Huffpost Science

Guam Snakes Being Fought With Poisoned Mice Parachuted In From Helicopters

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SNAKES GUAM
Brown tree snake | Wikimedia: National Park Service

Brown tree snakes in Guam have wildlife officials there seeing red. That's why the officials are air-dropping poisoned mice as a lethal treat for the mildly venomous serpents, an invasive species that has devastated native animal populations on the Pacific island, the BBC reported.

"The brown tree snake has had a devastating impact," Cheryl Calustro of Guam's Department of Agriculture, told the network. "Ten out of 12 native forest bird species disappeared in 30 years. The birds here evolved without predators. They were quite naive. And when the snake arrived on Guam it ate eggs, juveniles, adults. Whole generations disappeared."

And birds aren't the snakes' only victims. According to a USGS report, the snakes have caused "the extirpation of most of the native forest vertebrate species; thousands of power outages affecting private, commercial, and military activities" along with "considerable emotional trauma to residents and visitors alike."

But does that really warrant having helicopters parachute in the deadly rodents? And what if other animals get to the mice first?

"Right now we are using acetaminophen," the U.S. Agriculture Department's assistant state director Dan Vice told the BBC. "It's commonly used as a pain reliever and fever reducer in humans, but it is 100 percent lethal to all brown tree snakes."

Acetaminophen is also toxic to rodents, cats, pigs, and birds, according to a 2002 study published in the journal "Environmental Science & Technology." But according to the study's authors, "calculations and field and laboratory experiments...indicated that acetaminophen consumption was minimal" in the "nontarget" animals.

No one knows exactly how brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis)
made their way to Guam, according to the USGS. But they're believed to have stowed away in military cargo shipped from Papua New Guinea during World War II.

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