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Govt To Bomb Guam With Frozen Mice To Kill Snakes 229

Posted by samzenpus
from the rodent-rain dept.
rhettb writes "In a spectacularly creative effort to rid Guam of the brown tree snake, an invasive species which has ravaged local wildlife and angered local residents, the US Department of Agriculture is planning to 'bomb' the island's rainforests with dead frozen mice laced with acetaminophen. While it might not seem difficult to purge an island of snakes, the snake's habit of dwelling high in the rainforest canopy has so far thwarted efforts to rid the island of the pest. Eradicating the snake is a priority because it triggers more than 100 power outages a year at a cost of $1-4 million and has driven at least 6 local bird species to extinction."
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Govt To Bomb Guam With Frozen Mice To Kill Snakes

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  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:44AM (#33747004)
    They dropped the gorillas to stomp the lions, the dropped the lions to hunt the dogs, the dropped the dogs to chase the cats, they dropped the cats to catch the mice, the dropped the mice to kill the snakes, but I don't know why they swallowed that fly.
    • by malloc (30902)

      You are awesome. :)

    • This Failed in NYC (Score:3, Informative)

      by Doc Ruby (173196)

      NYC tried this kind of stupid stunt to attack our rats with imported possums [nypost.com]. The possums didn't kill the rats, and now Brooklyn is infested with rats and possums.

      I expect Guam will remain overrun by snakes, and get overrun by mice. So they'll send in the possums, and Guam will be overrun by snakes, mice and possums.

      Why can't we learn that simple attacks on complex problems often just make the problem more complex? Hamfisted slaps at nature always have unintended consequences.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Straterra (1045994)
        I don't know where you live, but where I'm from dead, frozen mice don't do any kind of (over)running. I think freezing them counts as "simple."
        • by dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @11:43AM (#33748740)

          Balanced eco-system + imported snake = Threatened wildlife

          Balanced eco-system + imported snake + poison = Balanced eco-system - anything that eats dead mice

          It's like throwing a molotov-cocktail in a car to remove tissues after you had a severe cold. You never know what the collateral damage might be.

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            I'm pretty sure that's a bad example. We can all agree that the whole car and any contents would be collateral...

          • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:56PM (#33750902)

            The chance of tylenol (the substance inside the frozen mice) destroying the eco-system on Guam is so minuscule, as to be impossible.

            On the other hand, the damned snakes _are_ destroying the eco-system.

            I was stationed on Guam. I loved it. Great jungle, nice mountains, clear streams and beautiful beaches. But most of all, no damned snakes.

            The only difference between Hawaii and Guam is that no one thought to get tough about preventing idiots from bringing snakes to Guam.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by StikyPad (445176)

              I was stationed on Guam too, from '02 through '08. Definitely a beautiful island.

              To be fair, it wasn't that the snakes were *permitted*, but rather that the snakes (presumably) stowed away on a ship, and Hawaii only really cracked down after seeing what happened on Guam. While Hawaii has so far escaped the same level of ecological damage, there are still snakes found every year, and it is unknown whether the tree snake has established a colony on one or more of the Hawaiian islands (with the general conse

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by plover (150551) *

                But they can use the "power outages" excuse to justify the cost, and possibly even fund the effort. Saving birds from extinction has popular appeal but doesn't have a "return on investment" in the classic economic sense, so it takes much more effort to fund it (volunteers, donations, conservation groups, scientific studies, etc.) But presenting it to the executives as "we'll solve your four million dollar snake problem for only a few thousand dollars" is a no-brainer.

                And yes, I know this is being done by

      • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @11:15AM (#33748318)

        It got worse in australia.

        Some settler wanted to hunt rabbits because he wanted sports, so he imported and released a few. Sure enough they quickly bred like, well, rabbits. Having no enemies, their numbers overwhelmed the unaccustomed australian outback.

