BROWN TREE SNAKE ON LOOSE IN SAIPAN

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Call for community effort to find the snake

By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 1, 2008) – A brown tree snake from Guam sneaked into Saipan last week possibly on a commercial ship and has yet to be found.

Jim Stanford, head of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Rapid Response Team on Guam, told Variety in a phone interview that there are about at least a million snakes on Guam — descendants of the snake that was accidentally shipped from the South Pacific after World War II.

Guam lost several bird species and millions of dollars due to thousands of power outages that affected private, commercial, and military activities.

There was also widespread loss of domestic birds and pets and considerable emotional trauma to residents and visitors alike.

Stanford said finding the snake on Saipan will be a "community effort."

"The (Department of Lands and Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife) wants to take the opportunity to re-establish community effort in finding this snake. If you see something that may be a snake, please report it to 28-SNAKE (287-6253)," he said.

He said snake traps and three dog teams conduct nightly searches in the area where the snake was last seen.

Announcements about the snake have also been posted near American Memorial Park to warn the public.

The snake was seen along Micro Beach on Tuesday and DLNR-DFW got the report the next day.

Stanford immediately flew to the island to lead the search team.

This is the second time this year that a confirmed snake sighting was reported on Saipan.

Last May 1, DLNR-DFW also conducted visual and canine searches along the area near the Smiling Cove Marina on American Memorial Park property after a brown tree snake was sighted.

DLNR-DFW said if a snake is seen, it should be reported immediately to the hotline 287-6253.

The snake is usually brown to olive green in color, with yellowish belly, a triangular shaped head that is noticeably larger than the neck, and vertical pupils.

DFW said the snake may easily be killed by a blow to the head or body with a heavy object.

A female snake can lay up to 14 eggs and probably store sperm for several years. Those on Guam breed year-round

"The snakes are around three years old when they first reproduce," DFW said. "Females can probably store sperm for several years. Meaning they can mate with a male, lay fertile eggs and then lay another fertile clutch of eggs two years later from that same male. This has been documented in zoos with other species of cat-eyed snakes."

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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