U.S. researchers are about to go to war against a very unusual enemy: the brown tree snake.
Originally native to the islands near northern Australia, this highly invasive species came to the U.S. territory of Guam over half a century ago. In one of the worst ecological disasters of the modern era, the brown tree snake is single-handedly responsible for driving most of Guam’s bird species extinct, and that’s not all. The snake is responsible for an upheaval in the local food chain and widespread damage to numerous wildlife species. Adding insult to injury, the brown tree snake is also the cause of thousands of power outages every year.
A look through the Guam Division of Aquatic & Wildlife Resources website will show that nearly game bird hunting has declined greatly. The once popular Turtle Dove has been driven nearly off the island and is now under protection. It is clear that Guam is on the losing side of this battle.
However, researchers have a new tactic up their sleeves. According to NBC News, scientists plan on using helicopters to rain down dead mice fortified with acetaminophen, a painkiller. While harmless to humans, painkillers are lethal to the brown tree snake.
“We are taking this to a new phase,” said Wildlife Services assistant director Daniel Vice. “There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam.”
While the snakes themselves are only a few feet long, experts have surmised that the species cause millions of dollars in damage. Should the snake be transported and take root in unprotected islands like Hawaii, the damage could be in the billions.
Featured image from The U.S. Army on the flickr Creative Commons, second image courtesy Guam Division of Aquatic & Wildlife Resources