State officials now have custody of a live, non-venomous ball python that survived being run over by a car Thursday night in Hilo, but are still trying to figure out where it came from.
At about 8:45 p.m. on Thursday, a woman told officials she was driving near Old Airport Road with her grandson when she ran over the snake. Her grandson picked the snake up, thinking it was dead, and put it in a cardboard box. Then they called Hawaii County police, which immediately notified the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
When an agriculture inspector arrived to retrieve the snake, they discovered it was still alive.
The tan and brown snake measures about three feet long and weighs about two pounds, according to state officials, and appears to be in good condition. How it got to the heavily forested area where it was found remains a mystery.
Agriculture inspectors are conducting a search, and deploying traps to help ensure no other snakes are in the area.
In June 2018, Hawaii County workers found a 4-and-a-half-foot long ball python at the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill. The origin of that snake also remains unknown.
Ball pythons, native to sub-saharan Africa, are common in the pet trade and can grow up to six feet long. They are constrictors that coil around their prey, which includes small mammals and birds, causing death by suffocation.
Snakes are illegal to transport and possess in Hawaii because they pose a serious threat to the state’s ecosystem and to Hawaii’s native birds and eggs.
Possessing an illegal animal is considered a class C felony, punishable with fines up to $200,000 and three years in prison. The state, however, has an amnesty program, which provides immunity from prosecution if illegal animals are voluntarily surrendered to any HDOA Office, the Honolulu Zoo or Humane Society prior to the start of an investigation.
“We do not encourage people to handle snakes that they may find because the species and condition of the snake may not be easily determined,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, in a news release.
Instead, people should try to contain the snake and prevent its escape, and contact the police department or call the state’s toll-free pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378).