        So they imported foxes to eat them. But the foxes quickly discovered native species were slower and easier prey, so now the flora AND fauna was threatened.

        So they developed a rabbit cancer called Myxomatosis and unleashed it on australian rabbits. Which made its wayt back to europe, ravaging rabbit populations THERE.

        All because some australian dude was bored for some sport.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          On the surface, an Aussie and a redneck might seem to have a lot in common, but when us rednecks get bored for sport, we just go shoot up stop signs, powerline insulators, and the odd cityslicker's cat or fluffdog. When an Aussie gets bored, he casually sets in motion a chain of events that will ravage ecosystems across multiple continents -- then sits back, drinks beer, and watches it all go down.

          You gotta hand it to them Aussies, man.

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)

            Actually, Aussies and rednecks are the same people. They're both mainly Scots-Irish and some English who got caught in Britain's debt/colonization system, and sent to the wilderness either as prisoners or colonists. Mainly they were conquered people north of London, either Scotland or nearby, who first took over lands in Ireland when Oliver Cromwell conquered and devastated its tribes, then moved overseas when the British Army did even more devastation there.

            As for ecosystem damage, you just don't notice ho

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)

          A woman I worked with who would have been of my parents generation (born in the 1940s or so) told me that in the 1950s she drove from Melbourne to Adelaide and back with her family. Both ways they had to stop every 50 miles so her dad could prise the dead rabbits out of the wheel bays.

          From the same time, my dad told me he used to roam the countryside around his aunt's place in Violet Town for days, living on rabbit. They weren't hard to catch. Just chuck a good pocket knife and have your camp fire ready.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Beorytis (1014777)

      They dropped the gorillas

      I guess winter isn't cold enough in Guam, otherwise the Gorillas would simply freeze to death. [wikipedia.org]

    • by wsanders (114993) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @11:58AM (#33749002) Homepage

      "First they came for the snakes,
      but I didn't eat because I don't eat Tylenol-laced frozen mice...."

      Oh wait, thought this was Y.R.O. ... nevermind.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:44AM (#33747016) Homepage

    While it might not seem difficult to purge an island of snakes

    For a saint...

  • by Megahard (1053072) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:47AM (#33747072)
    And have a headache, just grab the nearest dead frozen mouse.
    • Since they're stuffed with acetaminophen / paracetamol / Tylenol (whatever you like to call it) that just might work.

      Then again, it might not.
      • Since they're stuffed with acetaminophen / paracetamol / Tylenol (whatever you like to call it)

        I prefer APAP, just because it sounds dirty

  • by pem (1013437)
    I guess all those warnings about how Tylenol can damage your liver are true!
    • Re:Acetaminophen (Score:4, Insightful)

      by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:54AM (#33747180) Journal

      I guess all those warnings about how Tylenol can damage your liver are true!

      But this will only work if the snakes were drinking the night before!

    • I guess all those warnings about how Tylenol can damage your liver are true!

      Once the dead snakes are doped on acetaminophen, don't they face the risk of whatever native species might eat them overdosing on acetaminophen? As I've said before, I steer clear of all that crap [slashdot.org].

      • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:07AM (#33747412) Homepage Journal

        Once the dead snakes are doped on acetaminophen, don't they face the risk of whatever native species might eat them overdosing on acetaminophen

        Probably not. The snake will die after its liver wears itself out breaking down the Acetaminophen. All that will be left in the snake is a worn-out liver and non-toxic Acetaminophen metabolites.

        Arsenic, by contrast, doesn't "break down". It's an element, so it kills you and remains Arsenic. Other poisons would likely behave similarly. My guess is that Tylenol (I'm tired of typing the long word) was chosen *because* it's less likely to perpetuate in the food chain. In fact, I think it would be just about impossible for it to get beyond two layers -- the liver of whatever eats the snake should take care of the excess with no trouble.

