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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Maui snake eludes hunters

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

HANA, Maui — A multi-agency rapid response team has set out 24 traps using dead mice for bait to try to capture a snake spotted on Maui last week.

The traps are being checked daily, and searchers are beating the bushes at night — but so far, no snake to be found.

Officials said yesterday they plan to expand the search area another 220 yards or so above Hana Highway near Hamoa, where the snake was seen by two people.

Maui police received a call last Tuesday night from a resident who reported seeing a 3-foot-long snake crossing the highway. Two witnesses subsequently identified what looked like a brown tree snake, the same species that has decimated bird populations on Guam.

The report was deemed a credible sighting, and mobilized a trained team of wildlife officials led by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the state Department of Agriculture.

The team, which includes snake expert Haldre Rogers of the U.S. Geological Survey on Guam, is part of a recently developed rapid response plan to react to credible reports of snakes. This is the first time the rapid response team has been called into action in Hawai'i.

"When there's a snake report, it's a drop-everything-and-go event," said Mele Fong of the Maui Invasive Species Committee, who said both of the agency's ground crews were diverted to the hunt.

Fong said searchers haven't found any signs of a snake. Nevertheless, the nightly hunts will continue until Sept. 2. "It's a very high-intensive search in difficult terrain," she said.

Snake reports can be made to the Pest Hotline, 586-PEST (7378), and captive snakes can be surrendered under the state's amnesty program.

Reach Timothy Hurley at thurley@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.