Guam's Pesty Snakes Being Fed Poisonous Baby Mice From Above

Monday, 25 Feb 2013 04:34 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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There's a war under way on the Pacific island of Guam targeting a foreign army of invasive snakes. U.S. officials have announced an air campaign targeting brown tree snakes in the U.S. territory using poisoned dead baby mice.

The brown tree snake has been a problem on Guam for years, and it has wreaked environmental disaster there after sneaking into the country aboard airplanes in the 1940s. To prevent the epidemic of snakes from spreading — say, to Hawaii, about 4,000 miles to the east — biologists will attempt the unorthodox bombing.

The dead baby mice will be dropped from helicopters and inside the mouth of each will be 80 milligrams of acetaminophen. The active ingredient in Tylenol and other pain-relief medication is highly toxic to snakes "and not a lot of other animals," William Pitt, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Agriculture Deaprtment's National Wildlife Research Center in Hawaii, told Reuters.

"Guam is a very unique situation," Pitt said. "There is no other place in the world that has a snake issue like Guam."

About 2,000 dead mice will be dropped. They will be outfitted with loops of ribbon and cardboard squares, designed to catch on the branches of trees in the rain forest canopies to keep the mice from falling all the way to the forest floor.

One of the main areas to be targeted is Andersen Air Force Base, which is surrounded by dense vegetation and is seen as a likely starting point for snakes to get aboard aircraft.

The goal of the campaign is not to completely eradicate the snake population in Guam, but rather to thin out the population which has gotten out of control in recent years.

The brown tree snake is native to Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Guam had none before the reptiles were transported there during World War II as accidental stowaways.

The snakes now are so populous that there are between 50 and 100 in every square mile. They are slightly venomous and dangerous mostly to small animals and children, according to environmental Science News.

Related stories:

Emergency Landing Forced by Snake on a Plane Over Egypt

Sen. Nelson Tries Hand at Snake Wrangling, Concedes Defeat

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