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. Bibb

    ummm... where did my comment go?

    September 7, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Big A

    Seriously could something like this work on the Pythons taking over the Everglades and Florida

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

      I've read that the exceptionally cold weather there killed a lot of pythons.

      September 7, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      1) The Everglades are home to a number of native species to whom the bait would also be a meal. It would be rather stupid to kill off the exotic snakes only to find out we've also killed off the species that we were trying to save in the process.

      2) Guam is a small island that is already isolated so it is possible to prevent the ingress and egress of new populations of exotic species. The Everglades are not only larger than Guam, but connected to a large land mass. Plus any attempt to restrict new species coming in would inflict massive damage to the migratory species that use that area as a nesting and breeding ground.

      3) Sadly, too much acetaminophine can also be toxic to humans and pets. Imagine if one of the baits landed in someones back yard and their dog ate it. Of if the bait fell over a zoo or wildlife sanctuary – it would be an ugly problem.

      September 7, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. plutarkosky

    Enough is enough! I've had it with these motherfvcking snakes on this motherfvcking island!

    September 7, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      Well, start loading some mice up with Tylenol if that's the case.

      January 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. gottahandittohim

    Yummy a mouse cardboard sandwich. Hows an animal that swallows its food whole gonna want that?

    September 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. raul

    so if were ever invaded by some alien snake species make acitomenophen bullets

    September 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    ninja mongoose hit squads should do the trick

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

    THIS IS THE FINAL WORD ON THE SUBJECT. A WILD SNAKE WILL NOT ACCEPT DEAD PREY. ANY ATTEMPT TO CAUSE THEM TO DO SO IS NOTHING BUT A COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME AND RESOURCES. SNAKES ARE HUNTERS, NOT SCAVENGERS, THEY FIND PREY WITH THEIR SENSE OF SMELL, AND THE SCENT OF A DEAD RODENT DOES NOT REGISTER IN THEIR BRAINS AS 'FOOD.'

    September 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • guam resident

      hey genius, brown tree snakes are both hunters and scavengers, the smell of rotting corpse appeals them very much, i should know

      September 7, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leah

      Thank GOD! Someone from the island finally chimes in! I'm not on the island anymore, so I can't convey the most current situation on the snakes. My aunties and uncles still complain about them, though.

      September 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      Andrew, have you ever cared for a snake? Many species of snake will readily eat a dead rodent.

      January 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jtbrea

    Two things wrong with this approach. 1) these snakes are in trees and eat birds and 2) as some others have said, snakes like live prey

    September 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • guam resident

      the brown tree snake eats anything really, birds, eggs, and lizards

      and many times they go down the trees to find such prey, living or dead, because they are SCAVENGERS!!!!!

      September 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      For the umpteenth time – many, many, MANY species of snake will eat dead anything, as long as it smells like something they would ordinarily eat. It doesn't have to be moving for them to want to scarf down on it. Although, if it is freshly dead or still somewhat warmed or even re-warmed, that will do. A snake's vision is poor. They sense things by heat, vibration and smell.

      Most snake owners will regularly feed their pets pre-killed rodents to avoid damage to the reptile by the rodent fighting back.

      January 31, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. yamoms

    @ Movie Fan, yes you are funny, hilarious in fact! @You are not funny , if comments on a news article is all it takes to breed animosity among the parties then the members of each party who developed animosity from comments on a news article should do us all a favor and jump out a window. Seriously.

    September 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    Samuel LJ "Lets get those Mother .... snakes out of that mother .... island"

    September 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Alice

    If this mice thing doesn't work, I've heard of a certain red-hooded lady in Bosnia who is experienced in animal extermination. She's probably looking for work right now.

    September 7, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mohammed

    This wont work if the snakes have an headache :)

    September 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eileen Heath

    CRAP ON TOAST, PEOPLE! I scrolled down and realized the one comment I replied to was NOT a fluke!
    Ok .... school time.
    Mammals are warm blooded.
    Reptiles are not.
    Cats and gos are mammals – so are people
    Snakes are reptiles.
    Please go research what aspirin does to people and work out the "OMIGOD ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT WATCH FOR THE PUPPEEZ N KITTEEZZ" for yourself.
    And then stop posting in here.

    As for me, I just wish I could have been in the room when they initially tried to get funding for this.
    "You want to drop a bunch of dead mice out of a helicopter?"
    "Well they'll be filled with aspirin and radio transmitters."
    "........"
    "And attached to cardboard."
    "......."
    "Please?"

    September 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Amnesia

    t appears that there may be dead mice hanging from the trees - rottening cause the snakes nor the birds will eat them.

    Sacrifical mice to an over-populated snake infested terrain that may harm birds (which are pretty)....

    I've got squirrels that stripped the pears off the tree naked - and are finishing up the pecans. I was told that I could put dry cement in some feed and this would kill them. Why no just use rat poison pellets in some feed, I inquire. So NOW my idea is to put the rat pellets in some pears and throw them into the trees for them...

    Please don't call PETA...

    September 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amnesia

      OOPS!

      THe Squirrels were not Naked!

      LOL

      September 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. stormy

    after reading all of these posts, i feel filmy. wanna take a shower.

    September 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
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