September 7th, 2010
10:17 AM ET

Tylenol-loaded mice dropped from air to control snakes

The USDA says brown tree snakes have wiped out Guam’s native populations of forest birds.

Dead mice packed with acetaminophen, strapped to pieces of cardboard and dropped from helicopters may help control one of the big headaches for the Pacific island of Guam – the brown tree snake.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week began dropping the expired rodents packed with 80 mg of the generic equivalent of Tylenol on the forests of Naval Base Guam.

Since scientists discovered that the household pain reliever was deadly to the brown tree snakes, they’ve been trying to figure out how to get it to where many of the serpents live in the canopies of the island’s forests, according to a report in Stars & Stripes. The Tylenol-loaded mice are attached to two pieces of cardboard joined by paper streamers that snake exterminators hope will catch on tree branches, providing deadly snacks for snakes at those heights, according to the Stripes report.

The aerial attack on the tree snakes is designed to augment current trapping systems, which are placed around ports and airports to prevent the snakes from hitching rides to other Pacific islands such as Hawaii and causing the same ecological nightmares they’ve been responsible for on Guam.

"The brown tree snake traps that you see around Guam are actually the most effective trap for catching snakes in the world," USDA Assistant State Director Dan Vice told Guam Newswatch.

"Most of the traps that people see however are sitting on a fence or on a port. And they're targeting the few snakes that might get to that fence."

YouTube: Guam Newswatch video on the snake problem

So the mouse bombs have begun falling on the jungle forests, where the USDA says there can be as many as 20 brown tree snakes per acre, one of the highest snake densities recorded anywhere in the world.

The USDA says brown tree snakes have wiped out Guam’s native populations of forest birds since being accidentally introduced to the island half a century ago, probably after they stowed away on a ship or plane from their native range in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. And because there are no native predators on Guam, officials say poisoning the snakes is the only way to control the population.

The snakes take an economic toll, too, becoming entangled in overhead electrical wires and causing power outages which cost the island millions of dollars in repairs and lost work.

If the current the experiment works – scientists will know because they’re also packing the dead mice with radio transmitters for the snakes to ingest – death from above will be coming for snakes at the island’s Anderson Air Base next year, according to Guam Newswatch. Success there could see the program expand island-wide.

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Filed under: Animals • Guam
soundoff (223 Responses)
  1. ann

    As long as other animals like cats or dogs don't ingest the rodents,too, it sounds like a good idea.

    September 7, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • read the article

      your silly

      September 7, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      If you had read the article, it said that these 'traps' are designed to get caught up in the tree branches, where the snakes live. And besides, isn't a cat or dog susceptible to being bitten by these stupids snakes anyway?

      September 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kage

      80 mg of acetaminophen is not harmful to dogs or cats. A normal pill is 250 mg.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nnamdi

      I'm curious as to what in the brown snake makes it so susceptible to this dosage of tylenol. Acetominophen is primarily metabolized in humans by the liver and the cytochrome p450 enzyme system. Wonder if the snake lacks these enzymes.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim L

      even if they do ann it isnt toxic to cats or dogs.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nnamdi

      TheMovieFan, that might start a firestorm but was pretty funny :D.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Read the article and learn to spell

      it is spelled you're not your please learn the difference. I think Ann had the right idea, I hope no cats or dogs eat the mice and become sick or die. I know the plan is to have them caught up in the tree branches, but sometimes things do not work out as well as intended.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      sigh God save the cats and dogs

      September 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nnamdi

      The cats and dogs will be fine. If you google the brown tree snake and acetaminophen you will find studies from 2002 where they did the toxicology risk assessments for other creatures like rodents, pigs, and domesticated animals and the risks to them were minimal.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derp

      Jeff- Because we all know cats can't climb trees..

      September 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • duh

      I'm sure there are quite a few cats and dogs in the canopies along with the forest floors in guam. sometimes certain comments are just so idiotic they make sense to other idiots.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • You're Not Funny

      "Movie Fan": I am just wondering, why did you have to turn this political? Not all Republicans are snake like as you are implying... just as I know that not all Liberals are either. It is comments like this that help to breed animosity between parties instead of a unity that this country needs. Just because I believe what I believe don’t make me any less of a person than you and it doesn't make you a better person than me. I just hope you are not as judging in every other aspect of your life as you seem to be in politics and I hope you realize your stereotypes are wrong.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • MichiGander

      Not sure I have ever seen a cat or a dog munchin' on a snake.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • MichiGander

      @ You're Not Funny- Are you absolutely sure not all Repugnicants aren't snakes? I'm not so sure as you are :)

