Impact and Control of the Brown Tree Snake as an Invasive Species

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  • Topic: Brown tree snake, Guam, Invasive species
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  • Published : July 27, 2012
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Impact and Control of the Brown Tree Snake as an Invasive Species on Guam

by
Karen Myers

Introduction
“Invasive species are a rapidly growing problem, and in many areas, they are the second-most-important cause of species declines” (Perry & Vice, 2009, p. 993). Often times, the invasive problem is by accident due to transportation of the species, but at times is intentional. This paper will review the history of the Brown Tree Snake as an invasive species, a species description of the Brown Tree Snake, and the impact this species has had on Guam. Potential ways to resolve and control the ecological and economic impacts of the Brown Tree Snake on Guam and efforts to prevent new invasions by this species on other Pacific islands including Hawaii will also be reviewed. Background and History

The Brown Tree Snake is well-known for the intense ecological impacts it has had on vertebrate life with its postwar arrival on the island of Guam (Rodda, G. H., & Savidge, J. A., 2007). Around the end of World War II, Brown Tree Snakes were mistakably transported from Australia to Guam by Military ships. By the mid-1980s, the snakes had spread across the island of Guam and were continuing to reproduce in excessive numbers. Since the snake’s invasion of Guam, they have caused a major weakening of the island’s native forest bird species, loss of two lizard species, and a decline in numbers of the Mariana fruit bat. For example, the Brown Tree Snake has eliminated 10 of 13 native bird species on Guam and this loss of native birds has permanently altered the island’s environmental and ecological characteristics” (Shwiff, Gebhardt, Kirkpatrick, & Shwiff, 2010, p. 2). Findings have shown that the Brown Tree Snake may even effect prey populations similar to that of lizards. (Campbell III, E. W., Adams, A., Converse, S. J., Fritts, T. H., & Rodda, G. H., 2012). Since this unintended invasion, the Brown Tree Snake has also become a public health threat and has caused a significant drain on the economic status of Guam (Savidge, Qualls, & Rodda, 2007). Because of these threats, many researchers continue to do their best to develop plans to control and eliminate Brown Tree Snakes from Guam and hope to eventually stop the spread to other Pacific islands. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when the Brown Tree Snake’s population was seen as a major threat to Guam. The reason why they became a threat was their numbers increased significantly, up to as many as 100 snakes per 10,000 square meters on certain parts of the island (Burnett, K., Sittidaj. P. & Roumasset, J., 2011). Control efforts became a high priority and researchers were able to reduce the numbers of snakes drastically to an average of 10–20 snakes per 10,000 square meters. Many damages still continue today including “power outages due to snakes on power lines, loss of native forest birds on Guam, and medical visits resulting from snakebites, mostly to young children” (Burnett, K., Sittidaj. P. & Roumasset, J., 2011, p. 243). Another concern is due to the large amount of exporting and importing of food and goods, many Pacific islands are at a high risk of invasive species, like the Brown Tree Snake (Shwiff, Gebhardt, Kirkpatrick, & Shwiff, 2010). Because of the high volume of transportation between Guam and Hawaii, especially between Military units, the Brown Tree Snake poses a potentially dangerous and immediate threat to Hawaii. “There have already been eight verified interceptions of the snake on the island of Oahu, all at ports of entry” (Burnett, Sittidaj, & Roumasset, 2011, p. 243). There is a major concern that the Brown Tree Snake will continue to arrive and make home in the islands of Hawaii (Shwiff, Gebhardt, Kirkpatrick, & Shwiff, 2010). It is also feared that once the snake makes its mark in Hawaii, it will be difficult to remove. Should the Brown Tree Snake invade the Hawaiian Islands as it did the island of Guam, this could be...
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