Revenge of the Mice!

This month’s InfoEdge article topic deals with a story widely reported in the national media.  Within a few months, the US government, through the USDA, will drop an unknown number of dead neonatal mice (DNM) into the jungles of Guam.  These mice are not going to even reach the forest floor.  They’ll be caught in the forest canopy, as they have been attached to “flotation devices”.  Research (paid for by your tax dollars) has been ongoing for over a decade, and this is the best way that scientists have come up with to protect Hawaii from an invasion.

You may have the following questions:

  • They are spending my tax dollars on what?
  • Won’t the mother’s miss their pups?
  • What good are dead mice in trees?
  • Can’t they get their own mice?
  • How do we protect our supply of pineapples, sugar cane, macadamia nuts, coffee, etc.?

Here’s a hint…

The dead neonatal mice will be stuffed with Tylenol (acetaminophen).

Further questions may include:

  • They are spending my tax dollars on what!?
  • Will the mice magically recover; can this over-the-counter medicine revive dead animals?
  • Is the government now entering the long, heated NSAID wars, what about Advil and Aleve, is there product discrimination?

  • Which lobbyist is responsible for this, did some Senator get paid-off?
  • Should I buy stock in McNeil Consumer Healthcare?

Enough teasing.  The reason that the USDA is dropping dead neonatal mice stuffed with Tylenol (which will get caught up in the forest canopy by mini parachutes) is that these mice are lethal bait for the Brown Tree Snake, which is over-running the island.  The Brown Tree Snake was imported into Guam after WWII, and soon thereafter, was able to outcompete and disrupt indigenous bats, birds, and lizards, including domestic animals (Ref).  The snakes bite humans and climb telephone poles, knocking out power.  The USDA Wildlife Services has an intensive effort to prevent introduction of the snake into Hawaii  (Ref).  The snake is indigenous to Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Since this commentary appears in the InfoEdge monthly magazine, lets quickly review the regulation and research that went into this unusual action.  As I’m confident that you are all aware, the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) defines an “animal” as any live or dead dog, cat, nonhuman primate, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, or any other warmblooded animal, which is being used, or is intended for use for research, teaching, testing, experimentation, or exhibition purposes, or as a pet. This does not include mice, reptiles, lizards, or birds.  No regulation here, got nuts!

Mentioned earlier, there are several published studies that advocate using DNM with acetaminophen baits. Feasibility studies have been performed, as well as wildlife impact studies.  A study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management in 2001 detailed a set of controlled experiments where plots of jungle were seeded with dead neonatal mice stuffed with acetaminophen.  Control (no drug) vs experimental plots were measured after 30 days, and multi-strata results (accounting for snake movements) showed survival near zero on treated plots (Ref).  An article published in Environmental Science and Technology (2002) determined that neonatal dead mouse baits with acetaminophen were safe for non-snake animals (Ref).  A similar study in 2002 found that there was minimal toxicity in “rodents, cats, pigs, and birds” (Ref). In addition, other species have shown susceptibility to acetaminophen, including the Nile monitor lizard and the Burmese python (Ref).  In additional work, Savarie et al. constructed “aerial flotation devices” (cardboard streamers) to keep drugged mice housed in PVC tubes away from crabs and lizards who roamed the forest floor (Ref).

I’ll blog about any updates, stay tuned…

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