U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

Summary:And now for something completely different.

And now for something completely different.

No matter how sensational I tried to make the title of this article, nothing can beat the truth: a U.S. government agency is air-dropping dead (and deadly) mice on Guam to kill snakes.

In this post, I’ve managed to mix government, medieval-style technology, and pop-culture references -- all in one rather short piece that’s both informative and quite disturbing. Plus, it’s an article about mice that doesn’t mention Apple. Have I told you all recently how much I love this gig?

Here's the story...

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is actually conducting this air war for a rational reason. A species of snake, the brown tree snake, was inadvertently introduced into Guam's ecosystem during World War II. The snake population grew, and now they're killing off other indigenous species.

It's tough to specifically target snakes, and most snakes won't eat anything they don't kill. But the brown tree snake is a forager, and will eat already-dead animals.

So the USDA has packed thousands of mice with a tiny dose of acetaminophen (think of it as baby Tylenol). The tree snakes can't absorb the acetaminophen, so when they eat the laced mice, they'll also be ingesting acetaminophen. It'll take about 60 hours, but eventually the snake will die.

It's a gruesome approach to solving a serious problem in the U.S. territory. Admittedly, it seems more like something out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail than a scientific strategy, but as reported in National Geographic, the technique seems to be working.

Your tax dollars (and science) at work.

Topics: Banking, Government : US, Hardware


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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