Hawaii on snake watch after Guam typhoon - FaunaClassifieds
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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 04-11-2003, 02:36 PM   #1
Hawaii on snake watch after Guam typhoon

Hawai'i officials are being placed on high alert for a possible invasion by brown tree snakes on emergency aircraft and ships helping Guam recover from Typhoon Pongsana.

Pongsana, which hit the island before dawn Sunday, along with immense devastation across the small island, has destroyed the program to stop brown tree snakes from entering seaports, airports and cargo handling areas.

"There is basically nothing to stop these snakes from going right into the ports," said Mike Pitzler, state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

Pitzler is scheduled to meet in an emergency session today with officials of the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others.

"We're meeting with them to make sure they are preparing for the worst," he said.

Neil Reimer, manager of the state Department of Agriculture's plant quarantine branch, said at a minimum his agency will inspect every plane that arrives from Guam private, commercial and military.

At today's meeting, the agencies will map out what other measures might be needed.

Reimer said the state doesn't need convincing about the dangers of the snakes.

"It is a big concern," he said. "It is a top priority for us. The brown tree snake we see as a very high-risk pest."

Brown tree snakes, known to science as Boiga irregularis, are responsible for the extinction of virtually all of Guam's forest birds. The long, very slim snakes also eat small mammals, span power lines to cause electric outages and have been known to enter homes and bite infants in their cribs.

Four snakes have been found in Hawai'i, generally at airports. None has been known to have escaped.

"Basically, if you see one, you have to kill it immediately," Pitzler said. "If they get loose, they're gone. They are very secretive and can hide in very small places."

In Guam, Pitzler's agency caught 13,000 snakes in the 2002 fiscal year. A staff of 41 manages 3,200 traps baited with live mice. The mice are in special containers in the traps, so that snakes can't get at them, even if they're inside the traps.

But most of those traps, and the fences they are hung on, have been destroyed by Sunday's supertyphoon. Additionally, roads are closed because they are covered with fallen concrete power poles.

The four major fuel tanks at the main port were on fire yesterday, Pitzler said, and non-military agencies are not allowed to get fuel. As a result, the agency's 15 snake-sniffing dogs can't be deployed; their handlers can't get them to the air and sea ports.

Furthermore, several employees are homeless as a result of the storm, and the agency is trying to help them before getting the snake patrol efforts back on line.

"We've been running snake traps, dogs and inspecting cargo since 1993, and we've never been disrupted like this," Pitzler said.

But they know the risk. During the last typhoon, snake control efforts were briefly interrupted, and shortly afterwards, brown tree snakes were found in Alaska and on Diego Garcia atoll, believed to have come from military flights from Guam.

As of yesterday afternoon, all ports and airports on Guam were still closed, but the moment flights and ships start flying in, they will be at risk of bringing snakes back out with them.

The state's Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species issued a notice yesterday that the threat could continue to be elevated for months to come.

Here's the link
Old 04-11-2003, 06:30 PM   #2
Audrina Head
Re: Hawaii on snake watch after Guam typhoon

Originally posted by drizzt_19
...and have been known to enter homes and bite infants in their cribs.
This line was intended to demonize the snakes... It doesn't seem to work for me...all I get is an image of an SNL skit or B movie - "Beware! This creature will enter your house to steal from your sock drawer, erase important files from your computer, and bite little sleeping babies in their cribs!"
Old 04-14-2003, 12:48 PM   #3
I can't for the life of me remember where, but I do remember hearing before about brown tree snakes biting and killing infants (they're rearfanged). So I guess it might be true! Hopefully someone else has a better memory about this than I do.

Erin B.
Old 04-14-2003, 04:22 PM   #4

I think that sentence was intended to alert people that these snakes can be dangerous and not to demonize...Check out the info below...


I did a search about the snakes and their venom...

The brown tree snake is a mildly venomous species that kills its prey by chewing to inject the venom. It is not known to be fatal to humans, but special precautions should be taken to keep snakes away from infants and small children. Bites should be carefully cleaned, the person bitten should be monitored closely, and if any unusual symptoms appear, medical attention should be sought.

The snake is relatively strong and holds its prey by wrapping its body around the animal. Snakes can be easily removed by unwrapping them starting at the head or tail. The brown tree snake poses no danger of strangulation or injury from constriction to adult humans, but with infants and small children, the possibility of suffocation or envenomation exists.

..attacked small infants, and sent children to hospitals with respiratory arrest.

The brown tree snake will readily strike when aggravated, but it does not present a danger to adults. A bite from this snake will not penetrate most clothing. However, babies less than 6 months old may be at risk from both brown tree snake bites and constriction. A young victim of a brown tree snake bite should receive immediate medical attention.

Even though the snake is abundant on Guam, most people rarely encounter a live brown tree snake. These pests do not hang from trees in giant bunches, nor do they actively search out people to bite. In fact, many residents have lived on Guam for years without ever seeing a single snake.

It sounds as though you still have a good memory..I could not find any proof of actual death of children but I think that the info posted above is enough to say that these snakes can/will kill infants and small children...

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