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Snakes in Hawaii !

March 17, 2010

Snakes, not worms.

The herpetological inventory (reptiles and amphibians) in West Hawai’i Island national parks was developed in order to determine which species of amphibians and reptiles have established populations on park lands in Hawaii, and if any of the species pose a threat to native Hawaiian ecosystems. We surveyed three national park units on the west side of the Big Island: Puuhonua o Hōnaunau, Kaloko-Honokōhau, and Puukoholā Heiau (PUHE). While the majority of the “herps” that we encountered during the surveys are familiar to most Hawai’i residents, I noticed that one particularly seldom-seen species was often found at PUHE: a blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus), usually located low on the trunks of kiawe trees.

The blind snake is one of two species of snakes found in Hawaii, the other being the yellow-bellied sea snake, a rare visitor to Hawaiian waters.  The blind snake usually goes unnoticed due to its burrowing lifestyle and its superficial resemblance to worms.  Before working at PUHE my only encounter with a blind snake was the unexpected emergence of an individual through a crack in the tile of my bathroom floor.  Due to the scarcity of tile floors at the historic site, I decided to venture into habitats slightly less anthropogenic.  Based on second hand accounts I expected to find blindsnakes beneath potted plants in wet, shaded gardens — so to find the snakes climbing trees in dry, dusty soil was a real surprise. 

This pan-Asian fossorial (underground) species of snake was introduced to Hawaii around 1930 from the Philippines.  An unusual characteristic of the blind snake is that it is the only known species of snake to be parthenogenic; that is, all members of this species are female.  For the full inventory report visit: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/duffy/techr/141/v141.pdf
       — Jason Bazzano, Field biotech

A blind snake climbing a kiawe tree.

Don't worry, this small species of snake doesn't bite.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Pacific Island Ranger permalink*
    May 22, 2010 1:19 pm

    I’ve been on the Kona side for 2 years and haven’t seen 1 yet! Mahalo!

  2. Anonymous permalink
    June 6, 2010 4:38 pm

    found one on Kauai in 2001 at Lydgate park

  3. Thom lewis morrison permalink
    April 7, 2011 8:44 am

    I have found two within the last couple of months they are silver in color, I have one captive now.

  4. Mike permalink
    April 28, 2011 9:37 pm

    There are no snakes native to Hawaii. If you found them they were brought here. We need to raise awareness on this issue.

    • Pacific Island Ranger permalink*
      April 29, 2011 8:04 am

      This pan-Asian fossorial (underground) species of snake was introduced to Hawaii around 1930 from the Philippines.

    • May 2, 2011 12:23 pm

      The yellow-bellied sea snake is native to Hawaiian waters in that it arrives here, albeit very rarely, on its own. But you are certainly correct that there are no native terrestrial snakes in Hawaii.

  5. May 16, 2011 4:41 pm

    I had heard that there two species of blind snakes in Hawaii but that may just be consfusion on mine or someone elses part. I have seen several of these small black snakes when digging (such as that is in Hawaii) and when removing an old plastic swimming pool ) catchment liner. This was on the Kona side of the Big Island.

    One hears of occasional reports of snakes here, probably escaped pets. So far no infestations. Can’t believe people are foolish enough to sneak in pet snakes, as if our remaining native birds don’t have enough problems.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    August 12, 2011 4:22 pm

    I found one of the small black snakes in our
    pool today. Kona side of Hawaii.

  7. August 31, 2011 8:53 am

    i just found a blind snake today landscaping in florida. never seen one before this

    • Pacific Island Ranger permalink*
      August 31, 2011 8:56 am

      Wow! They are industrious little things aren’t they? lol

      • Warren Costa permalink
        August 25, 2013 3:35 pm

        Good one^^

  8. May 3, 2012 10:35 am

    Although the Brahmin blind snake is not native, it is a fascinating denizen of our lowland urbanized and rural landscapes in Hawaiʻi, but donʻt play too hard with them, when overly disturbed they excrete a foul-smelling musk that reminds of fresh hot dog droppings!

  9. Anne permalink
    July 18, 2012 9:07 pm

    Mu daughter caught one tonight in Honolulu. On a walk

    • Pacific Island Ranger permalink*
      July 19, 2012 6:28 am

      wow! thanks for sharing!

  10. Melissa permalink
    August 20, 2012 1:02 pm

    Just found two o
    n Maui on my farm

  11. Jaystar permalink
    January 2, 2013 8:52 am

    For a blog entry on the blindsnake:

    http://www.maui.net/maui-people/blog/309/

  12. Connie Andrews permalink
    January 31, 2013 6:44 am

    Fascinating report. When I lived in Capt. Cook in 2000, I was lucky enough to see a Ramphotyphlops braminus while working in my garden. You are right, I thought it was a worm at first and then realized what I was looking at was the rare blind snake. I left her alone. My other encounters with snakes were all of the rattler species on the mainland and so this benign snake was a relief. Thanks again.

