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Look out below, brown tree snakes

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Many of use acetaminophen to treat headaches, muscles aches, arthritis, and even the common cold and fever. But now, there's a new use for the popular over-the-counter pain killing medicine.

It's a been a decade of planning and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has finally received the green light from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to move forward with plans to curtail the island's most threatening invasive species - the brown tree snake. "Acetaminophen which is a common painkiller fever reducer used by people all the time its inserted inside the dead mouse and delivered out of a helicopter so that snakes will come around and eat it and die," explained USDA's supervisory wildlife biologist and assistant state director Dan Vice. He added that residents shouldn't be alarmed, as the mice will only be dropping on Andersen Air Force Base's Northwest Field, a conservation area planned for native and wildlife restoration.

"You're not going to see baits being thrown out of helicopters in residential areas," he promised.

Approximately 2,000 mice attached to cardboard and tissue paper will be dropped atop two 55 hectors of forest canopy, where, according to Vice, they'll pose little to no threat to non-targets, including deer, crabs, and pigs. "We also want to exclude others from getting it, which is why we want the bait to hang up in the forest canopy. Because other things aren't going to go up in the trees to get it snakes are up in the trees by having the bait suspended in the forest the probability of anything other than a snake getting it is very low," he said.

Even if bait comes in contact with non-targets, the toxicity to other animals and humans is minimal as vice says each mouse contains only an infant's dose of acetaminophen.

Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist Diane Vice approves of the mice drop. After all, it could mean the revival of the island's native bird species - 10 of which went extinct or extirpated as a result of the brown tree snake, including the island's Guam rail, the koko. "Where they are doing the actual drop is one of the last areas where the native birds were last found and collected in the wild and we hope to return them up there," she said.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have these all over Guam?" she said. "That's our hope. With snake reduction broad scale on Guam, we could have Guam Rails all over like they used to be."

Mice that aren't eaten by snakes simply decompose along with the cardboard and tissue paper. And although the mice drop is set for March or April, Vice says it may be months before any preliminary data can be released due to time needed to gather and evaluate data.

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