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. Nature girl

    soo to continue this train of thought......they would need 2,675200 little radio transmiters and at least one extra-strength tylonol per mouse. plus ribbons and cardboard and the labor to stuff the mice. My educacted guess is that it would take at least half and hour to rig each mouse. So that's 16 mice per person per day. I f you had 50 people working a regular 5 day week it would take.......let's see, hmmm....16 times 50 times 5 is 4000 mice stuffed each week. 2,675,200 divided by 4000 is 668.8 weeks to complete the project. There are 52 weeks in a 668 divided by 52 weeks is 12.86 years!!! the military could employ 50 people for 12.86 years. At a cost of..... let's see.....the average wage for a mouse stuffer is probably 30,000 (including benefits). So that's.....50 people times $30,000 times 12 years......... is, are you ready fro this?? $19,290,000 american dollars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow! And that's not including the airplane costs with fuel and pilots. All because some snakes are eating too many birds on a small island in the pacific. I have really no agenda, except to put this in perspective in terms of cost and significance. And don't even get me started on the "native species" thing. Most Americans aren't native to case anyone forgot ;].

    September 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ron r

      cheney and bush own the radio transmitter company.

      September 7, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      If the government spent $1,000,000 to fund a study of what time of day rats enjoy mating – the mouse baiting program seems like a downright bargain!

      January 31, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jazzyk

    "The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week began dropping the expired rodents...."

    One small detail: Snakes are not scavengers. They attack "live" prey. So why would they be interested in dead rodents?

    September 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • guam resident

      brown tree snakes are interested

      September 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn

      Many snakes will eat freshly dead rodents. Ask a lot of herp owners who feed their snakes dead mice. The owners pre-kill the mouse (or rat) to keep it from biting, scratching or somehow injuring the reptile.

      January 31, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jaxson13

    They should load up half the mice with some strong grass to give them snakes a nasty ol' case of the munchies!

    September 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gabbie

    omg that is sooo creepy i hate snakes. wait.....couldnt the tylenol kill other animals too?? if it could kill snakes..

    September 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JayKay

    The snakes will eat them if i don't eat them first.

    September 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lee

    " (The) 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"
    So, once again it is us humans fault that nature is out of balance and, once again, we now have to cause more death to "fix" the problem. Cause death to both the snakes and to the mice. I'm sure this "solution" will turn out to kill some unintended creatures thus causing another imbalance where we will have to cause more death to some other creatures to fix the new imbalance . . . it goes on and on . . .

    September 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Billy

    Just give .10 cents per dead snake and turn the popluation loose on them ... puts money BACK into the economy, and who is a better hunter than a human with dollar bills on his mind?

    September 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • guam resident

      we've tried that already, people started breeding the snakes themselves

      September 7, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gadflie

    Just think, in a couple of years, there will be a bunch of Tylenol resistant snakes...

    September 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    We need to try a similar experiment where we drop poison granola and bean sprouts on San Francisco to get rid of all the damn hippies.

    September 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabbie

      @ Steve hahaha lol

      September 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nature girl

    So Mr. Bigshot Wildlife Biologist who has insulted everyone on this board, you must be well aware of the effectiveness of such "plans" for population control of invasive species. What has your experience been with these types of solutions??
    Is it going to work ???

    September 7, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Wildlife Biologist

    no, but they might keep them from leaving Guam

    September 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Eileen

    Another example of man's idiocy and cruelty. No way to know what other repercussions may result from this rotten idea. Poor mice! Poor snakes! And yes, poor birds that the snakes ate, too. But throwing chemicals at natural problems is insane. Who knows what side effects may occur!? Humans are unbelievably stupid. The food chain is further polluted by this crazy stunt.

    Everyone should know that becuase men insist on having viagra and women insist on avoiding hot flashes, countless fish, birds, amphiibians and on and on up the food chain have been hopelessly deformed and had their reproductive abilities compromised. Because all you viagra and hormone-taking morons have polluted the rivers, lakes, and streams when the hormones go through your bodies and out through the toilets into the water everywhere!

    September 7, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nature girl

    If you don't thnk it's going to work then explain to me why you think this ineffective action will keep them from leaving Guam?
    And comment, if you would, on the actual cost/benefit of such a scheme? In your experience as a Wildlife Biologist, what do you think are the real expectations here.

    September 7, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David

    They just need to find a few thousand mice willing to be martyrs, fit them with suicide vests and radio transmitters, and send them into the trees to wipe out the snakes. If a few cats and dogs get in the way, that's unfortunate, but sometimes collateral damage cant' be helped. ;^)

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

      Yes, I know, there are millions of snakes and only a few thousand martyr mice. But, you need to be strategic: send em into crowded snake movie houses, cafes and discos, marketplaces and houses of worship. That way, you get a multiplying effect and spread terror at the same time. Brown snake jihad. They won't know what hit them! The ones you don't kill, round em up and send em to Guantanamo.

      September 7, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. valkis

    This is so idiotic. Snakes won't eat dead mice.

    September 7, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
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