Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Plan Your Trip To Guam After Spring, And Please Pack Plenty Of Tylenol (And Maybe A Helmet)

Readers, back in 2008, I made you this vow:  When there is a good animal vs. human story, I am all over it.  Proudly, I have never shrunk from this promise, nor have I ever shirked this responsibility.

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.

(post header image)


  1. Oh my goodness. I'm not sure what to make of this story. I don't like snakes, but have to wonder about the wisdom of this. At best, it's a creative solution, I guess. At worst, it is just plain icky.

  2. (trying desperately to think of a witty comment that involves the snakes not getting headaches as they die, but it's too early in the morning here in Korea. You'll have to come up with one yourself.) On the face of it, it seems like it could just be an excellent joke, but the "US government (to quote Tommy Lee Jones in 'Men in Black') does not have a sense of humor that we are aware of."
    Of course, planting kudzu in FL to slow down erosion seemed like a good idea, too, and now all the trees in the South are getting choked to death by the stuff. I just know that whenever I go to a movie where scientists come up with an excellent but slightly creepy idea that 'can't go wrong,' -you know, like infecting monkeys with Ebola and studying them in a super-safe laboratory that could never be infiltrated - it usually does, and spectacularly.(Strangely, I knew about the brown snake issue before this, because there was a possibility we might move from Seoul to Guam last year and I did some research. At the time, though, no toxic mice were mentioned in the literature.)Thanks for the excellent laugh and visual for the day.

  3. Oh my word that's just bizarre! And now that Caroline has mentioned it I wonder if acetaminophen laced mice would work on kudzu. You never know!

  4. Oh, I am certain this plan will go awry: think - as already noted - kudzu, multi-flora roses as hedges, and those annoying Japanese ladybugs that were brought here to take out aphids that were negatively affecting pecan trees, cotton plants,and other Southern cash crops. Still, I must thank you for including a few lines that are among my top ten favorite of all filmdom: I got a LOT of mileage out of these during this movie's run, and hearing them again and seeing SLJ spout them, once again, made me very happy!

  5. Bookster--I understand your point, but since the mice are dead, and the snakes are non-native species that have no predator already keeping their numbers down, I don't think it's the same, quite.

    As far as SLJ, please tell me you've already heard him read the book "Go the Fuck to Sleep."

    The Bug--But kudzu is such a Southern Trademark now. It's part of their heritage, like mint juleps, hospitality, grits, and humidity.

    MsCaroline--I know what you mean; this is a cinema-worthy idea. It also reminds me of the radio station in Arkansas that drops live turkeys from airplanes into their town square during their Turkey Trot Festival. (It was even parodied in an episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati".) People chase the turkeys down and slaughter them for their own consumption. The Tylenol Mice, however, are hand-dropped, one by one, into the jungle canopy. They would be suitable prey only for the brown snakes, who are happy to eat prey they didn't kill for themselves. What could happen? I don't know, but I'm sure moviemakers could think of plenty to fill up two hours.

    And you're welcome for the chuckles. I had a few myself, just at the quotes in the story. And finding the clip and the parachute mice. The post pic at the top was tough to locate. A few real snake pix popped up in spite of my filtering terms. Scary!

    Ally--But the US Government put its best people on it. I hope that helps. Ahem.

  6. Your images are awesome! I actually read about this plan a few days ago and was telling hubby about it. He was even more skeptical than I on its success rate and, in general, baffled at the thinking behind it. We shall see, but I anticipate a new documentary in the future on another debacle instigated by the U.S. govt. ;-)


  7. Where, oh where, did you find a pic of a crocheted snake eating a crocheted mouse? Pinterest? Etsy, maybe? One of the few things I can do with my ten-thumbed hands is crochet, but I confine myself to afghans and other flat, cozy things. Such a project as the snake-eating-mouse would never even occur to me.

    I once accidentally stepped on a small garter snake while walking up my driveway, and found myself apologizing to it. It slithered into the bushes, so I guess my size-10 New Balance clad foot didn't damage it too much.

  8. fauxprof--I included an image credit at the bottom of the post. click on it and it will take you to the site where I found it.

    If I EVER, EVER stepped on a snake in my driveway, I would leave home and never return. Okay, maybe I would come back once Rick had hired some sort of exterminator who could certify that there were NO MORE SNAKES ANYWHERE ON THE PROPERTY AND NO WAY ANY COULD EVER GET INTO MY HOUSE. Ugh. I just shuddered. How horrid. Did you yell and cry?

