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Air Force Drops Two Thousand Poison Mice on Guam

Triton

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"Air Force Drops Two Thousand Poison Mice on Guam
Aimed at wiping out invasive tree snakes"
By: Daniel D. Snyder

Source:
http://www.outsideonline.com/news-from-the-field/Airforce-Drops-2-Thousand-Poison-Mice-on-Invasive-Tree-Snakes.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=facebookpost

The U.S. Air Force took to the skies over Guam on Sunday to shower death upon the invasive and troublesome brown tree snake. But instead of napalm, bombs, and mustard gas, planes released 2,000 dead mice, stuffed to the gills with deadly painkillers, which sailed gently down to the earth on tiny cardboard parachutes.

The dead mouse drop was the fourth and largest such operation, part of a $8 million program aimed at wiping out the snakes and saving Guam's endangered bird population. Officials also hope to save the estimated $4 million it costs annually to repair damages dealt to the island's power infrastructure by snakes working their way into power substations and shorting them out.

The snakes have been highly successful since they arrived on Guam in the 1950s, with a population now believed to be near 2 million. Officials have tried traps, dogs, and hunting programs, all to no avail. Fortunately, the snakes have proven highly sensitive to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in over-the-counter Tylenol. Just one-sixth of a pill is enough to lay a tree snake to rest.

So, thousands of mice are killed, stuffed with Tylenol, and rigged into their tiny parachutes for their final mission. "The cardboard is heavier than the tissue paper and opens up in an inverted horseshoe," assistant supervisory wildlife biologist Dan Vice told KUAM. "It then floats down and ultimately hangs up in the forest canopy. Once it's hung in the forest canopy, snakes have an opportunity to consume the bait."
 

Abraham Gubler

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Looks like Guam needs its own Whacking Day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqf1d-8IccI
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Orionblamblam said:
2000 poison mice against 2,000,000 snakes? I'm uncertain that the math supports having hope of substantial success.

Unless they are very tiny snakes who only eat one thousandth of a mouse each.
 

Avimimus

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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
Orionblamblam said:
2000 poison mice against 2,000,000 snakes? I'm uncertain that the math supports having hope of substantial success.

Unless they are very tiny snakes who only eat one thousandth of a mouse each.

Or the snakes eat the other snakes... which eat the mice...

It'd be interesting to see the population model behind this (one possibility is that the mice are likely to be eaten by snakes at a vulnerable stage in their life cycle).
 

Orionblamblam

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A problem I have with the mission model: evolution.

The "poison" used is basically Tylenol, which the snakes are surprisingly sensitive to. Fine. But... this sensitivity might not be universal across the species. Might be a few who can survive the experience. Let's say... one out of a hundred thousand. So you'd have twenty snakes on the whole island who might survive. If that's all there were, those twenty might not survive on their own to find other and reproduce. But if only *one* of those twenty eats a poison mouse and survives, it will have *millions* of unpoisoned snakes to mate with and carry it's genes on with. So the campaign might result only in a slight etching of the total population, and a strengthening of the population against further poisoning efforts.

As with antibiotics against a raging infection, you've really got to carpet bomb the target. Take off and nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure. Half measures only make the infection stronger.
 

Avimimus

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That would be interesting indeed. They are probably assuming that the does is high enough to overwhelm any natural resistance. You may be right though.

Certainly the big problem with genetically modified crops isn't the genetic modification, but is the fact that they tend to be derived from a single strain. Introducing a pest-resistant crop will increase the diversity of the pests... but the lab developed strain is usually undiverse as a result of the industrial model (selling/propagating an 'improved' crop as widely as possible). The most disturbing examples are things like inducing self-cloning versions of plants (e.g. apomictic maize)
 

Stargazer2006

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Three interrogations here:

1°) Who introduced the snakes in Guam in the first place (the article says they arrived there in the 1950s) and for what purpose?

