Legislature prioritizes brown tree snake eradication

Juvenile Brown Tree snakes (BTS) prefer to eat cold-blooded species like geckos and skinks. This snake was encountered consuming a locally abundant gecko, also thought to be a human introduction to Guam. The abundance of nonnative prey on Guam supports BTS populations and poses challenges to suppression of snakes for native species recovery. (Photo credit: Melia Nefus, USGS.

This past weekend, the Guam Legislature held a virtual public hearing on how to handle the brown tree snake problem on Cocos Island.

The virtual hearing was held Friday on Resolution No. 94-36 LS, introduced by Senator Sabina Perez.

Resolution No. 94, co-sponsored by Senator Ridgell, calls for government and non-government agencies to support the protection and recovery of Guam’s native and endemic species in wake of the brown tree snakes on Dano’, the CHamoru name for Cocos Island.

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The resolution supports the Government of Guam’s efforts to secure federal technical assistance and funding to assist in the eradication of the brown tree snake from Cocos Island, which was relatively free of the invasive species until last year when brown tree snakeskin was discovered on the island.

“Resolution 94 calls for multilateral support of local and federal efforts to eradicate the brown tree snake from Dano. The government of Guam, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Parks and Recreation are responsible for managing the natural resources of Dano park on Cocos Island. And Department of Agriculture is an active member of the brown tree snake technical working group which coordinates the brown tree snake research and control activities to prevent the spread of snakes and restore Guahan’s native ecosystem,” Perez said.

The resolution also seeks to make the eradication of the brown tree snake a legislative priority and also calls on the community for help to mutually commit to protect Guam’s native endangered and threatened species from catastrophic harm from the brown tree snake.

In addition, the resolution calls for consistent and thorough monitoring, analysis, and prompt public reporting of native and endemic species counts, as well as native preservation work, to ensure that these species do not disappear from Dano’ as they did from Guam.

The snake has already done significant damage to the birds on Guam and with its introduction to Cocos Island, a repeat of the same effects might be imminent to the resident birds and other species on that island. Guam

Department of Agriculture Wildlife Biologist Diane Vice said: “The resolution has everything in it. It just shows how important Cocos Island is and how it is worth saving.  Our office is currently writing proposals to have continuous brown tree snake operation control, not only for paid staff but also for volunteers to go out.”