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Snakes in Guam: USDA to Drop Drug-Laced Mice from Helicopters to Poison Invasive Species

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March 04, 2013

Snakes in Guam: USDA to Drop Drug-Laced Mice from Helicopters to Poison Invasive Species

By Chad Love

The brown tree snake has a rather innocuous-sounding name, but these non-native arboreal terrors have almost completely wiped out native bird populations on the island of Guam. For years the U.S. government has tried to eradicate the snakes with little success. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying something new: poison-laced rodent bombs dropped from helicopters.

From this story on CNN:
If you're a brown tree snake, those dead rodents that will soon be falling from the sky over Guam's Andersen Air Force Base could be your last meal. That's because the U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to pack each one with acetaminophen, the generic equivalent of Tylenol, which can kill a snake in 72 hours. The drug-laced mice will be taped to pieces of cardboard, which in turn will be attached to streamers that will be dropped from helicopters over more than 100 acres of the Air Force base on the Pacific island.

According to the story, the snakes, which are native to Australia and the surrounding region, were introduced after World War II by stowing away inside packing crates and cargo. They have since gone hog wild, and are so numerous (some estimates say two million) that they routinely cause power outages by climbing along electrical lines. About 2,000 mice will be dropped in the test.

Comments (6)

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from Drover1 wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

I seriously doubt this will work – sounds like it was dreamed up by a bureaucrat rather than a biologist. Maybe these snakes are different, but all others I know of are hunters, not scavengers. They are not interested in dead prey. I’ve fed pet snakes using dead, frozen baby mice, but they needed to be carefully thawed and warmed up to the right temperature to get a snake to eat them.

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from huntnow wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

I was there as my first USAF station in 1999. The snakes were really bad then, I can't imagine what they are like now. It is a very small island so two million snakes would be an incredible amount.

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from Bob81 wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

Agreed on the comment above regarding snakes not being scavengers. I originally heard this story on a scuba forum I frequent. Someone on the forum who lived in Guam for a number of years said the local Guam government is rather talented at obtaining US Federal funds for all sorts of rather laughable projects.

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from hermit crab wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

They've actually already done smaller-scale versions of this before with some success prompting this larger scale study. Brown tree snakes will scavenge dead animals. The reason they're sticking them on cardboard with a paper streamer is to try to get them stuck in the tree canopy, as opposed to letting them fall on the ground where the native animals may eat them.

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from Chuck Robinson wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

I worked on Guam building houses for the USN in the early 70's. We knew of the snakes then, but I never saw one. What I did see was an attempt gone wrong with an imported giant snail. I understand it was brought in to help clear undergrowth. As it turned out, they had no natural predators and expanded so much, their moves across roads made the roads slick as ice. A giant toad was then imported to rid the island of giant snails. Unfortunately, this did not work at all. They got along just fine. It just made for more of a mess when the giant toads crossed roads and they also killed many of the dogs on the island due to their toxic skins. Maybe the mice deal will work, but I have my doubts.

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from hutter wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

WHO EXPECTS THIS TO WORK,AFTER ALL IT IS THE GOVERNMENT

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from Drover1 wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

I seriously doubt this will work – sounds like it was dreamed up by a bureaucrat rather than a biologist. Maybe these snakes are different, but all others I know of are hunters, not scavengers. They are not interested in dead prey. I’ve fed pet snakes using dead, frozen baby mice, but they needed to be carefully thawed and warmed up to the right temperature to get a snake to eat them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntnow wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

I was there as my first USAF station in 1999. The snakes were really bad then, I can't imagine what they are like now. It is a very small island so two million snakes would be an incredible amount.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob81 wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

Agreed on the comment above regarding snakes not being scavengers. I originally heard this story on a scuba forum I frequent. Someone on the forum who lived in Guam for a number of years said the local Guam government is rather talented at obtaining US Federal funds for all sorts of rather laughable projects.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hermit crab wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

They've actually already done smaller-scale versions of this before with some success prompting this larger scale study. Brown tree snakes will scavenge dead animals. The reason they're sticking them on cardboard with a paper streamer is to try to get them stuck in the tree canopy, as opposed to letting them fall on the ground where the native animals may eat them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Chuck Robinson wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

I worked on Guam building houses for the USN in the early 70's. We knew of the snakes then, but I never saw one. What I did see was an attempt gone wrong with an imported giant snail. I understand it was brought in to help clear undergrowth. As it turned out, they had no natural predators and expanded so much, their moves across roads made the roads slick as ice. A giant toad was then imported to rid the island of giant snails. Unfortunately, this did not work at all. They got along just fine. It just made for more of a mess when the giant toads crossed roads and they also killed many of the dogs on the island due to their toxic skins. Maybe the mice deal will work, but I have my doubts.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hutter wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

WHO EXPECTS THIS TO WORK,AFTER ALL IT IS THE GOVERNMENT

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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