    Shirley--Hey! So nice to see you here! What I love about this plan--aside from the fact that it eliminates snakes--is that it seems so methodical and logical. Why wouldn't it work? Every step seems thought out and plausible. JUST LIKE JURASSIC PARK! Thanks for the compliment on my image work. I do try very hard to make that aspect of my posts creative and complementary.

  9. Reading this reminded me of the time I was on Likoma Island in Malawi, and there were so many different warnings. I remember my dive instructor telling me that there are green mambas on the island that can kill you with a single bite. He said that the high-end resort on the island used to have two dogs, but one of them met a green mamba, and now they only have one dog.

    I never ran into one, but I saw several creepy spiders.

    - Mikey G.

  10. Nance,

    What has happened to your priorities?

    Why do you endorse the Mickey Meese (Plural of Mice?) floating to their death via helicopter, when only a few years ago you were campaigning to save the list of animals mentioned below?

    If you recall, I begged you then to spare the Panthera Leo and you refused, on the grounds that he was not "cute" enough...

    So, are you saying that the acetaminephin filled meese are "cuter" than the Panthera Leo?

    I beg to differ,Madam!


    1. Black-eared mantella frog
    2. Fergusson Island striped possum
    3. Caspian seal
    4. Banteng (because it looks like a cow!)
    5. Red panda
    6. Galapagos penguin
    7. Shoebill
    8. African penguin
    9. Sun bear
    10. Madagascan gecko
    11. Nectophrynoides viviparus frog
    12. Channel Islands fox
    13. Corroborree Frog
    14. Crowned sifaka lemur
    15. Harlequin frog
    16. Blue poison frog
    17. Polar bear
    18. Abbot's Booby

    The Guam meese are "cuter" than any of the animals on your list.


  11. Nancy--I choose chocolates. We have to aim at each other's mouths at ten paces. In California. And Mikey G. is my second.

    The Guamese mice are neonatal mice, so not very cute. And you know as well as I do that mice are so easy to breed. And none of them can ever compare to this mouse, which is the cutest one ever. If they were using this kind of mouse, I'd never be on board with that. NEVER.

    Mikey G.--How sad is it that as I read your post, all I could think about was that Kobe Bryant's nickname is the Black Mamba? I am so warped by fantasy basketball and my quest for a Fake Championship, that I automatically translate everything into NBA terms. Sigh. I need a more cerebral hobby.

    I feel bad for both dogs. Naturally, for the one who was eaten by the snake, and also for the now-lonely one. Proof that the resort should get some nice indoor cats.

  12. Fun but useless fact: My father lived on the island of Guam for three years, and to him, the main pest was the gecko. He said that they were everywhere in the houses there, and you usually had to take your shower with two or three of them in there with you!

    Yuck, so glad I was an adult at the time and didn't have to move there with him!

  13. Gina--Holy crap. Guam sounds like it's just chock full of crawlies. I'm not too keen on sharing my quarters with lizards, either. Again, sounds like a few cats would be helpful although my two prefer the shower when it's NOT on. They just like lying on the wet tub surface or playing in there once in a while when they're bored.

    I had to laugh--in today's paper here in Cleveland, they picked up the Guam mouse/snake story. Dept. of Nance, ahead of the curve again! LOL.

  14. Fascinating. So now we have to re-write the childhood rhyme:

    Three dead mice
    Three dead mice
    See how they fly
    High in the sky
    They landed in trees with some poisonous snakes
    The snakes all died of a bellyache
    Did you ever see such a sight in your life?
    Three dead snakes
    Three dead snakes...

    Except, of course, that it could be a few million snakes lying around. I suppose there are enough other predatory animals on Guam to take care of that.

    My high school biology teacher used to wear dresses with huge pockets where she put her pet snakes. One of them was a poisonous brown snake. (How was that allowed?!) She also kept a baby boa constrictor in a large glass aquarium. One day we had the pleasure of observing feeding time. She fed it live baby mice. Not nice. I had a lot of snake nightmares that year.

  15. Ortizzle--I love the new rhyme. See, that kind of thing is why you need to resurrect your blog. Someday. I know how frightfully busy you are. (How horrid.)

    Maybe your teacher's brown snake was de-fanged or de-venomed (is that a word?).

    I don't get keeping snakes as pets although a bio teacher at least can say her curriculum is an excuse. Snakes can't provide companionship, can't be cuddled, really, or be petted like a warm, furry thing. They can't do tricks for entertainment, and I doubt they know their names. You may as well toss a baloney sandwich into an aquarium and name it. Same thing. But less nightmares, at least for you. (And me!)

  16. Love this. Giggling hysterically. Husband is giving me the Look.

  17. Mary G--I'm so glad. Glad to give you a chuckle, and glad to add another air of mystery to your marriage. LOL.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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