The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forking over $8 million bucks to have commando rats parachuted by the thousands onto the U.S. territory of Guam in an effort to kill brown tree snakes which have become problematic in recent years.
The latest rodent air assault consisted of 2,000 rats dropped over Andersen Air Force Base with each commando rat carrying a payload of 80 milligrams of acetaminophen – the Achilles heel of the tree snakes – and enough to kill 1 of the invasive serpents after ingestion.
Each unsuspecting rodent is strung up to two pieces of cardboard and a green tissue paper which then floats down and ultimately hangs up in the forest below. Once it’s hung in the forest canopy the snakes have an opportunity to consume the tylenol laced bait – which is almost always fatal to them.
In addition to the acetaminophen and the parachutes, some of the rats also come equipped with tiny data-transmitting radios to help observers track the progress of the mission.
The program was approved in February with the purpose of eradicating the snakes from the island which is regularly hit with power failures caused when the snakes find their way into electric substations – an expense that costs as much as $4 million annually according to a 2005 estimate by the Interior Department.