  13. Kealani permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:07 pm

    I have found 2 of these in my swimming pool, in Kihei, Maui. The first one I saw a few years ago was swimming in my pool the same time I was (about scared the $#!t out of me!). It wasn’t very small either! The second one I found today, at the bottom of my pool. Googled it to see what it was, and I found this page! Found out everything I wanted to know! Thanks for the info!

  14. May 8, 2013 6:13 pm

    Hey there! I’ve been reading your web site for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the excellent job!

    My blog site about technology: Chad

  15. June 25, 2013 11:59 am

    Hey there, my name is Teresita and I’m a fellow blogger out of Hayes, Great Britain. I’m glad to see the work you’re doing on this site. Coming upon Snakes in Hawaii ! | Pacific Island National Parks was refreshing and helpful in terms of writing and work. Keep up the good work guys: I’ve put you guys on my blogroll. In my opinion it will boost the appeal of my own blog.

  16. Anonymous permalink
    June 28, 2013 4:18 pm

    just found one on the east side of oahu. thanks for the page!

  17. Mina permalink
    July 9, 2013 1:22 pm

    A while back, one evening, I found one in the parking lot sidewalk, right in front of our apartment in Makakilo, leeward O’ahu side. I thought it was an earthworm but it slithers like a small snake! I looked it up and found out it was actually a blind snake. Surprised!!

  18. July 31, 2013 10:42 am

    I am working on a new book on Hawaiian wildlife, and would like permission to use the photo of the blind snake from your blog. Best natural photo I have ever seen. Whom should I ask (email please)? Is Bazzano the photographer?

  19. honeycreeper79 permalink
    July 31, 2013 10:45 am

    I am writing a new book about wildlife in Hawaii, and would like to use the first image (cropped) in your blog. It’s a great photo of the blind snake in a natural setting. How do I go about asking permission to use it? Can I be put in touch with the photographer or blogger directly?

    • July 31, 2013 12:13 pm

      Bazzano was the photographer. But this is an NPS photo which puts it in the public domain. Glad you like it and good luck.

  20. Maru permalink
    August 11, 2013 7:20 pm

    Found 3 in wailea… 2 in the condo and one outside under the welcome mat.. I thought it was a worm that was hard to kill… Sorry!!

  21. Kailua permalink
    August 11, 2013 9:08 pm

    One was on my patio this morning, Kailua, Oahu. I have a picture if you need it. It was the snake and not a worm.

  22. 700Trees permalink
    September 10, 2013 7:12 pm

    I found a much bigger version than pictured here, but not black, it was color of a worm with no obvious head and definitely moved like a snake, estimate 8-10 inches and thicker than photo. It disappeared quickly into a hole in the road. I walk that road every day and never saw it again. Couldn’t find anything online that looked like it. Sounds like it might have been this blind snake. I didn’t know how to report it, so glad to find this article. Rift zone between Pahoa and Kapoho, Big Isle, road surface dry, dirt, blue rock and lava rock.

  23. Bunny permalink
    September 19, 2013 7:50 am

    I lived on Oahu in Hickam AFB housing in 1990-1991 (1084B Tinker Avenue). The kids from my court would turn over concrete chunks and large rocks to find/capture these things. I also recall the dog-droppings smell they eminated when handled roughly lol

  24. November 5, 2013 7:46 pm

    This isn’t new. I used to find these, and play with them, when I lived in Hawaii, from ’66 – ’69. The first time I ran across one I didn’t know what to make of it. I was studying it closely when it’s little tongue darted out.

  25. Michel Schlup permalink
    November 14, 2013 10:01 am

    I live in Kapalua on the Plantation Golf Course and I have seen several of these little “blind” snakes on my property. The biggest one was on my pool deck and around 8″ I thought it was a worm at first but it got into the strie pose and stuck out its tongue and then it moved away like a snake. Since then I have had some stepping stones replaced and there was two under them. I asked a guy that works on my property and he said while we was building our home he saw nests of baby ones and several all over my property over time so my husband tells me to quit worrying they are bothering us so as long as they stay out of my house I guess I’m ok with co-existing with them.. I heard they don’t bite too so thats good. I have a lot of mongooses running around here so Im hoping they help with this??

  26. Haley permalink
    July 28, 2014 12:21 am

    Found one in my house and in my front yard in Arizona Scottsdale

  27. Anonymous permalink
    August 31, 2014 10:55 pm

    I just found one on the sands of Waikiki beach! I had no idea what it was, but it moved
    Iike a snake so I captured it in a straw and turned it in to the hotel desk to investigate. No one else knew about this blind snake in Hawaii until we googled.

  28. Anonymous permalink
    September 4, 2014 3:15 pm

    Are there any harmfull snakes in Hawaii ?

    • September 5, 2014 8:04 am

      On the land, no. There is a an occasional sea snake that is venomous which visits Hawaiian waters. But they are very rare.

  29. Anonymous permalink
    October 7, 2014 9:25 am

    We have these snakes all over the place in Orchidland. They are welcome, but not at all rare here. I have never seen the sea snake, and hope I don’t.

  30. Don permalink
    October 25, 2014 1:04 pm

    Just found one under a wet pot. That’s why I looked this up on Google.
    Don in Maui

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