Invasive Brown Tree Snakes have been decimating Guam's native birds for decades but their reign of terror could soon be coming to an end. The USDA has announced a pilot program that will see drug-laced mice dropped over the island from helicopters.
The snakes are native to Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and have no predators to control their numbers on Guam. They most likely found their way onto the western Pacific unincorporated territory of the United States after World War II, after stowing away on cargo ships and military vessels.
Once landed, the mildly venomous reptiles found a virtual paradise chock full of defenseless birds whose numbers began a possibly irreversible decline. Now the Department of Agriculture has decided to step in, playing the role of the snake in the biblical Garden of Eden.
There are approximately 2 million Brown Tree Snakes on Guam and the USDA (armed with $1 million in funding provided by the Department of Defense) wants to give each and every one a terminal headache, so to speak. The plan involves baiting approximately 2,000 non-living mice with acetaminophen, a generic equivalent of Tylenol that's harmless to humans but can end a snake's life within 72 hours. The mice are to be dropped from helicopters over a fenced-off area of Andersen Air Force Base, following which USDA researchers will move in to evaluate the results.
“No one's ever attempted anything on this scale,” explained Dan Vice, USDA assistant operations director on Guam, to the Pacific Daily News. “You know to date the largest plot that anyone's been able to get rid of snakes is only a couple of acres. We're talking 110 acres so this is completely novel.”
This will be the second test of the snake-control strategy; the first being a smaller batch of drug-laced mice dropped onto Naval Base Guam in 2010. “We want to make sure we are doing it right,” states Vice. “If the information shows that it's effective in controlling the population, we will institute a plan to use it across areas in Guam.” (via WTKR and USDA)