        • by delinear (991444)
          Plus I'm guessing there's not a lot of whatever eats snakes on the island, or there'd not be such a big issue in the first place.
        • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:33AM (#33747764)

          Probably not. The snake will die after its liver wears itself out breaking down the Acetaminophen. All that will be left in the snake is a worn-out liver and non-toxic Acetaminophen metabolites.

                Actually, acetaminophen is not toxic, but one of its metabolites, NAPQI (N-acetyl-p-benzo-quinone imine) is the one that does the damage by depleting the body's supply of glutathione which is a necessary chemical for many liver reactions. The rapid depletion of glutathione causes liver cells to become exposed to damage from free radicals and other, regular body toxins that would normally be metabolized. This is why acetaminophen toxicity is characteristic for causing centri-lobular necrosis - cells closest to the branch of the portal vein (And hence exposed to the highest concentrations of Acetaminophen-->NAPQI) tend to die first, cells further away tend to hang on to greater supplies of glutathione and survive to process the remaining NAPQI.

          Since I'm a medical doctor and not a vet I am unaware as to the specific toxicity mechanism in cats and snakes, but it probably also has to do with this toxic NAPQI metabolite.

          Insofar as your argument I would venture that the dead snakes would be full of NAPQI, an unhealthy surprise for any critter eating them that was unable to metabolize this chemical.

          • Awesomely informative post, thanks!

            Insofar as your argument I would venture that the dead snakes would be full of NAPQI, an unhealthy surprise for any critter eating them that was unable to metabolize this chemical.

            But does the NAPQI metabolite actually make it into the bloodstream of the scavenger or bird that eats the dead/dying snake? If we (or more accurately, they) are lucky, maybe it gets broken down in the digestive tract before causing any trouble.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by nathan s (719490)

            There is a journal article [unl.edu] which discusses the acetaminophen toxicity in snakes and lizards. Apparently there are two theories - glutathione depletion leading to hepatic necrosis as you mentioned, or methemoglobinemia, which is apparently a condition where normal oxygen-carrying hemoglobin is replaced by methemoglobin, which does not carry oxygen and effectively causes death due to cellular oxgyen deprivation (I wonder if this would explain the findings of clear fluid in the lungs/trachea of the snakes/liz

    • Re:Acetaminophen (Score:4, Informative)

      by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:02AM (#33747332) Homepage Journal

      I guess all those warnings about how Tylenol can damage your liver are true!

      Ha Ha only serious. I can't find many decent references in a quick Google search, because all the links are "lolz teh armey is dropping Tylenol mice", but Acetaminophen is quite toxic to many animals, including house cats [placervillevet.com]. It works as a poison by damaging the liver.

      For a healthy human, the liver can metabolize a normal dose of Tylenol just fine... but if you combine alcohol, Tylenol, and a drawerful of other Acetaminophen-containing products (cough syrup with pain reliever, sleep aid with pain reliever, cocaine/speed/etc cut with pain reliever, etc), you've got trouble on your hands.

      Also, there's the problem of would-be suicides who try to overdose on Tylenol-3, the prescription high-dose version with Codeine added. They generally don't die -- largely because there's a specific antidote that hospitals have to neutralize the Acetaminophen before it overwhelms the liver. Those who are too late for that intervention don't die either, not right away... they end up on the list for a donor liver, and get to spend their final weeks wishing that they'd either found a better way to get attention, or that they'd invested in a shotgun.

      • by pizzach (1011925)
        I've always had qualms about the attention argument. If they wanted attention, they would hold a bank up with hostages and get someone *else* to shoot them on TV or something. Attempted death by Tylenol strikes me more as poor judgment than 'attention getting.'
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RobertB-DC (622190) *

          Trust me, I've seen it. You're thinking of attention like "famous person" attention, or something you'd see in a movie. Mundane, everyday clinical depression doesn't work that way -- the need for attention is a subconscious thing, not a purposeful attempt.

