US to bomb snake-infested island with poisoned mice

Ceri Roberts

The US is planning to bomb the tiny island of Guam with poisoned mice, in a bid to kill off the exploding population of brown tree snakes.

The snakes, which can grow to be more than 3m (10ft) long, are not lethal to humans - but they do bite. And they cause further problems by climbing power poles and causing blackouts. There are also fears that they could slither on to planes at the US military base and fly to Hawaii, where they could decimate the indigenous wildlife.

Sky News reports that the snakes have caused problems on the island ever since they were introduced by US military ships after World War Two. Experts believe that there may now be two million brown tree snakes on Guam, which works out at 13,000 per square mile, and most of the island's native bird species are now extinct as a result.

According to ABC News, the US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services now plan to drop mice carcasses into heavy foliage near Guam's Anderson Air Force Base. The carcasses will have been laced with acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in painkillers like Tylenol.

Unlike most snakes, brown tree snakes will eat prey that they did not kill themselves - and they are very vulnerable to acetaminophen, which is harmless to humans.

The dead mice will be dropped from a helicopter by hand, one by one, starting in April or May. Scientists have been perfecting the technique for more than a decade. The mice are attached to green streamers to ensure that they land in branches of forest foliage where the snakes live and feed, rather than falling to the ground where they could be eaten by other animals.

The goal is to control the snake population, rather than eradicate them altogether.

Daniel Vice, assistant state director of US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Service in Hawaii, Guam and Pacific Islands, told ABC News: "There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam."

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