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By Gerardo R. Partido

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Sept. 14) – More than 6,738 brown tree snakes have been caught to date by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, the Guam Power Authority reported yesterday.

The agency has been contracted by GPA since 1998 to conduct snake control efforts at 15 substations and switchyard sites within the island’s power system.

Since the program’s inception, the Wildlife Services has trapped or hand caught over 6,738 snakes in varying lengths, according to GPA’s latest brown tree snake control report.

"GPA’s relationship with the USDA Wildlife Services has been a partnership that has produced some very significant results in the reduction of forced outages due to browntree snakes. The fact that we have had almost no incidents of total blackout due to browntree snake has been due largely in part to this program," GPA general manager Joaquin C. Flores said.

The USDA’s browntree snake control program involves 252 snake traps, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week at targeted substations, mostly in remote, densely forested areas like Tanguisson, Pulantat, Harmon and Tamuning cliffline.

As part of the program, the USDA also conducts nighttime spot checks at each substation twice weekly.

Acetaminophen, which is toxic to browntree snakes, is used predominantly along the Tanguisson transmission line, as traps placed in unsecure locations tend to be stolen or damaged by the public.

A single toxic bait is placed inside a PVC pipe delivery device, and replaced twice weekly.

A "bait taken" is assumed to represent a single browntree snake killed, although there may be loss of bait to non-targets, including rats and ants.

During the past quarter, GPA said 1,514 baits were placed and 412 baits were taken.

Additional recommendations to further control snake incidents include the removal of potential food sources such as birds that nest within the switchyards and the use of other snake proof barriers.

"Including the browntree snake program as part of our IWPS efforts to improve the protection of the power system will complement other efforts currently ongoing to deliver reliable electrical services," Flores said.

For years, wayward browntree snakes have caused power outages that affected the island’s power system, costing ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"As our relationship with USDA continues, we will explore other ways to implement brown tree snake control measures affecting our system outside of the substation area and onto our distribution system," Flores said.

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