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.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
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Brian Resnick
Dec. 6, 2013, 8:28 a.m.

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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