U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

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


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • One question ...

    Is acetaminophen poisonous to any of the indigenous species of Guam? (I know that in large enough quantities is will destroy the human liver).

    Remember the rabbits introduced into Australia - and the worlves later introduced to eat the rabbits? Now the wolves are threatening the indigenous species of Australia.
    M Wagner
    • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

      Do you think we'll have to introduce laced undead mice to poison the undead brown tree snakes that they will become?
    • Would this approach work elsewhere?

      @mwagner@...I'm thinking of another place where rats and snakes are a problem...

      Washington D.C.
      • RE : I'm thinking of another place where rats and snakes are a problem...


        You are so right!!!!!!!! D.C. is LOADED with them.

        All kinds of dirty, thieving, stinking RATS. If they are not politicians, they are `gubmint` employees; or even worse, lobbyists!!!
      • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

        @caspianhiro Haw haw! Good one!
      • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

        @caspianhiro Sodium Fluoride is used as rat poison. Maybe it should be introduced into their water supply. Oh, wait...
    • Foxes, not wolves.

  • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

    Im on the side of the USDA, the brown tree snake has diseminated the bird population in Guam. Can you imagine a tropical paradise and no birds. I think everything possible should be done to control the brown tree snake.
    • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

      desiminated or decimated?
      • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

        @dhays Either way, it's wrong - "decimated:" means to kill one in ten...
      • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

        No, that is NOT what decimate means. It is what the original Latin foundation means, but it is NOT what the word means in English. Since, you want to be pedantic, in fact, it has never meant kill one in ten in English. It originally was used to indicate the amount in tithing, and later in the sense of general severe punishment, from which its current usage derives.
  • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

    Very well done!!!

    [i]"Do you think this scene should have been cut? We were so worried when the boys were writing it, but now we're glad! It's better than some of the previous scenes I think. "
  • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

    Just remember, the US government introduced nutria and kudzu in attempts to control other problems. Many years later both are bigger problems than those which they were to prevent. Are there any guarantees that acetaminophen laced mice won't destroy something other than the brown tree snake.
    • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

      I've got news for you. There's <i>nothing else left to kill</i>. The brown treesnake has done away with most of the island's birds given its propensity to eat any and all bird eggs. If Tylenol gets rid of them more power to the Feds.

      All islands have had problems with their endemics getting hammered after transport changed the ballgame forever. Hawaii and New Zealand have been no different with runaway introduced species rampant on both.

      No doubt the lunatic fringe wants to point their fingers at government run amok. Nothing new there. The same folks drive on federal government sponsored freeways, or county government built bike trails, to get to city-government developed gathering places where they can complain about the use of their money.
      Norm Cimon
      • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

        @Norm Cimon,

        I REALLY look forward to the firestorm that'll occur when someone finally figures out how to kill the principal invader of New Zealand. Housecat worshipers of the world, Unite!

        As to your list of irrational complainers about rational government spending, I'd add those Alabamians, Mississippians, Georgians, and South Carolinians who've conveniently ignored their States' spending of billions of dollars to attract foreign automakers for the gain of a few thousand unskilled jobs, while they scream bloody murder about LOANS to US makers who also serve as the drivers for a whole slew of industries and skills that the foreigners do back home.
    • I am from the Goverment...

      and I am here to help...
    • short term planning, long-term consequences...

      a classic problem. Failure to think holistically... In a sense, it's slapping on a band-aid, and not preparing for the next step when the band-aid is in the way. :\
  • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

    Where's PETA??? Isn't a mouse an animal?
    Brian G
    • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

      @Brian G ... And isn't the brown tree snake an animal, too?
    • RE: U.S. government flings dead mice at Guam

      @Brian G IMHO we should deploy PETA to perform a rescue mission for both the snakes and the mice-perhaps a new reality show in this-nevermind-I'm calling the network brass-lol