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Yes, We're Dropping Thousands of Dead Mice Laced With Tylenol on Guam Yes, We're Dropping Thousands of Dead Mice Laced With Tylenol on Guam

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Yes, We're Dropping Thousands of Dead Mice Laced With Tylenol on Guam

The island territory is trying to control its rampant population of invasive brown tree snakes.

(AFP / Getty Images)

photo of Brian Resnick
December 6, 2013

For the fourth time, the U.S. has dropped onto Guam a huge payload of dead mice attached to tiny cardboard streamer-parachutes and laced with Tylenol.

(USDA.Gov)On Monday, 2,000 mice descended on the island in an operation aimed at killing a rampant population of invasive brown tree snakes. Since their introduction in the 1940s, explains the USDA, the snakes have come to take over the island. "There have been numerous documented incidents wherein the mildly venomous snakes have bitten or chewed on the extremities of infants or children, in some cases causing respiratory arrest and life threatening incidents," the USDA reports.

But the real damage has been done to native bird populations, as National Geographic explains in stark terms:

 

No invader has been more detrimental than the brown tree snake, a species from Indonesia that came to Guam in the 1940s. Within 30 years it has led to a collapse of nearly all of Guam's wild birds. By the '80s, the island's most iconic bird—the flightless Guam rail, which exists nowhere else in the world—was gone from the wild there. Only a few hundred of them still exist, mostly managed by Guam's territorial government. In all, nine of 12 of the island's birds no longer live in the wild on Guam. Meanwhile, a handful of brown tree snakes that invaded in the 40s have turned into an estimated one million.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is toxic to the snakes; 80 mg is enough to kill one of the reptiles. The streamers on the end of the mice bait insure they will get caught in the trees where the snakes live, and are "100 percent biodegradable."

In total, the USDA plans to drop close to 40,000 of the mice baits.

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