3 December 2013, 15:10

Two thousand toxic mice dropped on Guam by parachute to kill snakes

Two thousand toxic mice dropped on Guam by parachute to kill snakes

When all other efforts to cull a teeming population of snakes failed, US officials in Guam called in air support. On Sunday, approximately 2,000 dead mice pumped full of Tylenol were dropped across the island in an effort to eliminate a species of snake that officials say is responsible for inflicting millions of dollars of damage.

Dan Vice, a Wildlife Services biologist with the US Department of Agriculture who has worked on the project for more than a decade, said the mice filled with 80 mg of acetaminophen are used to kill the invasive brown tree snake population that was accidentally introduced to the island around 60 years ago.

A pilot project involving 280 mice dropped in a similar manner was conducted in 2010, and the success of that project allowed for the official aerial bait drops that began in September 2013.

The drops, including research, cost a total of $1.5 million, with funding coming from the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense.

The total budget nationally for the project is $8 million.

An estimated one to two million snakes live around the island, Vice said, making the aerial bait drops the most effective and efficient way of controlling the population while not affecting other animals on Guam like deer and pigs.

Brown tree snakes have an Achilles' heel: Tylenol.
For some reason, the snakes are almost uniquely sensitive to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in the ubiquitous over-the-counter painkiller. If you can get a tree snake to eat just 80 milligrams, you can kill it. That's only about one-sixth of a standard pill - pigs, dogs and other similarly sized animals would have to eat about 500 of them to get into any trouble. Brown tree snakes also love mice.

Helicopters make low-altitude flights over the base's forested areas, dropping their furry bundles on a timed sequence. Each mouse is laced with the deadly microdose of acetaminophen and strung up to two pieces of cardboard and green tissue paper.

Voice of Russia, firstcoastnews.com, airforcetimes.com

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