Here’s the latest plan scientists have come up with to kill some of the estimated 2 million brown tree snakes that have wiped out many other animals on Guam:
In April or May they’re going to lace dead mice with painkillers, attach them to little parachutes, drop them from helicopters and hope that they get snagged in the jungle foliage. Then, if all goes well, the snakes — which as their name implies hang out in trees — will eat the mice and die from ingesting the painkillers’ active ingredients.
We aren’t kidding. That’s what The Associated Press is reporting from Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base, near where this experimental airdrop will happen.
To work, the snakes are going to have to discover their snacks from the sky fairly quickly. According to the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service:
“Dead mice are attractive to snakes only for 2-3 days. After this time, and owing to the tropical climate, the lure is no longer available.”
Scientists don’t think the mice bombs will be a threat to other animals, so long as they get caught in the jungle canopy. There aren’t many birds left on the island — because of the snakes.
As NPR’s Christopher Joyce reported last September, “the brown tree snake invaded Guam over 60 years ago — they sneaked in aboard boats or in the wheel wells of airplanes.” It’s feared that they might show up elsewhere, such as Hawaii, if they hop rides on planes and ships leaving Guam. The Agriculture Department has estimated that if the snakes reached the Aloha State, the economic damage “from medical incidents [bites], power outages [they get caught in power lines and transmitters], and decreases in tourism … would range from approximately $593 million to $2.14 billion annually.”
The snakes’ presence in Guam has been good for at least one other species. Christ reported that because the snakes have eaten most of the island’s birds, the spider population has exploded.