      September 7, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • MollyCanada

      Tylenol is toxic to cats in the extreme though in Guam feral cats are just as big a problem as they are everywhere in the world so maybe it is for the best.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      It's over now, the govt is taking control. So since the intent is to kill the snakes, the opposite will happen, and the population will explode. Go govt... your always doing the right thing.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • beau

      what about the lysine contingency? we could put that into effect.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eileen Heath

      house hold animals can actually ingest aspirin fine. In fact, sometimes benedryl and Dramamine are recommended to them for allergies and travel sickness. Snakes are reptiles, cats and dogs are mammal. Aspirin affects the blood.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdfasdfasdf

      I love all these posters saying "That's silly" and are too stupid to see that birds could eat the mice too. I have no idea what 80 mg of tylenol could do to one of the species of birds of prey in that area, but I'm sure the people dropping all the poisoned mice have carefully considered all possible effects. Not.

      September 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • James Robert Smith

      If a few pets croak in the process, so be it. These invasive animals are a horrible problem that are causing mass extinctions.

      September 7, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guy Smith

      Hey Ann! Dogs and Cats won't die. Tylenol does not poison Dogs, Cats, or other animals. Read the article.

      September 7, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • liz

      I hate to be the one to tell people, but the active ingredient in tylenol is deadly to cats and dogs. that's why they are prescribed aspirin at the vet. i just had this conversation with my vet. it is toxic to their livers and you will make them extremely ill if you give them tylenol. that being said, i don't think they would eat the mice anyway because they would probably get eaten by the snakes first. if there are and cats and dogs around there.

      September 7, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • ikantraed

      You know I have been trying to figure out this problem to the snakes on Guam in my head for years... Awesome solution.

      September 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • herwin

      why its a good idea ? it wont eleminate the snake popualtion so when this absurd program stops snake popualtion goes up again and you are back where you started. Extermination is an endles road, better let nature find itself a new balance on this island. And lets make national laws banning people from keeping exotic pets.

      September 8, 2010 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Jed Taylor

      Neither dogs or cats are native to Guam's forests. They should both be removed from Guam's wildlands. This snake trapping is an important step in landscape level control of the brown treesnake. Left unstated in the article is the danger posed to Hawaii and other non-snake inhabited islands– Guam's forests are silent, no morning chorus of birds, imagine Hawaiian islands without birds and infested with snakes. It would ruin the economy and be an absolute tragedy. Hats off to the inspectors and resource managers who implement wise control programs for the brown treesnake.

      September 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brooke

    Problem is: other animals will also be eating these mice. And snakes are very picky about their food. Only snakes raised on pre-killed mice will eat them, usually. A snake used to live food will not be found scavenging dead things.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dustin

      well hopefully someone would have thought about that. Seems they could infest the island with live mice with radio transmitters and tylenol and use them as martyrs?

      September 7, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Worldwalker

      You're kidding, right? I've never had a wild-caught snake that I couldn't feed pre-killed food to, and it's probably around a hundred. Snakes are stomachs that wriggle, and anyone telling you otherwise is probably trying to sell you live rodents.

      September 7, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      I'm pretty confident that scientists who study them know a lot more about them than you do.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim L

      when it is the only food in the trees they will eat it

      September 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • duh

      well is isnt the only food up in the canopies apparently cats and dogs frolic 100ft up on top of the canopies too

      September 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • JenniBurger

      these comments about other animals possibly eating the mice crack me up! the scientists in charge of this business chose tylenol because these snakes have an abnormal reaction to it – death. most other animals? not so much death with the tylenol.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Debba

      Since the snakes have eaten all the birds, they just might be hungry enough to eat a dead mouse.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • MichiGander

      Perhaps, Dustin, with the promise of 72 virgins, they might actually find live mice willing to carry the tylenol and transmitters strapped on with little vests.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sydney Australia

      OMG- thanks for the vision of cats n dogs scampering in the jungle canopy. Pirouette here, fouetté there. Thanks a lost guys. You can tell who has never traveled out of a city: Google: jungle canopy.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabbie

      @ Brooke: wow thats interesting i never thought about that. snakes usually do eat live prey.

      September 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nick

    ughh....I can't stand snakes, let alone snakes on a tree.
    I hope the program works well and that the native birds return!

    September 7, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • vdee08

      i don't like snakes on a mutherf%^&ing plane!!!!!!!

      September 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samuel

      Enough is enough! I've had it with these motherf#$%ing snakes on this motherf#$%ing plane!

