Today, it is no different. I am happy to say that Your Government, beset as it is by Gridlock and General Fussiness, is still able to maintain some sense of Priorities. I am speaking, of course, of its Program For Dropping Toxic Mice Over Guam.
Hey! Before you get yourself all in a self-righteous uproar, let me tell you why the Feds are flinging rodents around. Trust me: for you, and especially for me, it made a big difference in how I viewed this Enterprise. It is in order to kill snakes.
See? How can this not be a good thing?
(Personally, my phobia of snakes is so deep that I cannot even view them on television, in a magazine, or in any photograph. When I once encountered one on a long-ago camping trip, I screamed, ran away, screamed again, took a breath, then screamed again. Then I remembered why I had screamed, and screamed once more. I just now got hit with a wave of nausea, simply from recalling it.)
The brown tree snake, which can grow as long as ten feet, arrived in Guam from the South Pacific as stowaways on US military ships after WWII. It infested the island and decimated local wildlife, especially some avian species. It now even knocks out electrical power by slithering onto lines; it bites residents, especially sleeping children since it is nocturnal. Their population is estimated to be approximately two million strong. And growing.
So the US government, in the forms of the Dept. of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, Dept. of the Interior, and the Dept. of Defense came up with a plan. They would take advantage of two idiosyncrasies of the brown snake: one, it didn't mind eating already-dead prey and two, it is defenseless against acetaminophen. So they loaded up some dead mice with generic Tylenol, grabbed a helicopter, and were ready to go. But they had to make sure that the Mickey Mice (sorry, but really--no way to resist that!) didn't land on the ground. They had to stay up in the canopy of the trees so that nothing else would eat them. What to do, what to do...?
Aha! Researchers "developed a flotation device with streamers designed to catch in the branches of the forest foliage, where the snakes live and feed." Wonder what that looked like...
The Toxic Mouse Drop is set to begin in April or May. And it isn't just Guam that is hoping for its success. Three thousand miles away, another island, a more familiar Tourism Mecca is holding its breath. That would be Hawaii.
Because just as the brown snakes found their way to Guam on the hold of a ship and ended up liking it so much they made their home there, these snakes could board a 747 or cargo plane to Hawaii and relocate.
Oh, if only it were that easy, Samuel L. If only! Like Guam, Hawaii lacks natural predators of these motherf--, er...brown snakes to keep their numbers restrained. One spokesperson for Hawaii's wildlife agencies complained that native Hawaiian birds "literally don't know what to do when they see a snake coming." (They could try my method, outlined above, but I am doubtful it would save their lives.) She became even more dire, "Once we get snakes here, we're never going to be able to fix the situation."
So, I love this idea. I think it's a winner all around. We knock off some snakes, some mice, and we save some Tourism Havens. We save some naive Hawaiian birds. We boost the production of acetaminophen. We give a few people a great ice breaker at parties:
Her: So, what do you do?
Him: I drop dead, Tylenol-filled mice wearing tutus out of a helicopter.
Her: (choking on a vodka tonic) You what?!
Him: Yeah. It's true.
Her: But why on earth...?
Him: So that the government wipes out brown snakes.
Her: Er...which government?
Him: Ours. The US government.
Her: Oh. I see. (looks wildly around)
Him: Yeah. We don't want them getting on planes and boats and stuff and going off to Hawaii.
Her: Are you here with anyone? Should someone be with you?
Oh, yeah. Love it.
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