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Biosecurity plan cites costly effects of tree snake invasion

Hawaii News

HILO >> A state biosecurity plan says the brown tree snake could cause as much as $2 billion each year in damage if introduced to Hawaii.

The snake, which is native to Australia and Papua New Guinea, was accidentally introduced to Guam after World War II.

The invasive species has had a devastating impact on Guam’s native bird populations. The snakes also can cause electricity blackouts when they crawl into and damage transformers, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday.

“It’s pretty rare when we have a species that cuts across all issues as a problem,” said Christy Martin of the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.

The cost estimate cited to deal with a potential brown tree snake problem in the draft Hawaii Interagency Biosecurity Plan stems from establishing eradication programs and outbound cargo inspections plus the economic impact on Hawaii’s agriculture and tourism sectors.

If Hawaii became known for having brown tree snakes “like Guam has, a lot less people would be inclined to come,” said Shane Siers, Hawaii field station leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center. “And if all the native birds were wiped out, that would diminish the amount of nature enthusiasts visiting.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture spends $5 million annually to keep the brown tree snakes from getting into Guam’s outbound cargo.

Last year more than 10,000 snakes were removed from areas surrounding Guam’s airports and seaports, Siers said.

Preventing the invasive animal from coming to Hawaii would be “a pretty darn good return on investment,” he said.

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