Control of brown treesnakes includes the use of traps and toxicants. To attract brown treesnakes to the traps or to consume baits, substances attractive to the snakes, such as live mice, are used. Additionally, carrion in the form of a dead mouse, has demonstrated the same level of attraction to brown treesnakes as the live mouse used for trapping. Unfortunately, dead mice decompose quickly in Guam's climate. Dead mice are attractive to snakes only for 2-3 days. After this time, and owing to the tropical climate, the lure is no longer available.
Artificial attractants could greatly improve the costs and logistics for delivering toxicants to brown treesnakes by enticing snakes to consume toxic baits or by luring them into contact with a dermal toxicant. Similarly, attractants could be used to deliver a contraceptive substance to brown tree snakes, once one is developed.
As a first step in development of an artificial attractant, NWRC scientists successfully characterized the odor of dead and decomposing mice. The next step will be to develop a suitable matrix in which this “mouse essence” can be embedded. Chemical cues involved in brown treesnake behavior, however, are complex and cues that elicit strong responses in the laboratory often have diminished effects in the field. So far, artificial matrix compounds as diverse as tofu, plaster-of-paris, and gelatin have shown promise as attractive lures but snakes have shown only limited interest.