U.S. helicopters descended upon Guam on Sunday with cargo meant to kill, although this $8 million mission was unlike most others — 2,000 mice on cardboard parachutes were released into the forest surrounding Andersen Air Force Base as bait for brown tree snakes.
In the 1950s, it was thought that the snakes inadvertently made their way to the South Pacific island through cargo shipments. Today, the snakes cover the island and are responsible for millions of dollars worth of damage to electrical equipment at Andersen Air Force Base, CNBC reported. In 2005, the reptiles caused failures at 80 electrical substations, according to the Interior Department.
Guam’s population of brown tree snakes hovers around 2 million, with a density of 13,000 per square mile in some areas, CNBC said. However, the snakes are sensitive to Tylenol — 80 milligrams of acetaminophen can kill them. That’s where the mice come in.
The 2,000 rodents that were parachuted into the canopy were all pumped with the painkiller; when the snakes take a big enough bite, they die. Data-transmitting radios embedded within the mice help scientists gauge how well their program is working.
“Every time there is a technique that is tested and shows promise, we jump on that bandwagon and promote it and help out and facilitate its implementation,” Tino Aguon, acting chief of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s wildlife resources office for Guam, told a local television station, CNBC reported.