Florida is not the only U.S. territory with a snake problem. For 60 years Guam has been feeling the bite of the brown tree snake, an invasive species that has all but wiped out the island’s once verdant bird population. The tree snakes, which can grow up to 10 feet long, have also been known to bite humans and even knock out power lines by slithering into transformers. Fearing that the snakes may soon spread to Hawaii and eventually the West Coast, officials have concocted a plan to contain the snakes using dead mice loaded with cold medicine dropped from a helicopter by way of tiny parachutes. Yes.
Unlike most species of snake, brown tree snakes have no reservations about eating dead prey. According to NPR, he dead mice will be loaded with acetaminophen, the active ingredient in medications like Tylenol, which is harmless to humans. The mice will fall into Guam’s jungle canopy, where they will hopefully prove to be an enticing meal.
Daniel Vice, assistant state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in Hawaii, says the goal is not to wipe out the snakes, but merely to rein in their population. A 2010 study conducted by the National Wildlife Research Center found that a brown tree snake invasion in Hawaii could potentially cost the state over $2 billion in economic damages.
Officials say that the risk of accidental cross-species targeting with the strategy is low, mostly due to the snakes themselves. “One concern was that crows may eat mice with the toxicant," said William Pitt of the U.S. National Wildlife Research Center. "However, there are no longer wild crows on Guam.”
The dead mouse drop is currently scheduled for April or May.