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Poisonous Dead Mice to be Air-Dropped to Combat Invasive Snakes in Guam

Feb 27, 2013 04:15 AM EST
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The U.S. government is planning to air-drop poisonous dead mice on the jungles of Guam, in a bid to reduce the population of the invasive brown tree snakes.

The brown tree snakes were introduced to the jungles of Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean, in the 1940s. The snakes, which are native to Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, reached the jungles by secretly snuggling on U.S. military ships after World War II.

With the introduction of the brown tree snakes in Guam, the population of native birds has declined largely. The diet system of these snakes includes lizards, birds and other mammals. While the young snakes prey on small birds, the adult snakes consume big birds.

The invasive snakes have wiped out 10 of the 12 native birds of Guam, with the last two species surviving in certain parts of the jungles, thanks to efforts taken to trap the snakes. Decrease in the bird population has led to a population explosion of spiders in the jungles. A latest study conducted by researchers has found that the spider population in Guam jungles is 40 times the spider webs found in other forests in its nearby islands.

In an attempt to reduce the thriving population of the snakes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will air-drop dead mice laced with the painkiller acetaminophen over 200 acres of land in Guam's Andersen Air Force Base this spring, according to a report in Guampdn.com.

Acetaminophen, which is sold under the brand name Tylenol in the U.S., is toxic to snakes, but is harmless to humans. The painkiller will kill the snakes in 72 hours after the reptiles feed on the mice. Unlike most snakes, the brown tree snakes consume prey that is not killed by them.

Radio transmitters will be attached to each mouse so as to track the snakes' movements before they die, Daniel Vice, agricultural department's assistant state director, told Guampdn.com.

The government's plan has sparked outrage among animal right activists. They have dismissed the plan as "absurd" and "cruel," reports the Guardian.

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