials were sobered by the thought that the female reptile may have given birth in the wild.

"It's hard to say if there are more of these out there. We may have to go back to the area and look around," said Keevin Minami, land vertebrate specialist for the state Department of Agriculture.

Based on its smooth skin and docile behavior, the boa was most likely someone's pet, Minami said.

"It's very irresponsible that someone would release this into the wild," he said. "Any time we find something like this in the wild, it's not good news."

BOA CONSTRICTOR

» Native to: Tropical Central and South America
» Length: Up to 13 feet
» Weight: Up to 100 pounds
» Life span: 20 to 30 years
» Diet: Mice, monkeys, other small animals
Source: National Geographic

He said there are no obvious signs that the snake gave birth, but only an X-ray could determine that with certainty. The state is considering X-raying the snake.

Pig hunters spotted the snake on a dirt road in Waiawa Gulch, near Waiawa Correctional Facility, at about 6:30 p.m. Monday, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

They captured it and put it in a pickup truck. They called several agencies, and a DLNR officer whom the hunters know took the snake to Honolulu Zoo to keep overnight.

Minami and his team picked up the 57.2-pound snake Tuesday morning and are keeping it at the state Plant Quarantine Branch near Sand Island until zoo officials make arrangements to send it to a reptile farm on the mainland.

"We want to ship it out as soon as possible because it is a health risk (if it gets out)," Minami said. A large boa can easily strangle an adult and is a threat to ground-nesting birds and any mammal.

It is third live snake captured on Oahu this year. In January a 4-foot-4-inch black rat snake was found slithering in a concrete barrier on Waipahu Depot Road. In February, in a fire that damaged four houses in Alewa Heights, it was discovered that one of the residents was keeping a 5-foot boa constrictor as a pet.

"It seems that the problem could be getting worse," Minami said. "We're getting calls more frequently, and we don't have enough people on staff."

Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi urged people to take advantage of the state's amnesty program, in which they can turn in illegal animals with no penalty.

"We want more turn-ins, or we want people who know people who have illegal animals to tell us," Saneishi said. Call 643-PEST (7378).





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