Around 60 years ago the US unwittingly introduced brown tree snakes to the tiny island of Guam. The snakes hitched rides as stowaways on US Navy vessels after World War Two. Since then the reptiles have established a thriving community and caused misery to locals. Now that there are fears the snakes could end up on US military planes leaving Guam for Hawaii, then cause serious damage there, the US is set to act.
So what is the cunning plan they have come up with?
It has taken ten years to perfect the plan. A person on a US helicopter will hand drop dead mice, that have been "doctored" with painkiller, to earth. If everything goes to plan the mice carcasses will land in the foliage but not on the ground where other creatures could be affected. The mice have flotation devices and streamers attached which hopefully will mean they become stuck in branches and foliage where the snakes live,
Scientists are using acetaminophen, the active ingredient in painkillers such as Tylenol. They claim this will be harmless to humans but lethal to the snakes. Unlike many other snakes the brown tree ones will happily eat prey they have not killed.
The dead mice drop is scheduled for April or May.
Scientists have decided to drop the lethal mice near to the Andersen Air Force Base, which is surrounded by dense foliage. The assumption is that the foliage is a hide-out for the snakes.
The latest estimate is that as many as two million brown snakes could now be unwelcome residents of Guam. They bite people and animals, eat foliage and damage power supplies as they slither and take hold on cables. Their bite is not poisonous to humans. The brown tree snakes have deccimated Guam though which now has no bird population. Dreams of Guam becoming a tourist destination will never be fulfilled with such a large population of these snakes.
Daniel Vice, assistant state director of US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Islands.said no other place on Earth has a snake problem like Guam. He claims that the mice drop is intended to control and contain the snakes, not wipe them out.