HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -A sneaky slithering surprise was found in a backpack on Maui Monday night.
A visitor staying at a vacation rental in Pukalani had an unexpected hitchhiker from the mainland.
The Department of Agriculture said when the visitor arrived at the vacation rental and began to unwind, a snake slithered its way out of the man’s backpack, startling the visitor and the vacation rental owner.
The owner of the property informed the 20-year-old Virginia man that snakes were illegal in Hawaii and contacted the proper authorities.
Police and DLNR officials responded, captured the snake and spoke with the visitor.
Upon further investigation, officials learned the snake was an alleged stowaway in the man’s backpack, and claimed he did not intentionally bring the snake to the islands. He had arrived on Maui from Florida, where the snake is commonly found.
“It is fortunate that the owner of the rental was aware of the seriousness of the snake being transported to Hawaii and took appropriate action and reported it,” Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, said.
“Visitors to our islands may not fully understand the threat that snakes pose to our community and our unique environment. It takes all of us to protect Hawaii,” Shimabukuro-Geiser added.
The young snake was identified as a non-venomous southern black racer. It measured about a foot long and 1/4 inch in diameter. Agriculture officials said they’re common along the eastern half of the U.S., and can grow up to 6 feet in length.
The snake is being transported to Oahu where it will be handled accordingly.
“Be informed about the very special place you live that is Hawaii," ecosystem expert Dr. Fern Duvall said. “We should pay attention to what plants and animals we see - report things you feel are new to you as prevention is so much more important than having to react to established foreign pests out of control.”
If you spot an illegal animal in the islands, report it by calling the PEST Hotline at 643-PEST (7378).
State law classifies owning or knowingly transporting illegal pets as a class C felony, punishable with a $200,000 fine and up to three years in prison.