The US government’s plan to bomb Guam with poisoned dead mice has sparked outrage among animal rights activists who have referred to the plan as a “clumsy dangerous massacre” of the snakes that have made their home on the island.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a Virginia-based animal rights organization, has condemned the government’s plan to parachute dead mice onto Guam’s jungle canopy in an attempt to kill off the two million brown tree snakes that have plagued the territory.
The snakes have inflicted heavy damage upon Guam’s environment and economy, killing off native bird species and destroying infrastructure by slithering into power lines and building wires.
The snakes have wiped out nearly all of Guam’s native bird species since they first came to the island aboard a US military ship more than 60 years ago. In an attempt to save the US island territory from the ever-growing snake population – as well as to prevent its spread to Hawaii – government officials will bomb Guam with poisoned dead mice this spring. Hoping that the snakes will eat the bodies of the mice, which will be laced with the painkiller acetaminophen, government officials plan to eradicate much of the invasive snake population.
But PETA stands firmly against the government’s plans, claiming that killing snakes is inhumane, regardless of the damage the reptiles might be inflicting upon Guam. The animal rights activists referred to the initiative as “absurd” and “cruel”.
“Brown tree snakes did not ask to be stowaways on planes or ships and then forced to survive on a foreign island,” Martin Mersereau, director of PETA’s cruelty investigations, told the Guardian.
“Although the snakes are considered invasive, no animal should be forced to endure cruel death,” he added.
The snakes are thought to have arrived in Guam shortly after World War II. Hitching rides from the South Pacific, the tree snakes traveled aboard US military ships and the wells of airplanes.
The snakes, which can reach 10 ft. in length, have attacked residents, bitten young children, and caused widespread power outages by crawling into power lines. By killing off almost all of Guam’s native birds, they have caused dramatic changes in the island’s ecosystem. With hardly any birds left, the island of Guam has experienced a population explosion of spiders. During the rainy season, the US territory has 40 times as many spider webs as its neighboring islands, which have similar climates, NPR reports. Spider webs, many of which can be linked to the banana spider, are also 50 percent larger on Guam than on any other Pacific islands.
Since Guam has become infested with snakes and spiders, while its bird species have largely been wiped out, the island’s tourism industry has suffered a dramatic decline.
But regardless of the damage the snakes have inflicted upon the island, PETA believes that killing the snakes would be inhumane. US government officials claim no animals other than the snakes will be affected by the poisoned mice – especially since there are hardly any birds left to become affected. But Mersereau does not think the snakes should deserve to die.
“For reptiles, death could take days or even weeks,” he told the Guardian. But the animal rights activist isn’t entirely opposed to the idea of killing the tree snakes: Mersereau said he would prefer if the snakes were trapped by trackers and humanely euthanized.
But with an estimated two million tree snakes to eradicate, the snakes would most likely breed faster than trackers could capture them -- and individually euthanizing them could take a very long time. The US government plans to drop piles of the poisoned dead mice from helicopters starting in April or May.