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The Toxic Mice Air Drop

Sixty years ago, the brown tree snake hitched a ride on US military ships to Guam. With no predators to check their population, the snakes multiplied in the jungle of the island and proceeded to drive many of the native bird species to extinction.

Now, the US government has found the perfect solution: air-dropping toxic mice to kill off the snakes.

The infestation and the toll it has taken on native wildlife have tarnished Guam's image as a tourism haven, though the snakes are rarely seen outside their jungle habitat.

The solution to this headache, fittingly enough, is acetaminophen, the active ingredient in painkillers including Tylenol.

The strategy takes advantage of the snake's two big weaknesses. Unlike most snakes, brown tree snakes are happy to eat prey they didn't kill themselves, and they are highly vulnerable to acetaminophen, which is harmless to humans.

The upcoming mice drop is targeted to hit snakes near Guam's sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, which is surrounded by heavy foliage and if compromised would offer the snakes a potential ticket off the island. Using helicopters, the dead neonatal mice will be dropped by hand, one by one. [...]

To keep the mice bait from dropping all the way to the ground, where it could be eaten by other animals or attract insects as they rot, researchers have developed a flotation device with streamers designed to catch in the branches of the forest foliage, where the snakes live and feed.

Eric Talmadge of AP has the story and photos: Link - Thanks Tiffany!


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