The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services reported Thursday that they will air drop mice laced with the painkiller acetaminophen into the dense jungles on the island to combat the invasive population of brown tree snakes.
The reptiles, which can grow to be more than 10 feet, have caused misery on the territory for 60 years. Biologists suggest that the snakes arrived on the island on U.S. military ships or planes during World War II.
The snakes have continued to breed uncontrollably in the jungles, creating numerous environmental and safety concerns.
Officials estimate that two million brown tree snakes have invaded homes, shorted out electrical systems, and caused devastating damage to native wildlife.
As the snake population grew, they fed on eggs and baby birds that previously had no predators in Guam. This has impacted the ecosystem and completely eliminated 10 different species of birds. In addition to birds, the snakes have diminished the population of other native species including lizards, rodents, and small mammals.
The infestation and the toll it has taken on native wildlife have tarnished Guam's image as a tourism haven.
Robert Reed, the project leader of brown snake research for the U.S. Geological Survey, said dead mice will be dosed with about 80 mg of the painkiller, which is also used in medications like Tylenol. In that amount, the painkiller is fatal to snakes, but harmless to humans.
The mice will then be attached to green streamers, which according to Reed, look like something between "a couple of feet of crepe paper and toilet paper," that hook into the treetops where the brown tree snakes like to eat.
Unlike most snakes, brown tree snakes will eat prey that is already dead.
This action is being taken because wildlife officials say they are very concerned that the snakes could make their way to Hawaii via military boat or plane and cause similar devastation.
In 2010, a study from the National Wildlife Research Center found that the brown tree snakes could cause anywhere from $593 million to $2.14 billion in damage in Hawaii if they were able to reach the same population density as they have in Guam.
The dead mice will be dropped from a helicopter by hand, one by one near Guam's sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, which is surrounded by heavy foliage and could offer the snakes a potential ticket off the island, starting in April or May.
If the air drop successfully diminishes the brown tree snake population, Reed says some birds that have become extinct in the wild could be reintroduced to the Guam jungles.