Dead mice being dropped from the sky to combat snakes - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Dead mice being dropped from the sky to combat snakes

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Many of us may use acetaminophen to treat headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, and even the common cold but there's a new use for the popular over the counter drug that could combat an invasive species here at home.

It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's dead mice baits filled with acetaminophen being dropped from helicopters.

As today marked the fourth mice drop atop forested areas of Anderson Airforce Base since September, U.S. Department of Agriculture assistant state director supervisory wildlife biologist Dan Vice explains the process that's already proving successful at controlling the local brown tree snake population.

He said, "What we're going to be watching is the oral delivery of oral toxicans out of a helicopter. The process is quite simple. The helicopter is going to make low altitude flights over the forest at relatively slow speeds they're going to be certified pesticide applicators inside the helicopter delivering the baits out of the helicopter on a time sequence."

And today, 2,000 dead mice baits were dropped. Each filled with 80 mg of acetaminophen attached to two pieces of cardboard and green tissue paper.

"The cardboard is heavier than the tissue paper and opens up in an inverted horse shoe. It then floats down and ultimately hangs up in the forest canopy. Once its hung in the forest canopy snakes have an opportunity to consume the bait," he said.

And baits are lethal to snakes, killing them within 72-hours. But how about other animal life? Vice says a pig or a dog would have to consume at least 500 of the baits to receive a lethal dose.

"One reason aceetaminopehn is so effective for snakes is that its very low toxicity to other organisms. of all the organisms in the forest to be concerned about the monitor lizards, the iguanas is probably the one that is potentially at risk but because the baits are hung up in the forest canopy and not distributed on the floor the monitors aren't going to encounter the baits with great frequency the monitors climb trees but they tend not to feed in trees," he said.

If the project proves successful, Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and  Wildlife Resources chief Tino Aguon says he's excited to recover the island's lost bird population.

"Down the road, what do we look for as far as DAWR, we want to recover species that's what we're all about. And every time there is a technique that is tested and shows promise, we jump on that bandwagon and promote it and help out and facilitate its implementation," he said.

Vice notes that although traps and detector dogs are successful at catching snakes, they aren't enough to combat an estimated 2-million snakes that populate the island.

Meanwhile, Vice says the project is restricted to three sites within AAFB, one of which will serve as a control site.

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