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Officials catch snake after sighting in Waipahu

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 3:01 p.m. HST, Feb 1, 2011

State agricultural inspectors captured a snake in Waipahu Sunday with the help of several citizens and police officers.

“We appreciate the help from the citizens and police in this capture,” said Russell S. Kokubun, interim chairman for the state Board of Agriculture. “It is rare that a sighting results in an actual capture of a snake in the wild.

“Snakes are at the top of the list of invasive species threatening our islands and we need everyone's help to protect Hawaii.”

The snake has been identified by herpetology staff at the Honolulu Zoo as a male non-venomous black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta), which measured four feet, four inches long.

Several people spotted the snake slither into a hole in a concrete barrier across from the city Refuse Convenience Center on Waipahu Depot Road about noon Sunday.

Police and two agriculture inspectors were sent to the site. Inspectors used a car jack to lift one of the barriers and were able to coax the snake out of the barrier. One of the witnesses helped hold a net over a hole in the concrete barrier as inspectors prodded the snake and it eventually came out of the hole and into the net.

Black rat snakes are native to North America and may grow to about seven feet in length. As the name implies, it is black in color except for a white-colored chin. They are in the constrictor family and are excellent swimmers.

Snakes have no natural predators in Hawaii and pose a serious threat to Hawaii's environment.  Many species also 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.

People 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 Department of Agriculture office, the Honolulu Zoo or any Humane Society. Anyone with information on illegal animals should call the toll-free pest hotline at 643-7378.

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