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Coming Soon to Guam: Dead Mice From the Sky

snake

There are two things that Guam is particularly famous—or infamous—for: its residents love of Spam, and the area's snakes. According to some experts, Hawaii—another Spam-lovers paradise—is just one unlucky plane ride away from becoming a den of vipers, too.

Both canned processed meats and snakes arrived in Guam right after World War II, courtesy of the armed forces (the Spam as non-perishable meals; the snakes as stowaways on ships). Since then, Guam’s now-thriving brown tree snake population has been responsible for decimating the local bird population, gnawing on power lines, biting lots of folks, and generally giving Guam a bad name.

Environmental experts worry that those same snakes could easily migrate from Guam to the Hawaiian islands in a chance “snakes on a plane” situation; a 2010 study showed that such an invasion could cost the islands up to $2 billion each year, between the costs of related power outages, a decline in tourism and, no surprise, more than a few snake bites. "Once we get snakes here, we're never going to be able to fix the situation," the Fresno Bee quoted Christy Martin, a spokeswoman for the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, a partnership between private groups and government agencies.

That’s why the Department of Agriculture is planning to start dropping dead mice from helicopters over a few jungles of Guam. The delicious (to snakes) rodents are pumped up with acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), which is poisonous to the snakes. (And reportedly, these snakes are not picky about dining on found, already deceased mice.) The dead-mouse drop is scheduled to start as soon as April—and in the meantime, adds yet another obstacle to Guam being seen as any kind of island paradise. But experts no doubt hope that a little Tylenol will help alleviate one of Guam’s biggest headaches. (Ba-dum-bum!)

Of course, not everyone thinks the plan is such a good idea. The Guardian quotes a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who described the poison mice-sky-fall plan as "absurd" and "cruel," and suggesting it could have wider implications than just snake eradication since it poses "great risk to carnivours and scavengers and also to birds."

Photo by istockphoto

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