Guam Snake Dogs
A USDA inspector leads a Jack Russell terrier
through a snake search of a B-52 Stratofortress.
A repost from August 24, 2004 of this blog.
Brown tree snakes are native to eastern Indonesia, the northern part of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands and probably arrived on the U.S.-owned island of Guam as stowaways in cargo from Papua New Guinea in the late 1940's or early 1950's.
The snakes multiplied rapidly on Guam, where they had no natural predators, and they have decimated the once-vibrant native bird population on that island. Ten of the 13 native forest birds of Guam are now extinct due to the brown tree snake, and the three species that still exist are barely hanging on. Several species of lizard have also been wiped out, and bat populations are now being predated on as well.
Guam's brown tree snake population is now estimated at about 40 per acre of tree habitat, or more than 26,000 snakes per square mile.
There are several different methods used to prevent the spread of brown tree snakes. Trapping and nighttime spotlight searches reduce the number of snakes in areas where cargo is packed or stored. The goal here is not to eliminate brown trees snakes (a hopeless task using current methods), but to exclude them from docks and airports in order to prevent them from being transported by airplane or boat to another island (such as Hawaii) where they might wipe out even more birds and small animals.
Experience has shown that specially trained Jack Russell Terriers are the best method of finding snakes in cargo-loading areas before they manage to make it on to airplanes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services (APHIS) branch currently employs 14 terriers on Guam to detect the brown tree snake. These are rescue dogs that originate from either California or Texas. Wildlife Services pays for the dogs to be shipped to the island.
When the terriers arrive in Guam, they are trained by a US Dept. of Agriculture-certified trainer. Training takes about 4 months, depending on the dog and the handler. Once a terrier is trained, the dog is used to inspect outgoing cargo, and transport vessels, such as aircraft or service ships. The brown tree snake is not poisonous, so there is no danger to the dog. >> For more information