Controlling Problem Snakes: Saipan Benefits From USGS Research

March 22, 1999

The newly released book "Problem Snake Management: The Habu and the Brown Treesnake" promises to be instrumental in helping Saipan and other Pacific Islands confront the threat of brown tree snakes, a prolific pest species that has caused health and economic hazards for Guam's residents, as well as devastating native bird, lizard, and bat populations.

Scientists consider as pests both the non-native brown tree snake and the Habu snake because of their invasion and ecological takeover of habitats in Guam and Japan, respectively. "The snakes pose serious threats to humans and the biological diversity of these islands," notes Dr. Gordon Rodda, lead editor for the book and a renowned expert on brown tree snake biology and management. "This book provides researchers and managers with guidance on managing these species based on the latest ecological, behavioral, and control technology information."

On Saipan, the USGS recently launched a major effort to trap brown tree snakes, which have been recently detected on the island for the first time. Researchers have installed nearly 400 traps in an attempt to document whether a population of snakes has been established on the island, which has no native snakes of its own. This trapping effort relies heavily on the knowledge and techniques documented in the book.

Dr. Rodda and contributing author Dr.Thomas Fritts, both scientists with USGS's Midcontinent Ecological Science Center in Colorado, are working to control the spread of the brown tree snake on Guam and to prevent the snake's spread to other islands, such as Hawaii. Brown tree snakes have been sighted on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Kwajalein, Wake, Oahu, Pohnpei, Okinawa, and Diego Garcia. To date, however, this snake is not known to be established on any of these islands except Guam and perhaps now, Saipan. Scientists warn an established brown tree snake population on any of these islands could cause enormous ecological and economic damage, as well as health hazards because of their bites.

The brown tree snake is an introduced species on Guam. It probably arrived hidden aboard ship cargo from the New Guinea area some 50 years ago. In the absence of natural predators and competition by other species, the brown tree snake has become a common pest, causing major ecological and economic problems on the island.

The snakes have virtually eliminated all of Guam's native forest and sea birds: 12 bird species, some found nowhere else, have disappeared and several others are close to extinction. In addition to birds, brown tree snakes feed on lizards, small mammals, and domestic poultry, rabbits, and the occasional household pet.

Because these snakes can reach large sizes (up to 10 ft. and 5 lbs.) and are mildly venomous, they also pose a potential threat to the health and safety of humans. Though the snake is not known to be fatal to humans, scientists warn that infants and small children can be seriously injured by brown tree snake bites. One in every 1200 visits to the emergency rooms on Guam, a formerly snake-free island, is for snake bite; many are children bitten in their homes.

Brown tree snakes also add a significant economic burden to the community by causing power outages and damaging electrical lines. Since 1978, more than 1,600 power outages in Guam have been caused by brown tree snakes.

More than 15 years of research on the brown tree snake are highlighted in the new publication. Topics include basic snake biology and ecology; techniques for detecting and capturing snakes; the use of predators, parasites and toxicants for controlling snake populations; and methods for isolating snakes through habitat modifications and barriers.

To learn more about the brown tree snake and current research, visit the USGS web site at http://www.nbii.gov/browntreesnake
-end-
As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

This press release and in-depth information about USGS programs may be found on the USGS home page: http://www.usgs.gov. To receive the latest USGS news releases automatically by email, send a request to listproc@listserver.usgs.gov.

Specify the listerver(s) of interest from the following names: water-pr: geologic-hazards-pr; biological-pr; mapping-pr; products-pr; lecture-pr. In the body of the message write: subscribe (name of listserver) (your name). Example: subscribe water-pr joe smith.

Contact:
Thomas Fritts
970-226-9464
thomas_fritts@usgs.gov

Michele Banowetz
970-226-9301
michele_banowetz@usgs.gov



US Geological Survey

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.