2°) Thousands of mice are getting killed but merely "to lay a tree snake to rest". I haven't seen any indication that they want the snakes dead, they give them painkillers to doze them off. What is the idea here?

3°) Why resort to the military at all? Couldn't the local authorities have a civilian aircraft (say, a Hercules) loaded to perform the exact same mission and get the same results?
 

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The answer to (1) and (3) are probably the same: snakes introduced by the military (perhaps accidentally) who now feel responsible.

The answer to (2) needs a more positive spin: thousands of mice brought into a brief existence, given a good Tylenol buzz, and then get to perform a valuable service. Unlike the miserable, meaningless lives of most mice. ("Laid to rest" is an American euphanism for "deceased". It is a term frequently used in grave side services, where someone is "laid to eternal rest".)

I'm surprised that nobody mentioned the possibility that the original plan called for 2,000,000 mice, but the budget was cut as part of sequestration. I guess no senate or congress district is renowned for either mouse or Tylenol production, then the program might have been expanded to 20,000,000 mice, despite the protests of experts in the field.
 

Triton

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One-sixth of a pill of Tylenol is toxic to the brown tree snake, the article doesn't point out that acetaminophen is also toxic to dogs and cats. So hopefully no pets will eat these poisoned mice.
 

Jemiba

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May sound cruel, but neither dogs nor cats belong to the native species there and, if running free
probably are a danger for Guams bird population, too.
 

Avimimus

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If I recall correctly the snakes were introduced by the military in order to control rodents that were accidentally introduced by the military.

So just a bit of poetic irony. Anyway - it is nice to see the U.S. military trying to clean up after itself a bit - it is good P.R. A lot of people wouldn't mind being invaded (or used as staging areas) if it wasn't for the mess left behind.
 

Triton

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Unfortunately, when you use the poisoned bait approach to pest control you can't target the pest specifically. Any animal that ingests a poisoned mouse will be poisoned.
 

Jemiba

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Triton said:
Any animal that ingests a poisoned mouse will be poisoned.

What I've read, there are no native carnivores on Guam, so an animal, that eats up a poisened mouse
quite probably has no place there, too.
 

Stargazer2006

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Bill Walker said:
The answer to (1) and (3) are probably the same: snakes introduced by the military (perhaps accidentally) who now feel responsible.

That was pretty much my line of thinking but I'm glad to hear it from someone with a lot more knowledge and experience than me!

Bill Walker said:
The answer to (2) needs a more positive spin: thousands of mice brought into a brief existence, given a good Tylenol buzz, and then get to perform a valuable service. Unlike the miserable, meaningless lives of most mice. ("Laid to rest" is an American euphanism for "deceased". It is a term frequently used in grave side services, where someone is "laid to eternal rest".)

I should have remembered the classic "dead parrot" sketch from the Monty Python show, one of the best 5 minutes of comedy ever produced... but then again, the reason it may not have seemed so obvious is that using euphemisms is understandable when one deals with human death (to lift away some of the family and friends' solace I guess) but in the case of venomous snakes it would not have crossed my mind!

Bill Walker said:
I'm surprised that nobody mentioned the possibility that the original plan called for 2,000,000 mice, but the budget was cut as part of sequestration. I guess no senate or congress district is renowned for either mouse or Tylenol production, then the program might have been expanded to 20,000,000 mice, despite the protests of experts in the field.

2,000 is ridiculous given the scope of the problem, but I'm surprised that the animal protection leagues have nothing to say about breeding rats and poisoning them to commit a genocide on snakes, even in relatively "small" numbers.
 

Triton

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These 2,000 Tylenol-laced dead mice do not constitute the entire brown tree snake eradication campaign. The article mentions that it is the fourth drop and the largest to date, but it does not mention how many more drops the United States Air Force will perform as part of the $8 million eradication campaign or how many hundreds it dropped in the previous three airdrops. This is just one sortie against the 2,000,000,000 brown tree snakes infesting Guam. I believe it is premature to call the campaign a failure based on information concerning one sortie.
 

