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Zoo will receive boa found on Big Isle


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A 6-foot boa constrictor found in a garage on the Big Island will be taken to the Honolulu Zoo.

Domingo Carvalho Jr., inspection and compliance section chief of the Plant Quarantine Branch, said zoo staff members will determine whether the snake is a male or female.

If it's a male, the zoo may seek a permit from the state Department of Agriculture for display purposes. The zoo is allowed a maximum of two nonvenomous male snakes. Females are not allowed due to the risk of reproduction.

If the boa constrictor is not retained by the zoo, officials will keep it at the Plant Quarantine Branch in Hono-lulu until it can be sent to a suitable location.

About 2:15 p.m. Friday, a resident of the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision called police and reported a snake in the garage. Authorities responded and captured the snake. It was taken to the Hilo office of the Department of Agriculture and sent to the Plant Quarantine Branch.

The snake is estimated to be 4 years old. Boa constrictors, native to Central and South America, can grow up to 12 feet in length and live up to 20 years.

Carvalho said boa constrictors generally double in size in the first four years, depending on how much they eat. Their diet consists of rats, mice and birds. The snakes latch on to their prey with their hooked teeth and wrap around it, asphyxiating the animal.

Officials warned that anyone caught with an illegal animal can face a maximum fine of $200,000. Carvalho encouraged people who have illegal animals to turn them in under the state's amnesty program, which provides immunity from prosecution. Animals may be turned in to any Department of Agriculture office throughout the state, the Honolulu Zoo or any humane society, with no questions asked and no fines.

Anyone with information on illegal animals is asked to call 643-PEST (7378).