Promising New Bait for Invasive Brown Treesnakes
For many years, mice have been the gold standard lure for trapping or baiting invasive brown treesnakes on Guam. However, finding, keeping and using live or dead mice can be costly and messy─ not to mention that a dead mouse bait in the tropics can decompose quickly, rendering it unacceptable to snakes. Recently, the NWRC Chemistry Unit partnered with the Hawaii Field Station to test a new brown treesnake bait made of processed meat and an artificial mouse fat mixture. Results showed the new bait was eaten by snakes at rates similar to the current dead mouse bait. It also remained viable and lasted longer under field conditions. Researchers are continuing to streamline the manufacturing process of the new bait. Current estimates indicate each new bait could potentially cost about 50¢ less than the current mouse bait.
The brown treesnake is an invasive species unintentionally introduced to Guam in the late 1940s. With no native predators, the snake’s population in Guam has grown to an estimated 1 to 2 million. The brown treesnake is responsible for the disappearance of most native bird, bat, and lizard species on the island. The snake has also caused extensive damage to the island’s economy and electrical grid, costing an estimated $1-4 million annually in lost productivity due to power outages. The unintentional movement of brown treesnakes as a result of shipping or travel represents a very real danger to all islands in the western Pacific basin and sections of the U.S. mainland. The economic costs of potential brown treesnake introduction to the Hawaiian Islands alone are estimated to be as high as $2 billion annually—in addition to the severe ecological damage the snake would cause to native birds and other wildlife.
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