U.S. Government Plans To Air Drop Toxic Mice To Fight Snake Invasion

Written by Judd Legum

Guam is being overrun by millions of snakes. The U.S. Government hopes air dropping drugged, dead mice can solve the problem.

Brown tree snakes came to Guam, naturally, on a plane (and on boats). In the 60 years since they arrived, the Brown Tree Snake has “ate almost all the birds.” There are only a few hundred birds left on the island.

The decimation of the bird population, in turn, has lead to an explosion in the spider population. During rainy season there are “40 times more webs” on Guam than on nearby islands.

The snakes — which can grow to 10 feet long — have also been “biting residents and even knocking out electricity by slithering onto power lines.” The poisoned mice targeting the snakes with be attached to “little parachutes” which the hopes that they get caught up in the trees where the snakes live.

The National Wildlife Research Center is working on developing a more sophisticated solution:

As a first step in development of an artificial attractant, NWRC scientists successfully characterized the odor of dead and decomposing mice. The next step will be to develop a suitable matrix in which this “mouse essence” can be embedded. Chemical cues involved in brown treesnake behavior, however, are complex and cues that elicit strong responses in the laboratory often have diminished effects in the field. So far, artificial matrix compounds as diverse as tofu, plaster-of-paris, and gelatin have shown promise as attractive lures but snakes have shown only limited interest.

Why is so much effort being poured into solving this problem? The Brown Tree snake could be headed to Hawaii next. Despite extensive screening efforts, “eight brown tree snakes have been found on Oahu since 1981, hitch-hiking on aircraft from Guam.” An economic analysis found that proliferation of the Brown Tree Snake in Hawaii could cost over 2 billion annually from “from medical incidents, power outages, and decreases in tourism.”

The problem illustrates the substantial economic and health risks posed by invasive species in an increasingly global economy. Other risks include the Emerald ash borer on imported Valentine’s Day flowers, the brown marmorated stink bug on citrus fruit and killer algae that grows in tropical fish tanks.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Photo: Lady_K/flickr

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.2 years ago

very very sad news,thank you for sharing

Carrie-Anne Brown

very sad news but thanks for sharing

Dianne McGonigle
Dianne McGonigle2 years ago

There has to be a better way!! What about all the wild animals who will be snacking on these poisoned mice??

Suzana Megles
Suzana Megles2 years ago

As per usual our government waits until there is a huge problem and then finds cruel ways to address them with no thought to the suffering in this case of of these poor innocent mice. It is so true what Gandhi said of a nation - you can judge it by the way it treats its animals. I don't know of any animal in the US which receives compassionate treatment. Do you? Surely with our combined brain power, we can come up with a more humane way to handle the overflow of snakes - though I don't wish them a cruel death either.

Haniel I.
Past Member 2 years ago

Ecological Role: An active nocturnal species, the brown tree snake is most often found in densely foliated arboreal habitats. As a food generalist, the brown tree snake has been reported to prey upon lizards, introduced and domestic birds, rats, geckos, skinks, and any other available vertebrates. It can consume meals 70% of its body mass, an unusually large amount for a colubrid snake. Currently, there are up to 12,000 to 15,000 snakes per square mile on Guam. The brown tree snake begins to reproduce around age three and deposits up to twelve eggs once or twice a year in caves, hollow trees, and other areas protected from drying and overheating. The abandoned eggs hatch about 90 days later. The only known natural predators of the brown tree snake are pigs and monitor lizards. Before the arrival of the brown tree snake, the only other snake present on Guam was a tiny blind snake ( Rhamphotyphlopys braminus ). Since the blind snake lives in the soil and feeds on the eggs and young of termites and ants, it does not compete with the brown tree snake for resources and therefore cannot be an effective natural population control.

Found this on Google site http://www.columbia.edu/itc/cerc/danoff-burg/invasion_bio/inv_spp_summ/boiga_irregularis.html

Why not feed the snakes some sort of birth control pill that disrupts the reproduction process?

Daria D.
Daria D.2 years ago

Why don't the government HIRE snake hunters?? In Florida, they have a hunting season now. Still sounds cruel to some but maybe they could use the snakes for food, the skins for products. Native Amer did that in the past & some Americans still do. Better than risking the mice being eaten by OTHER wildlife. And WHAT guarantee is there that this type of snake loves to eat dead things???

Lori Ann Hone
Lori Hone2 years ago

There has to be a better way than dropping poisoned mice that can be ingested by any and all other wildlife.

Jon Ryan
Jon Boyle2 years ago

Leave it to our insane government well all be dead one way or another... First our family pet cat's will be the first to die after eating a mouse, Then our wilde life will begin to die after eating one of these mice, Then ten's of thousands of other animals and perhaps maybe a few humans so they can have a simple way to Justify their actions?

Colleen Prinssen
Colleen Prinssen2 years ago

I emailed the one site about BTSs and asked how a STD could be implemented. I am still waiting a reply.

nothing eats the snakes. they are not doing anything for the ecosystem. I guess we could "farm" some native birds to repopulate.

it is just animals are nnot as smart or adaptable as you think they are. Just because stray/feral Russian dogs figure out the train system, won't mean a bird speciese will know how to adapt and outwit this kind of snake.

and again, for everyone who wants moongoose. They don't live in trees. this is a tree snake.
do you expect them to grow wings? if you are going to suggest something stupid, suggest civits or something.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B.2 years ago

This is awful - the poison will surely have an impact on the environment. No doubt it will end up entering the food chain and probably cause more damage than the snakes. Mankind is always interfering trying to clean up one "mess" after another. More often than not more damage is done than if they were just to leave things to mother nature.