          Someone who's depressed doesn't say "Oh, I need attention, I'll do something stupid today". It's more like the childhood verse: "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm going to eat a worm."

          That's why OD'ing on Tylenol is a case of "Suicide in haste, r

    • by arielCo (995647)
      Yes, because what kills a snake must kill a human too.
  • Rig snake-zappers midway up the poles? :-)

  • by LordBmore (1794002) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:58AM (#33747280)
    Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
    Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
    Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
    Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
    Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
    Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 30, 2010 @09:58AM (#33747286)

    Now the entire island will smell like rotting mice and snakes... Good Job USDA.

  • by doc_holliday814 (726060) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:03AM (#33747354)
    I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking island!
  • Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:07AM (#33747424) Journal

    Most snakes won't eat carrion. The prey has to be moving to trigger hunting, and then feeding behavior.

    • I was wondering about that too. I don't think they'll eat a frozen mouse dangling on a string. We have a constrictor at home that we feed frozen mice - you have to un-freez them and kinda wiggle them around to get her attention. Since they've gone to all this trouble so far, maybe they can implant a little electric motor in each mouse. Perhaps some usability testing might be in order.

      • Re:Won't work (Score:5, Informative)

        by bws111 (1216812) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @10:31AM (#33747746)

        It's Guam (average temp 30C). Something the size of a mouse isn't going to stay frozen very long. The mice are attached to streamers so they get caught in the tree tops (where the snakes are) and get moved by air currents. They are testing it now, having already dropped 250 mice.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by need4mospd (1146215)
      Snakes eat dead mice all the time. I fed mine live ones for a couple years then switched because it's actually a recommended practice among the snake owner community. They really don't care.
    • Most snakes won't eat carrion. The prey has to be moving to trigger hunting, and then feeding behavior.

      I'm seeing disagreement with this, but as a snake owner, I can attest Hatta is essentially correct. Snakes who are raised on dead prey will feed on them, but once a snake is exposed to live prey, they will essentially scorn dead prey unless they are extremely hungry. And the Guam snakes will still have their regular prey available, so I would assume that only a very small percentage of the snakes will consume the frozen mice.

  • ... tell me the mice will each have their own little biodegradable parachute to help them get stuck up in the trees where the snakes are.

    • Didn't the article spell that out for you? Oh wait, this IS slashdot...
    • by hey! (33014)

      "Biodegradable" isn't some kind of exotic material property. They're using cardboard.

      Non-biodegradability is something that we've engineered into materials we want to persist for a minimum length of time. We just haven't paid quite as much attention to the *maximum* lifespan because once the consumer takes Barbie out of her packaging, the fate of that packaging is so far removed from the manufacturer it is somebody else's problem.

  • So, what's going to eat the mice other than the snakes?
    • by s122604 (1018036)
      Probably cats, which also will die after ingesting the smallest amount of acetaminophen.

      Of course, any cats on Guam would be non-native, and also cause serious disruptions to local wildlife, so its probably a good thing if they get killed off too...

      Liver failure is a brutal way to do it though, poor cats....
  • by Dunbal (464142) *

    Tell this to Hank Johnson, because now he'll really think that Guam will tip over [youtube.com]...

    Remember, you vote for these people.

  • by Myopic (18616)

    acetaminophen!? YOUcetaminophen! oh girl! you have no faith in medicine!

  • Legend has it that before trying the whole "standing on a hill, waving a staff and praying a lot" thing, St. Patrick tried bombing Ireland with frozen rodents laced with Tylenol. Sadly, it was quickly discovered that eating these dead mice cured hangovers and the indigenous population got to them before the snakes did, at which point St. Patrick had to resort to miracles. It is not widely known that until quite recently eating various sorts of dead muridae was a folk cure for headaches in Ireland but for so

  • by __roo (86767) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @01:14PM (#33750300) Homepage

    It worked really well in Brooklyn [slashdot.org].

Klein bottle for rent -- inquire within.

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