TRAPS TALLY 5,223 TREE SNAKES ON GUAM

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By Valerie Lynn M. Maigue

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 6) - Guam residents now have less reason to be cursing the dreaded brown tree snake when their lights go out.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services' Brown Tree Snake Control report, the agency has captured thousands of snakes, helping to reduce the likelihood of major blackouts on the island.

From November 1998 to September 2005, Wildlife Services captured 5,223 brown tree snakes, by hand and with the use of 245 traps around the island at different substations.

It was several years back when a series of island wide power outages were caused by the snakes, which crawl into the crevices at the substations resulting in millions of dollars in structural damage and lost revenue.

"Overall, the focus has been at the substations, and we have seen a significant decrease in the number of incidences that have caused major blackouts," said Guam Power Authority spokesman Art Perez.

According to the report, the traps catch smaller snakes, which are more likely to cause outages.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services Assistant State Director Daniel Vice said the numbers of brown tree snakes captured have been remarkable.

Vice said the prey that the snakes seek also have been a cause for concern.

"Introduced rodents and introduced birds are food for snakes," Vice said. "The black drongo and the Eurasian tree sparrow get into the transformers, they nest on power lines, so there is a certain attraction to the area for the snakes."

Another factor is the age of the facilities.

"The older substations are where we've seen a large number of these snakes," Perez said. "It's because there are more open spaces for birds to crawl."

Perez said the agency is looking to help begin the snake eradication on the distribution side – at neighborhood transformers and power lines.

"We're finding a whole lot of snakes at our substations, and these are just at the substations alone," said Perez.

He said there are plans to begin expanding the program to catch snakes looking for prey on power poles.

March 7, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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