Published October 01, 2010
In a ploy to rid Guam of its population of invasive brown tree snakes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is bombing the island with drugged frozen mice, military news outlet Stars and Stripes reported.
Using Naval Base Guam as a starting point, scientists drop mice packed with acetaminophen from helicopters into the jungle canopy.
The drug -- commonly found in Tylenol -- provided a regulatory advantage because it had already undergone extensive testing, Dan Vice, assistant state director of USDA Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Islands, told Stars and Stripes.
Guam’s snake problem began in the 1980s, when the creatures arrived on the island accidentally in military cargo. The mildly venomous snakes can grow up to 10 feet long and, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the State of Hawaii, are the leading cause of endangerment for some of Guam’s native animals.
“The discovery that snakes will die when they eat acetaminophen was a huge step forward,” Anne Brooke, conservation resources program manager for Naval Facilities Command Marianas told Stars and Stripes. “The problem was how you get the snakes to eat it.”
The solution was to drop the mice into the snakes’ natural habitat, the branches of trees in the jungles of Guam. By outfitting the mice with cardboard wings and green party streams, the bait could float down to the jungle and catch on the branches. The result is a hanging, deadly snack for the snakes.
Researchers began testing the system at the beginning of September, dropping 200 mice into 20 acres around the base, Stars and Stripes reported.
The effectiveness of the drop will offer insights into how well it might work elsewhere on the island -- and whether it might be a key to solving a longtime ecological problem, Vice said.
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