The Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Brown Tree Snake Program, under the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, has been awarded grant funding through the Office of Insular Affair’s Brown Tree Snake Control Program.
DFW’s Brown Tree Snake Program’s mission is to prevent the spread of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) from Guam to the CNMI. The program’s mission is achieved through inspecting incoming cargo with detector dogs, monitoring all ports of entry with BTS specific traps, public outreach, and responding to snake sightings of reported brown tree snakes.
The CNMI receives over 200 commercial flights from Guam each month, and these airplanes and their cargo are inspected upon landing on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. Cargo that arrives through the seaport is inspected as well, as are all military aircraft originating from Guam. The program also monitors over 150 snake traps at the airports and seaports on Saipan and Tinian, with traps soon to be deployed on Rota.
Other program activities include public awareness and outreach. A major outreach campaign was launched in the late 1990’s, which became a familiar tune in the CNMI community. The jingle, “Don’t give snakes a break, Call 28SNAKE” continues to be largely advertised in newspapers, magazines, radio and talk shows.
Snake identification is critical, as the snake must be immediately contained or killed to prevent movement into an area that would provide refuge and hinder the capture of the animal. The public can help fulfill the program’s mission of preventing the spread of BTS. If you see a snake, kill it and then call the BTS program hotline at 287-6253 (28-SNAKE). If a snake cannot be killed, report the snake sighting immediately and a rapid response team will be sent out to the area to trap and kill the snake.
The BTS program is vitally important to the wellbeing of the Northern Mariana Islands. Brown tree snakes have been responsible for damage to Guam’s electrical network, with annual repair costs in the millions of dollars, costs that get passed along to electrical consumers. Brown tree snake bites have caused medical complications to infants and small domestic animals. These snakes have also wreaked havoc with Guam’s native wildlife, eating most of that island’s forest birds to extinction, as well as consuming lizards and bats.
The CNMI would experience these same issues should the snakes become established here. The BTS program acts as the absolute line of defense for preventing the spread of the brown tree snake from Guam to the CNMI. It is critical that the program remains fully functional to prevent economical, public health, and environmental impacts as a result of the introduction of the brown tree snake to the CNMI.
For more information about the BTS program or to request a presentation, call 664-6014. You can also check out the Brown Tree Snake Program on Facebook. (DFW)