Jemiba

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Stargazer2006 said:
... but I'm surprised that the animal protection leagues have nothing to say about breeding rats and poisoning them to commit
a genocide on snakes, even in relatively "small" numbers.

There actually are animal rights activists, who are well aware of the dangers of invasive species ! Of course, there are others, too,
counting every animal, whereever it is, as "ourbrother or sister", but at least in the bigger organisations, I think, at least some sense of
reality can be found.
 

Bill Walker

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Just my personal opinion - animals were put here for us to eat, whether you believe god put them here or eveolution put them here. I'm personally in favour of saving endangered species, just in case somebody comes up with a good recipe some day.
 

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Bill Walker said:
I'm personally in favour of saving endangered species, just in case somebody comes up with a good recipe some day.

I suspect you wrote that in snark, but there is considerable truth in it. Look at the land critters we in the civilized world eat: pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, etc. Any of them on the endangered species list? Nope. But if the farmers and ranchers all suddenly decided to abandon sheep farming and leave them to their own devices, the species would be on the brink in a heartbeat.

If you want to save the rhinos, for instance... EAT THEM. Find a way to ranch them in the US, Canada, Australia, maybe Mexico. Turn them into a reasonably priced snack. Once Western Rhino becomes as cheap as beef, the market for poached wild rhino will collapse.

The rule seems to not work for sea critters, however. I suspect that's because land critters can be confined to a specific property. And people respect their own property. But ocean fish/mammals? They are "community" property. And the Tragedy Of The Commons kicks in.
 

Stargazer2006

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Triton said:
This is just one sortie against the 2,000,000,000 brown tree snakes infesting Guam.

Uh??? :eek:

Two billion brown tree snakes?!? That sound a bit much, doesn't it?
 

Jemiba

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Well, that was just a typo, it's just an error of 10³, not too much..... ;)

Wikis article about the brown tre snake gives a population of about 10,000 to 13,000 per
square kilometer. Interestingly it mentions, that due to the snakes, not only the fauna, but
also flora is endangered, because it is dependent on the birds ... :-\
 

Bill Walker

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Pardon the thread drift, feel free to move this discussion if required.

Orionblamblam said:
Bill Walker said:
I'm personally in favour of saving endangered species, just in case somebody comes up with a good recipe some day.

I suspect you wrote that in snark, but there is considerable truth in it.

No, I was quite serious. I will not deny my omnivore heritage, no matter how politically incorrect that may be today.

Look at the land critters we in the civilized world eat: pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, etc. Any of them on the endangered species list? Nope. But if the farmers and ranchers all suddenly decided to abandon sheep farming and leave them to their own devices, the species would be on the brink in a heartbeat.

Actually, I have seen several cases of domestic animals doing quite well when the humans leave. There is a small island off Vancouver Island that had a sheep farm for several years, until the last farming family left in the 1930s. when I visited there in 1976 there was a healthy feral sheep population. They were quite wary of humans, and I could only get glimpses of them going away from me, single file, very quietly, through the brush. I understand the island is a park today, and the sheep are just fine.

Escaped domestic horse are still doing well in the few spots in western Canada where the humans leave them alone. And that includes some very dry and very cold spots.

If you want to save the rhinos, for instance... EAT THEM. Find a way to ranch them in the US, Canada, Australia, maybe Mexico. Turn them into a reasonably priced snack. Once Western Rhino becomes as cheap as beef, the market for poached wild rhino will collapse.

Rhinos aren't poached for meat, but for their horns. Educate the people, dry up the demand and then the rhinos are OK - IF we preserve their habitat. That is what is causing most land extinctions today - loss of habitat, not people eating the animals.

The rule seems to not work for sea critters, however. I suspect that's because land critters can be confined to a specific property. And people respect their own property. But ocean fish/mammals? They are "community" property. And the Tragedy Of The Commons kicks in.

