FORT COLLINS, Colo., April. 21, 2015 – On April 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) will receive the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s (FLC) 2015 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer for its role in the development of an automated bait cartridge and delivery system to control invasive brown treesnakes. The award will be presented at a reception during the FLC National Meeting held at the Embassy Suites in downtown Denver, Colorado. The award recognizes Federal laboratories that have accomplished outstanding work in the process of transferring a technology to the commercial marketplace. The NWRC is one of fifteen Federal laboratories receiving the award this year.
"We are honored that the Federal Laboratory Consortium is recognizing our scientists’ and private partners’ efforts to provide a new tool for controlling invasive brown treesnakes on the Island of Guam," said NWRC Director Larry Clark. “This technology not only provides for the large-scale aerial control of the snakes, but also has the potential to address invasive species and wildlife management issues across the globe through the delivery of other baits and vaccines.”
The automated bait cartridge and delivery system was first conceived in 2009 when NWRC researchers entered into a series of cooperative agreements with Applied Design Corporation— a private engineering and design firm in Boulder, Colorado— to develop a cost-effective, environmentally-safe, and efficient system for distributing toxicant baits to invasive brown treesnakes (BTS) in remote and inaccessible areas on Guam. Three patents are being pursued as a result of this collaboration. The system includes a biodegradable bait cartridge containing acetaminophen (a registered toxicant for brown treesnakes) and an automated delivery system that can disperse up to 4 bait cartridges per second via helicopter or fixed wing aircraft. The delivery system allows for the cartridges to open and become entangled in the forest canopy as they fall. Since the BTS is an arboreal species, entanglement in the canopy is crucial for baiting.
The BTS was introduced to Guam nearly seventy years ago. Since its introduction, the snake has colonized the entire island, at densities of up to 33 snakes per acre. These venomous snakes have caused the extinction of most of Guam’s native birds, bats, and lizards; feed on young poultry and other small livestock; and threaten human health and safety. They also cause power outages throughout Guam causing millions of dollars in structural damages and lost revenue.
Federal, state, and territorial governments are committed to preventing the dispersal of BTS from Guam and mitigating their day-to-day impacts on the island. The unintentional movement of snakes as a result of shipping or travel is a very real danger to all islands in the western Pacific basin and sections of the U.S. mainland. The economic costs of the potential BTS colonization to the Hawaiian Islands alone are estimated to be as high as $2 billion annually.
To prevent the spread of BTS and reduce the snake’s impacts on Guam, the USDA partners with the Government of Guam’s Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Insular Affairs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A variety of control tools and strategies are employed, including the use of traps, fumigants, hand capture, snake-detector dogs, public education, and an oral toxicant. The oral toxicant, acetaminophen, was granted a registration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2003 based on research conducted by NWRC scientists. It is currently used in bait stations around ports, the airport and other easily accessible areas of the island.
To learn more about the brown treesnake and efforts to prevent its spread, please visit the following:
The FLC is the nationwide network of federal laboratories that provides the forum to develop strategies and opportunities for linking laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace. In consonance with the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 and related federal policy, the mission of the FLC is to promote and facilitate the rapid movement of federal laboratory research results and technologies into the mainstream of the U.S. economy. Today, approximately 300 federal laboratories and centers and their parent departments and agencies are FLC members.
NWRC is the research arm of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Service program. It applies scientific expertise to resolve human-wildlife conflicts while maintaining the quality of the environment shared with wildlife. NWRC develops methods and information to address human-wildlife conflicts related to agriculture; human health and safety; property damage; invasive species and threatened and endangered species. To learn more about NWRC, visit their website at www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlifedamage/nwrc/.
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