A brown tree snake found last year in a bottle at the Guam airport is shown here.

10 traps set for snake
spotted in Kona area

A brown snake -- believed to be about 3 feet long -- was spotted Thursday morning on a Christmas berry tree in a Kona Palisades back yard, state officials said yesterday.

Snake Hotlines

Oahu residents who see a snake are advised to keep it in sight and report it to the state's pest hot line at 586-7378.

Neighbor island residents should call their nearest state Agriculture Department office at:

» 326-1077 in Kona.
» 974-4141 in Hilo.
» 873-3962 on Maui.
» 274-3069, on Kauai.

Department of Agriculture officials are not sure what kind of snake was sighted, and they have not ruled out the possibility that it is a brown tree snake.

Department spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi said a "brown tree snake detection expert" will interview the man who saw the snake today and will search the site.

Already, 10 snake traps with live mice have been set. Also, state crews have surveyed the area several times since the sighting.

State Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young said there are no clues about where the snake might have come from. But he noted that the area where the snake was seen is only about seven miles from Kona Airport.

"There's always a worry with a snake sighting," Young said. "Snakes can be devastating to Hawaii's environment."

A Kona Palisades resident was working in his back yard when he spotted the snake in an adjacent vacant lot, officials said. The man told state crews that when he approached the snake, it slithered off a branch into the brush below.

Young said the sighting is being taken seriously and that there is no reason to believe the report is a hoax.

He said snake traps at the site will be monitored through the weekend. Crews will likely set up more traps today or tomorrow.

For years, state and federal officials have been warning residents about the dangers of the invasive brown tree snake.

The animal has been devastating for Guam, where it is responsible for the extinction of nine of 13 native forest bird species and causes nearly 200 power failures a year, state officials said.

The venomous pest is believed to have been brought to Guam during World War II on American military cargo ships. Up to 13,000 brown tree snakes live in a square mile on the island now, according to the National Invasive Species Council.

A University of Hawaii economic study, published in 2004, estimated that the introduction of the brown tree snake to Hawaii could cause between $28.5 million and $405 million in losses annually.

If the snake sighted in Kona is a brown tree snake, it is likely still young. Brown tree snakes grow to about 3 feet within their first year, but adults can be as long as 8 feet.

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