I suspect this is a combination of over eating, loss of feeding species, and loss of habitat. We mostly eat carnivores from the sea. Imagine trying to build a farming economy based on harvesting feral wolves or lions that "graze" on wild feed. In North America we have seen what happens to the wolves when you eliminate the deer locally.
 

Orionblamblam

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Bill Walker said:
Actually, I have seen several cases of domestic animals doing quite well when the humans leave. There is a small island off Vancouver Island that had a sheep farm for several years, until the last farming family left in the 1930s. when I visited there in 1976 there was a healthy feral sheep population.

I live next to a sheep farm. As in "there is a flock of sheep mere feet away." And I gotta tell ya... them critters is *dumb.*

Pigs would do okay on their own, but cows would certainly start to thin out if humans weren't around to protect them from wolves... and other humans.


Rhinos aren't poached for meat, but for their horns. Educate the people, dry up the demand...

Please. "Rhino horn is the cure for X" is a delusion as likely to be cured by education as education will convince people to stop spending money on televangelists and mediums.

The way to protect rhinos and their horns is not to dry up the market... but to *flood* the market. Make fake rhino horn so damned cheap it's no longer worth the bother of poaching them.

and then the rhinos are OK - IF we preserve their habitat. That is what is causing most land extinctions today - loss of habitat, not people eating the animals.

And yet... cows. Lots and lots of cows. Vaguely similar in size and diet, but one is on the brink, the other keeps wandering out in front of my car.

There's no good reason why rhinos couldn't be as plentiful as cows... *if* there was an incentive for people to make them plentiful. As it currently is, rhino horn is expensive *because* it's rare; those in the trade wouldn't much care to see the rhino population explode, as it would ruin their profits.

Cattle exists at a much higher population density than nature suggests they should because human ingenuity permits that. Take us out of the picture, and they start dying, back down to some lower level. And humans only make sure there are so many cows because there is a profit motive in having lots and lots of cows.

Imagine trying to build a farming economy based on harvesting feral wolves or lions that "graze" on wild feed.

Never had wolf or lion. I understand, though, that large carnivorous mammal tastes kinda... bleah. Plus, there is the whole "professional courtesy" thing to keep in mind... wolves and lions are in the same business as us... we eat the Dumb Critters. You look at a lion, say, and you can tell that there is "someone home." I look at one of my neighbors sheep, and the first thought is almost inevitably "not only is nobody home, the lights don't even seem to be on."
 

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Orionblamblam said:
... wolves and lions are in the same business as us... we eat the Dumb Critters. You look at a lion, say, and you can tell that there is "someone home." I look at one of my neighbors sheep, and the first thought is almost inevitably "not only is nobody home, the lights don't even seem to be on."

If you follow that logic to its extreme, we can start suggesting which humans would be tasty, if properly cooked.
 

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"I like children. If they're properly cooked." - W.C. Fields
 

Jemiba

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"Up to the age of 30, man is tasty ans digestible" Loriot (Vico von Bühlow), German Cartoonist
 

Orionblamblam

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Jemiba said:
"Up to the age of 30, man is tasty ans digestible" Loriot (Vico von Bühlow), German Cartoonist

What is it with Germans and cannibalism?

(I'd post a link to the recent news story about the German cop who killed and ate a feller, but... no. Just... no.)
 

Orionblamblam

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Bill Walker said:
Orionblamblam said:
... wolves and lions are in the same business as us... we eat the Dumb Critters. You look at a lion, say, and you can tell that there is "someone home." I look at one of my neighbors sheep, and the first thought is almost inevitably "not only is nobody home, the lights don't even seem to be on."

If you follow that logic to its extreme, we can start suggesting which humans would be tasty, if properly cooked.

Not the clip I was looking for ("I think there was something funny in that hippie"), but it'll do:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRSLQu-d6ZQ
 
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