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
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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