At about noon on Tuesday, the nonvenomous black-and-white snake measuring 3.5 feet in length, was handed over to the Honolulu Zoo, which immediately contacted the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Department inspectors took custody of the snake, and are safeguarding it at the state’s plant quarantine branch.
Snakes are illegal to transport and possess in Hawaii, according to the department, but may be turned in to any HDOA office, municipal zoo, aquarium, or a local humane society under the amnesty program. If illegal animals are turned in prior to the start of an investigation, there will be no criminal charges or fines.
Individuals caught possessing illegal animals, considered a class C felony, face fines up to $200,000 and three years in prison.
“The State offers amnesty for the voluntary surrender of illegal animals because we do not want these animals set free in the wild,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, in a news release. “Surrendered animals will not be killed and will be used for educational purposes and may eventually be sent to wildlife refuges on the Mainland.”
The California kingsnake, native to the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico, is one of the most popular snakes in the pet trade, said the agriculture department. They may grow up to about 4 feet in length, and feed on lizards, birds, bird eggs, rodents and other small mammals.
Snakes and large reptiles pose a serious threat to Hawaii’s ecosystem by competing with native animals for food and habitat, according to the department. In addition, many species prey on birds and their eggs, and increase the threat to Hawaii’s endangered native birds.
To report illegal animals, call the state’s toll-free pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378).