Andersen Air Force Base – Yigo, Guam - Atlas Obscura

Andersen Air Force Base

Yigo, Guam

Launchpad for the US military’s dead mouse operation to battle millions of snakes. 


The US Department of Agriculture has teamed up with the Department of Defense to protect the people of Guam from a rampant invasion of snakes and spiders. Their solution? Projectile dead mice laced with Tylenol. Obviously.

The US territory of Guam is in a slithery situation. The invasive Brown Tree Snake has wreaked havoc on the small island’s ecology and economy. The native South Pacific snake was accidentally introduced to the island following World War II, and since then, it’s acted as the dominant predator on the island, devouring 10 of Guam’s 12 native bird species. The birds, as it turns out, did more than sing and chirp around the island. They were the major defense against Guam’s spider population, which has taken full advantage of the annihilation of their former insectivorous winged predators. The island is now home to forty times more spiders than similar forested areas. While it’s rare to actually see the community of camouflaged spiders, a walk through the forest will result in a face full of web. 

In addition to besmirching Guam’s image as an attractive tourist spot, the 2 to 3 million snakes also cause numerous power failures when they slide onto the island’s electrical grid. Thankfully, the snakes rarely come into contact with humans and their bite is non-lethal. Still, authorities are worried about Guam’s serpent infested future and the prospect that they may be inadvertently transferred to other islands. A 2010 study by the National Wildlife Research Center estimates that a snake invasion of Hawaii could cost anywhere between $593 million and $2.14 billion in damage. The researchers have developed a scheme that will purge the snake population, halt the runaway spider growth, and reinvigorate the island’s surviving birds.

Acetaminophen - commonly known as Tylenol - is incidentally lethal to the Brown Tree Snake. Scientists plan on injecting dead mice with the poison before air-dropping them from helicopters onto heavily snake infested areas. The mice will be attached to pieces of cardboard and fitted with floatation-streamers that will catch tree branches where the snakes feed. Once the snake population declines, researchers hope to reintroduce the native bird species that previously held the spiders in check.

Just to reiterate: The plan is to parachute OD’d mice into forests, where the snakes will eat them and die, allowing the bird population to increase and eat the spiders that have overrun Guam. Let the nightmares commence.

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