TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Eric Twedt, left, of the Kauai Invasive Species Committee and Alan Souza of the Department of Land and Natural Resources returned yesterday from an unsuccessful search of the Hanalei River for a snake spotted Monday.
Hanalei kayakers report snakes
HANALEI, Kauai » Native birds, some endangered species, even buffalo can be seen along the banks of the Hanalei River, but never have Kayak Kauai's customers reported seeing snakes -- including a flying one -- until recently.
The last such sighting, which occurred Tuesday by three girls and passed on to one of the company's employees, prompted a search of the area by snake experts Tuesday afternoon and yesterday.
They didn't find signs of the snake either day. A decision this morning will be made whether to continue the search today.
But it's the second time that the snake team, led by Ed Pickop, plant quarantine inspector for the state Department of Agriculture, have been out to Hanalei in recent months to search.
Four groups of people who have rented kayaks over the past five months have reported seeing snakes in the trees and thick hau bush along the Hanalei.
At first, said Crystal Perry, an employee at the kayak rental company, "We just thought they were crazy.
"The one guy swore he saw (a snake) fly across the river," she added.
But the last two sightings, less than a mile from the mouth of the Hanalei River and not far from Kayak Kauai's launch, have described a similar gray snake, Perry said.
In Tuesday's sighting, two girls from the north shore, ages 8 and 16, spotted a 2- 1/2-foot-long gray snake falling out of a tree about 10 feet into the river, Pickop said yesterday.
Pickop and the employees at Kayak Kauai are putting up signs urging people to call the invasive species hotline at 643-PEST for any snake sightings in the area.
While the Kauai hot line gets about a dozen calls for snakes each year, only three snakes have been found on the Garden Isle in the past two decades.
Still, Pickop is very committed to keeping snakes, even gray ones, off the islands. He grew up on Guam.
"I basically watched the birds go away, disappear" thanks to the reptiles, he said. "The brown tree snake would be a total disaster" here.