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"We are taking this to a new phase"


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But irrespective of how they got to be on Guam, some residents say the snakes – which are native to Australia and Papua New Guinea – are a menace.

 

They can grow to be more than 10ft (3m) in length and can climb poles and trees. Attacks on people have been reported, but their venom is not lethal to humans.

 

Birds on the other hand are not so lucky. Experts believe that the reptiles have been responsible for the destruction of Guam's native birds, who are defenceless against the nocturnal, tree-based predators.

 

As well as taking a toll on native wildlife, the snakes also threaten the tourist industry of Guam, some fear. The US territory – home to some 160,000 people – relies heavily on holiday-making to support its economy.

 

The solution, government scientists believe, is to take advantage of the creature's two big weaknesses – its unfussiness when it comes to food and its susceptibility to a common painkiller, acetaminophen.

 

The drug – sold under the brand name Tylenol in the US – is harmless to humans, but is lethal to the snakes. And unlike other snakes, the brown tree variety do not turn their noses up at prey that has already been killed.

 

Scientists believe that stuffing dead mice with the drug and then conducting an air drop on areas known to be inhabited by the snakes would be an effective way to reduce their numbers.

 

"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," he added.

 

The mice drop – due to take place in April or May – will focus on Guam's sprawling Andersen air force base, from which it is feared snakes could hitch a ride off the island.

 

Using helicopters, the dead mice will be dropped by hand, one by one. In a bid to mitigate any danger to other animals, they will be fitted with mini-parachutes meant to catch on the branches of trees.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/24/us-guam-snakes-mice-peta

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Guardian with their finger on the pulse - that story is about a year old.

 

Some of the mice volunteered to not be killed ahead of the mission, instead choosing to go in on a suicide mission. Here's one such critter:

 

http://www.ebaumswor.../watch/1058579/

 

Actually, here's the Guardian reporting on the story in 2010 :yes:

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/sep/20/mice-parachutes-improbable-research

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