The Loh Down On Science

This is one of the last things you'd expect to fall from the sky!

If you think you have pest problems, consider Guam!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

The island of Guam has a problem.  Brown tree snakes!  They’re native to New Guinea, but likely reached Guam accidentally, via military ships, decades ago.  Once there, they proliferated.

Why?  They have no natural Guamanian predators!  So Guam’s native birds and rodent populations have plunged.  What’s more, the snakes nap in electrical substations, causing millions of dollars in damage.

But they have a weakness:  Acetaminophen—that's the active ingredient in Tylenol.   One-sixth of a pill kills them, but is harmless to other animals.

But how do you feed headache medicine to a million tree snakes?

Enter U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.  They injected acetaminophen into two-thousand dead mice.  They strapped the mice into tiny cardboard and paper parachutes.  Then, from helicopters, they dropped them onto military property.

Some mice had transmitters, to report if they got eaten.   Biologists are also tracking bird and rodent populations.  With fewer snakes, bird and rodent numbers should rise.  If so, they’ll expand the project.

Just not to our shores.  We’re good for flying dead mice.  And thank you.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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