Big Island snakeskin puzzles officials
HOOKENA, Hawaii » State officials have confirmed that a snakeskin found Monday on Hookena Beach in South Kona was shed naturally by a harmless garter snake, but they cannot figure out how it got there.
Garter snakes, which are not poisonous, can grow up to 5 feet long, but the skin found at Hookena Beach was shed by one about 2 feet long, said Domingo Cravalho, of the state Department of Agriculture.
On the mainland, garter snakes live near marshes and freshwater streams, Cravalho said. Neither type of waterway is found in dry South Kona. Garter snakes do not like salty areas such as a beach, he said.
After looking around the area Tuesday, two state inspectors decided the reasonable thing was to wait to see if more information turns up, Cravalho said. If there is a snake, it could eat mice, he said. Ground-nesting birds would be big enough to fight it off.
Officials could not rule out the possibility that the skin was placed as a hoax. A python skin and a boa constrictor skin found on Maui in 1998 turned out to have been brought from Utah, he said.
Only one snake lives on land in Hawaii, the tiny Brahminy blind snake, which looks like a worm. Yellow-bellied sea snakes, about 3 feet long, are sometimes found in Hawaii waters, but only rarely.