UK & World News
Snake Island To Be 'Bombed' With Poison Mice
The US is to bomb the tiny territory of Guam with dead mice laced with painkiller in an attempt to kill off the brown tree snakes that have taken over the island.
The reptiles, which can grow to be more than 10ft (3m), have caused misery on the territory for 60 years, since they were unwittingly introduced by US military ships after World War Two.
Now there are serious fears they could slither on to planes at the US military base and hitch a lift to Hawaii, where they would decimate the island's wildlife.
As a result, US government scientists are to drop the poison mice near Guam's sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, which is surrounded by heavy foliage and could offer the snakes a potential ticket off the island.
Scientists calculate there may be two million of the reptiles on Guam, killing wildlife, biting residents and even knocking out electricity by slithering on to power lines.
Most of Guam's native bird species are extinct because of the snakes.
"We are taking this to a new phase," said Daniel Vice, assistant state director of US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Islands. "There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam."
The snakes can climb power poles and wires, causing blackouts, or slither into homes and bite people. They use venom on their prey but it is not lethal to humans.
The infestation and the toll it has taken on native wildlife have tarnished Guam's image as a tourism haven.
The mice carcasses are being laced with acetaminophen, the active ingredient in painkillers such as Tylenol.
Unlike most snakes, brown tree snakes are happy to eat prey they did not kill themselves, and they are highly vulnerable to acetaminophen, which is harmless to humans.
The dead mice will be dropped from a helicopter by hand, one by one, starting in April or May.
US government scientists have been perfecting the mice-drop strategy for more than a decade with support from the Department of Defence and the Department of the Interior.
To keep the mice bait from dropping all the way to the ground, where it could be eaten by other animals or attract insects as they rot, researchers have developed a flotation device with streamers designed to catch in the branches of the forest foliage, where the snakes live and feed.
Mr Vice said the goal was not to eradicate the snakes, but to control and contain them.
Just as the snakes found their way to Guam by stowing away on military ships, they could use the cargo hold of an airplane and begin breeding on other islands around the Pacific or even the US west coast.