Expensive Exotics: Snakes in Hawaii

Last month a juvenile ornate tree snake (Chrysopelea ornate) was captured by military personnel near the airfield at Hickam Air Force Base. Inspectors from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture were notified and took custody of the foot-long snake. Ornate tree snakes are mildly venomous and are related to the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), which has devastated the ecosystem in Guam and threatens the environment and economy of Hawaii.

Snakes are not native to Hawaii and have the potential to invoke more than just fear in visitors and residents. The arrival and establishment of snakes could have hefty economic consequences to the state in terms of control costs and damages. Co-director of UHERO’s Project Environment, Dr. Kimberly Burnett, studied the potential economic outcome of a brown tree snake invasion in Hawaii as part of her Ph.D. dissertation. Depending on assumptions regarding control methods and population growth upon arrival, the snake could easily cost Hawaii $200-$300 million in management and damages including power outages, lost bird species and medical expenses related to snakebites. That’s about equal to half the value of all the crops produced in Hawaii in 2011.

– Kimberly Burnett

Photo credit flying snake: Dr. Allen Allison, Bishop Museum 

Photo credit brown tree snake: Kimberly Burnett, UHERO

Facebook
Twitter

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) welcomes online comments to stories that are posted on our website or social media pages. Comments are intended to be a forum for open, respectful, and family-friendly discussion. UHERO reserves the right to remove anything posted on our website or social media pages that is deemed inappropriate. All comments are moderated and will therefore have a delayed post time.
Some guidelines (not an exhaustive list) we use when moderating/approving comments include:

  • Do not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
  • Do not post content that is hateful, threatening or wildly off-topic; or do anything unlawful, malicious, discriminatory or defamatory.
  • Observe confidentiality laws at all times.
  • Do not post spam or advertisements.
  • Observe fair use, copyright and disclosure laws.
  • Do not use vulgar language or profanity.

UHERO may amend this policy from time to time.