KAILUA-KONA >> The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is importing four brown tree snakes to be used to train dogs to detect the dangerously invasive species and hopefully prevent the snakes from establishing themselves in the islands.
Jonathan Ho, acting manager of the department’s plant quarantine branch, said the state Board of Agriculture approved a request for the sterile, male snakes to be used in the dog detection program, West Hawaii Today reported Monday.
“The primary focus is for the brown tree snakes,” Ho said at a meeting in Honolulu last week. “However, Hawaii has no species of snakes and the dogs do generalize, so any type of snake we would take action upon.”
The snakes will be used to train four Jack Russell terriers and terrier mixes to seek out the snakes that could enter Hawaii by plane, ship or cargo carrier.
Brown tree snakes invaded Guam and nearly wiped out the island’s bird species, Ho said. Hawaii has several species of protected and endangered birds.
Hawaii has no native snakes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services conducts checks to clear transport vessels and containers of invasive species before coming to Hawaii and the state conducts addition inspections upon arrival.
The detection program began in the 1990s but was discontinued in 2009. The Agriculture Department reinstated the program in 2016.
Beyond the precautions of all four snakes being male and sterilized, officials will also surgically implant radio transmitters in the reptiles before their arrival in Hawaii.