Sunday, October 10, 2004

State wildlife biologist Fern Duvall examines a ball python that was captured on a south Maui golf course.

Golf pro finds snake
on Maui resort links

State officials hope to find the 4-foot
python a home on the mainland

KAHULUI, Maui >> Golf professional Scott Henrich was finishing lessons with two young tourists from Pennsylvania when he spotted a large snake on the fairway of the ninth hole at the Makena Resort in south Maui.

"I said, 'Wow, that's a big snake. How did it get here?' " recalled Henrich. "The size was pretty intimidating."

The Python regius, also known as "ball (royal) python" for its tendency to curl up in a ball for safety, was captured on the South Course's fairway Friday night and sent by air freight to state agricultural officials on Oahu yesterday.

State officials hope to find it a home on the mainland, because the Honolulu Zoo has reached its legal limit of two snakes for its exhibit, authorities said.

Under Hawaii law, snakes are prohibited from being imported into Hawaii, where scientists fear they could threaten native bird species.

The python, which was more than 4 feet long and 4 inches in diameter, and weighed about 7 pounds, is believed to be a female and a former pet, state wildlife biologist Fern Duvall said.

Duvall said the snake "sort of freaks out the second you touch it," indicating it has become wild and was not a recent pet.

He said the python, which can reach a length of 6 feet, kills its victims by constriction and probably ate rodents and wild game birds, which are plentiful in the region.

Henrich said the snake was about 30 to 40 feet from the side edge of the fairway and adjoining kiawe brush, and he kept his eye on the snake while he called the resort's security officers for assistance.

"He (the snake) was more afraid," Henrich said. "He kind of curled up."

Henrich said security supervisor Craig Tanaka and his officers Randal Waki, Curt Tokunaga, Allen Kaina and Joseph Medeiros surrounded the python to prevent it from escaping.

Henrich said he grew up in California and has captured rattle snakes and garden snakes, so he was accustomed to handling various snakes.

He said he used a round cooler to scoop the snake and place it into a large rectangular cooler until state officials arrived to claim it.

Duvall said police were notified shortly after 6 p.m. and within nine minutes of the sighting by Henrich and the visitors.

Duvall said he thought the python might be crossing the fairway to get a drink of water from the sprinklers irrigating the golf course.

He said he plans to look in the brush area near the fairway to see if the snake had been living in the area for some time and if there were snake skins.

Duvall said the ball python lays about three to nine eggs and incubates them for 70 to 85 days before they hatch.

He said the animal sleeps during the day in a den and moves out at night to hunt for food.

A 3-foot-long ball python was captured on Maui in a garage of a residence in Makawao in 1997.

State officials on Maui caught a 4-foot-long snake in a guava tree near the Nature Center in Iao Valley in the mid-to-late 1990s.



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