      September 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      If the native birds are ALL gone, I hope they have strong wings to reach there from other islands. I just sence they will be replenished by taking them from averaries around the world when there is enough evidence that the snakes are ALL gone. My question is, do they eat each other? If not then I would do nothing because they would eventually run out of food.

      September 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. phin

    The brown tree snake is a scavenger and will eat just about anything that doesn't eat it.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Tim

    As a military veteran who almost got stationed at a base in Guam, this is a problem that I hope they fix. We did a brief on traveling to Guam where we were told to not go outside after certain times of the day, don't walk under low hanging branches, and stay on the walking paths and roads to avoid interacting with the brown snake. The paths are all made out of seashells so they are "scratchy" and deter the snake from crossing them.

    September 7, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Toddler

      I was stationed in Guam for two years. They stay in at night thing and only walk on these paths is not the way it is now. I did many a hike through the jungles (called boonie stomps). In the time I was there I saw three brown tree snakes! They are mostly nocturnal and stay in the jungle canopy. I think this story is a bit sensationalized in order to sell a few more papers.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Metallica

      I agree with Toddler. I was stationed at Andersen from 93-95. Thn they outnumbered the population 12-1. I golfed 4-5 times a week, boonie-stomped and hit the beach often (in other words I was near/in the jungle often and in the two years I was there, I didn't see one brown tree snake. I was, however, a victim a couple times of the power outages the snakes sometimes caused. It should also be mentioned the only sightings I heard about at Andersen were after typhoons when the snakes were blown off their path by the wind The problem with the snake is they are killing other species native to Guam. Just letting them kill off themselves won't do anything to bring the native species already extinct on on the way to extinction.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • smwboxer

      I used to see them everywere. Never during the day though.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    "death from above"

    LOL!

    September 7, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. metwo

    PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEE. How many dogs/cats are running around in the forests? Not too many for pete's sake!
    Would you rather have a snake drop on your head, kill your newborn, or clog up your dryer vent?
    I say "GO FOR IT"

    September 7, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • vdee08

      dogs and cats aren't affected by tylenol any damn way. not like these snakes are.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • duh

      come on man play nice with the ignorant peeps... forests are overrun with dogs and cats, and if you check out youtube there are NUMEROUS videos of dogs chasing cats way up on the canopies. u know acetaminophen a long word, dont be naive and think pet owners that have given their pets these meds b4 would recognize it by name.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Don

    And, if it doesn't work, at least the snakes will be pain free for 8 hours... ba dump dump chshshshshshshsh....

    September 7, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      but if they have an erection that lasts more than 4 hours, they should see their doctor - oh wait, wrong drug...

      September 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      But Paul, how can you tell if a snake has ingested an over dose of viagra? Oh I know. It can't curl up for more than 4 hours.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitch

      Kenny – a snake on Viagra = a walking stick!

      September 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Skippy

    Finally! A way to catch Bin Laden!

    September 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • CSh

      No, Skippy, that's a Snake in a Cave. This only works on the ones in TREES.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kenny

    If the Brown snake will not ingest dead mice, maybe they can fit live mice with a Tylenol laced vest set to kill on ingestion. Oh my boo boo. That was a suicide vest. Sorry, wrong war.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yaeger

      Actually that's a great idea! Suicide mice with tylenol laced vests....uh they don't know they're suicide mice. Oh well, same result

      September 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roxsas

      Larry,I think your assumption ndrrousuing the details of this bite are probably correct. I never say never, but, it is highly unlikely that a rattlesnake would be at all active at those temperatures. Although we have seen snakes in dens survive very low temperatures, it is next to impossible for the snake to be able to physically function at 28 degrees.Check your laws for the State of Nebraska but I do know in Omaha it is illegal to keep venomous snakes. When this is the case, most people who illegally keep reptiles will concoct some asinine story like that to explain away a bite. For instance, just last month in Maryland a lady claimed to have been bitten by a cobra in a parking lot because she “thought it was a stick and bent down to pick it up.” Upon investigation it turns out she had a number of venomous snakes in her house.In another case in the East a few years back, a lady presented at the ER with a snakebite, claiming it was from a native rattlesnake. The ER administered Crofab Antivenom to no effect. She died quickly due to cranial hemorrhaging. It was later determined to have been a bite by a South American Urutu. Her local zoo stocked the appropriate antivenom so if she had identified the snake properly on presentation it is very likely she would be alive today.Terry

      March 12, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sergio

    I can see things have evolved a little. The US Military used to approach pest control with napalm. Now it's Tylenol. Room for hope.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kenny

