Guam snakes to be attacked with poison

March 5, 2013 at 1:12 AM
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HONOLULU, March 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a plan to get rid of invasive brown tree snakes on Guam -- poisoned mice.

The dead mice, carrying a toxic dose for snakes of the painkiller acetaminophen, would be dropped from helicopters on spots known to have large snake populations on the Pacific island, The Guardian of London reported. The effort is scheduled to start this spring.

The snakes are believed to have been carried accidentally to Guam from New Guinea on cargo ships and in the wheel wells of military planes, possibly as long ago as World War II. They became established before anyone knew they were on the island and wiped out much of the native bird life.

The island is now believed to be home to as many as 2 million snakes. The big fear is that they will migrate from Guam to Hawaii and other Pacific islands.

"We are taking this to a new phase," said Daniel Vice, assistant state director for USDA Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Islands. "There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam."

While environmentalists are concerned about the native wildlife on Guam and Hawaii, animal rights activists say the poisoning is cruel because the snakes will take days to die. Martin Mersereau of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals argued trapping and killing the snakes humanely is likely to be more effective and called the plan a "clumsy dangerous massacre."

"Brown tree snakes did not ask to be stowaways on planes or ships and then forced to survive on a foreign island," he told The Guardian.

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