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Hawaii importing invasive snakes to train dogs to find them

December 10, 2018
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2013 file photo, a brown tree snake is held by a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist at Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. territory of Guam. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is importing four brown tree snakes to be used to train dogs to detect the dangerously invasive species and hopefully prevent the snakes from establishing themselves in the state. Brown tree snakes invaded Guam and nearly wiped out the island's bird species. Hawaii has no native snakes and several species of protected and endangered birds. (AP Photo/Eric Talmadge, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2013 file photo, a brown tree snake is held by a U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist at Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. territory of Guam. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is importing four brown tree snakes to be used to train dogs to detect the dangerously invasive species and hopefully prevent the snakes from establishing themselves in the state. Brown tree snakes invaded Guam and nearly wiped out the island's bird species. Hawaii has no native snakes and several species of protected and endangered birds. (AP Photo/Eric Talmadge, File)

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is importing four brown tree snakes to be used to train dogs to detect the dangerously invasive species and hopefully prevent the snakes from establishing themselves in the islands.

Jonathan Ho, acting manager of the department’s plant quarantine branch, said the Hawaii Board of Agriculture approved a request for the sterile, male snakes to be used in the dog detection program, West Hawaii Today reported Monday.

“The primary focus is for the brown tree snakes,” Ho said at a meeting in Honolulu last week. “However, Hawaii has no species of snakes and the dogs do generalize, so any type of snake we would take action upon.”

The snakes will be used to train four Jack Russell terriers and terrier mixes to seek out the snakes that could enter Hawaii by plane, ship or cargo carrier.

Brown tree snakes invaded Guam and nearly wiped out the island’s bird species, Ho said. Hawaii has several species of protected and endangered birds.

Hawaii has no native snakes and the last time a snake was found in the state was in 1998, said Ho. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services conducts checks to clear transport vessels and containers of invasive species before coming to Hawaii and the state conducts addition inspections upon arrival.

The detection program began in the 1990s but was discontinued in 2009. The Department of Agriculture reinstated the program in 2016.

Beyond the precautions of all four snakes being male and sterilized, officials will also surgically implant radio transmitters in the reptiles before their arrival in Hawaii.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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