State and U.S. officials fear typhoon damage on Guam will make it easier for brown tree snakes to reach Hawaii.

State, feds combine
forces to contain brown
tree snake in Guam

Typhoon recovery work makes
it easier for the snake to slip away

By Diana Leone

State and federal agencies pledged yesterday to work together to prevent the brown tree snake from getting into Hawaii from typhoon-devastated Guam.

It will not be easy and the public's help is needed, said Mike Pitzler, state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, the branch of the agency that normally employs 41 people and 15 dogs to keep the snake from leaving Guam.

For now, things are so badly disrupted on Guam that those employees, many of whom lost their homes, could not report to work if they wanted to, Pitzler said. "It's a humanitarian effort right now, and we have to respect that," he said.

Other agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Department of Agriculture and the military, will assist USDA any way they can with getting fences, traps and dog-assisted screening operational again on Guam, said Earl Campbell, Fish and Wildlife invasive-species coordinator for the Pacific.

Because Guam's recovery from Typhoon Pongsona will take months, Hawaii agriculture inspectors and their dogs will need more training to screen cargo from Guam when it arrives here, Pitzler said.

For that training, a sterilized brown tree snake will be sent from Guam so the dogs can practice tracking, he said. A radio transmitter will be attached to the snake to keep it from escaping.

Also, videos on identifying and capturing the snake will be distributed to all commercial airports and the military.

"We're so worried about this brown tree snake coming through, and chances of one getting in cargo greatly increases now," Pitzler said. "We need everybody's help with this one."

He said anyone who spots a snake should use any means with which they are comfortable to try and stop it, he said, such as killing it with a rock, a broom, rake or shovel or capturing it in a 5-gallon bucket. They should also call the state Department of Agriculture pest hot line at 586-PEST (7378).

Introduced on Guam in the 1950s, the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) has nearly destroyed that island's native bird population. The native of Indonesia and New Guinea also causes power failures and is a risk to infants and crops.

Last year, 13,000 brown tree snakes were captured by workers on Guam inspecting outgoing cargo.

State Department of Agriculture

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture

E-mail to City Desk


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