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Truth is stranger than fiction!

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  • Denny Granstrand
    Hi Yakkers, For those of you who didn t hear this on National Public Radio today: Dead Mice Are Going To Be Dropped On Guam From Helicopters (Really) by Mark
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 22, 2013
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      Hi Yakkers,

      For those of you who didn't hear this on National Public Radio today:

      Dead Mice Are Going To Be Dropped On Guam From Helicopters (Really)

      by Mark Memmott
      February 22, 201312:17 PM

      Here's the latest plan scientists have come up with to kill some of
      the estimated 2 million brown tree snakes that have wiped out many
      other animals on Guam:

      In April or May they're going to lace dead mice with painkillers,
      attach them to little parachutes, drop them from helicopters and hope
      that they get snagged in the jungle foliage. Then, if all goes well,
      the snakes — which as their name implies hang out in trees — will eat
      the mice and die from ingesting the painkillers' active ingredients.

      We aren't kidding. That's what The Associated Press is reporting from
      Guam's Andersen Air Force Base, near where this experimental airdrop
      will happen.

      To work, the snakes are going to have to discover their snacks from
      the sky fairly quickly. According to the Department of Agriculture's
      Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service:

      "Dead mice are attractive to snakes only for 2-3 days. After this
      time, and owing to the tropical climate, the lure is no longer

      Scientists don't think the mice bombs will be a threat to other
      animals, so long as they get caught in the jungle canopy. There aren't
      many birds left on the island — because of the snakes.

      As NPR's Christopher Joyce reported last September, "the brown tree
      snake invaded Guam over 60 years ago — they sneaked in aboard boats or
      in the wheel wells of airplanes." It's feared that they might show up
      elsewhere, such as Hawaii, if they hop rides on planes and ships
      leaving Guam. The Agriculture Department has estimated that if the
      snakes reached the Aloha State, the economic damage "from medical
      incidents [bites], power outages [they get caught in power lines and
      transmitters], and decreases in tourism ... would range from
      approximately $593 million to $2.14 billion annually."

      The snakes' presence in Guam has been good for at least some
      creatures. Chris reported that because the snakes have eaten most of
      the island's birds, the spider population has exploded.

      Update at 3:30 p.m. ET. Birds' Decline Has Taken A Toll.

      From a 2011 report posted on Andersen Air Base's website:

      " 'As you may or may not know, the brown tree snake is responsible
      for the extinction of nine of 12 forest birds on Guam,' explained
      [Marc Hall, the supervisory wildlife biologist of USDA on Andersen].
      'Research is showing that the loss of the birds may be impacting the
      ability of the natural ecosystem to sustain itself.'

      "Before the snakes arrived, Guam's ecosystem was very different.
      Numerous birds could be seen and heard when walking through the
      northern limestone forests. Without the birds to disperse seeds and
      the fact that nonnative pigs and deer tear up the ground and eat
      sapling plants, the native limestone forest has been severely degraded
      and will require extensive help in order to recover."

      Update at 3:15 p.m. ET. Live Vs. Dead Bait:

      Some readers in the comments thread have expressed surprise that
      snakes would eat dead — not live — mice. This research paper posted
      online by the Agriculture Department indicates that in earlier tests,
      the snakes did devour "dead neonatal mice adulterated with 80-mg
      acetaminophen" and that the "baiting" with laced mice was effective in
      killing the snakes.

      The researchers also concluded that "other tactics to increase area of
      coverage and decrease labor costs, such as aerial application of
      baits, would improve the cost efficiency of the baiting method over
      trapping even further."

      Our thanks to reader Daniel Levitis for leading to that study.

      * * * * * * * * * * * *
      Denny Granstrand
      Yakima, WA
      dgranstrand AT gmail.com
      Denny Granstrand's bird photos can be seen at:
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