      They also have a specially designed bomber to deliver the tylenol to the snakes too.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • CA Ed

      yea,
      Da Plane costs approx $1.2billion each. There are 3 in inventory and 2 in production, due in 2012.
      Cost of delivery is $10million per drop.
      Each Acetaminophen table cost the government $18.50 and the each mouse costs .50 but after health check, environmental living space, paperwork and euthanasia procedure; each mouse cost approx $1,250.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave Howell

      The cost estimate is GREAT! And probably not far off, either. But, how would you like to be the loadmaster on one of thise missions? Or, better yet, the aircraft commander. Imagine the tales at the Officer's Club. "Yeah, I done my duty today. I dropped 40,000 dead mice on the enemy." Wonder if they get mission patches? Dead mouse, layin' on its back, feet up in the air with a snake's head about to chomp on its head.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. daveeeeed

    lol @ this story. made me lol.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Renesh

    Why don't they exterminate some humans too? Since there are too many of us destroying the planet after all?! I ain't no animal activist but why is it when a certain animal population goes over the limit we kill them and not follow the same routine when it comes to our own? I think we have what some call it "False sense of superiority".. Pathetic!

    September 7, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Skippy

      Well.... because, like it or not, we are at the top of earth's food chain and are consequently truly superior. Its a snake man, settle down.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Toddler

      Do you know what an invasive or non-native species is?

      September 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • frank

      yep, we love playing god.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • JediMasterMatt

      Get a grip Renesh! If you would have comprehended the article properly, it said the snakes are not native to Guam and were introduced accidentally, and have caused havoc on the island's native bird population. They are just trying to control the brown snake population to a level that keeps things in balance.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • kbaredge126c

      Lol, damn that was funny.

      September 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Well, Renesh...feel free to get us started.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • SteveM

      There is already an extermination process for when humans overpopulate. It's called war.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Renesh

      I've got a grip JediMasterMatt.. :) I'm just opposing an argument for the weak.. Not really bothered.. God knows how many our species have killed for our superiority complex.. But based on your argument are you under the impression our species is balanced?? If so then I can't help you with a good enough answer..
      And for the one who mentioned the snake not being native are you under the impression that all of us live in country's we are born to these days?! The snake invariably pays the price for an idiotic man's ignorance in taking it there from Australia don't you think?

      September 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Renesh

      OR maybe the snake flew there on it's own.. Who knows!:D And boy the one who said "we are truly superior" you need to get out a bit more son.. Our knowledge in technology gives us the false impression that we are, but nature seems to tell us we are absolute morons! No offense intended friend.. :)

      September 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitch

      Renesh – I have to say I disagree. Humans are superior. But that superiority is also our downfall. We no longer rely on instinct like so many other species. We have replaced instinct with intellect in most cases. That means we never think we can get ourselves into a problem we can not reason our way out of. We feel we can "think" of a solution when the solution was to avoid the issue to begin with. So many "lower" species thrive and survive by feeling trouble on the horizon. We too often just ignore the trouble that is brewing. "How bad can it really be?"

      September 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Send some brown snakes to the Jersey shore. It won't kill the Hairy-Backed Sand Whale, but it'll probably work on the seagulls and pigeons.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • JanineC

      They are killing the snakes because they are NON-native to the island and because there are no natural predators to these snakes there, the snakes are killing off all the native birds and other small animals on Guam. If they let the snakes keep growing and breeding, it will end up making other species extinct and eventually these snakes will die off when there is nothing left to eat. Better to kill some off now before that happens. You are pretty sick if you think it is the same as humans. Humans are not necessarily killing off entire species anymore. We have become more responsible since. Yes, some areas we are encroaching on animal habitats but overall most of the earth is still uninhabited regardless of what you are told by the radical environuts. You could actually fit every single person in the world in Texas. It would be a bit cramped but it could be done. But don't worry, there will likely be another major plague or something that will wipe out tons of people again naturally. You don't need to hurry it along.

      September 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brandon

    uhhh....it doesn't matter if other animals digest it, they are using Tylenol because that drug doesn't kill cats or dogs or whatever. Only these snakes are small enough for that Tylenol to kill it, but large enough for it to eat a mouse.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave Howell

      I think this is just a bailout for the makers of Tylenol. They got a zillion tablets they can't sell, so stuff a mouse full of 'em and drop 'em with little glider wings and parachutes. Can't wait to see the TV ad from Tylenol explaining how much good they're doing for the environment by "donating" their unsellable pills to such a noble cause as snake killing!

      September 7, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sheila mitchell

    The only thing in those woods are boonie pigs and barking deer. I really don't think any other animals will be harmed. I lived there for two years and now that I think of it, I really didn't see many birds but I saw a whole lot of snakes.

    September 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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