Dogs & Snakes – Guam and Brown Tree Snake

A Dog's Nose

123RF.com

Dogs are amazing. Their sense of smell – beyond what humans can fathom.

Dogs have been trained to sniff out all sorts of stuff – from bombs to cancer to aliens, foreign visitors that is.

For places like Hawaii, whose ecosystem is delicate and vulnerable, keeping non-local species out is crucial to the conservationist and preservationist efforts required to maintain the health of local flora and fauna. They have been using a brigade of beagles to sniff out aliens like the Brown Tree Snake. These predators are thought to have gotten to Hawaii from places like Guam by boarding at the wheel wells of planes, for a free ride, and “parachuting” out over the islands.

The Brown Tree Snake has pretty much wiped out the native birds and rodents in Guam, having come in the 40s from New Guinea (their native home and land). It’s gotten so eerily quiet in the forest around the navy base that they airdropped dead mice laced with poison to create a snake-free zone to re-introduce native birds.

But they aren’t relying only on these air drops. They also have dog patrol for every cargo leaving the island. Dogs can sniff them out, even when we cannot see them. The US government is desperately trying to prevent their migration to and settlement on other islands. What’s happened in Guam has shown what can happen to native animal species when a foreign species is introduced. Evolved without any predator, the native birds just disappeared, some 10 out of 12 species in just generations. Once the birds were gone, the Brown Tree Snake moved onto rodents, lizards, and small mammals.

The case of the Brown Tree Snake also shows how easily it is for animals to move right around the world. With the world being a global village, people move about in massive numbers and with them, on their shoe can lie in wait, a tick or some other insect.

(It’s not only Guam and Hawaii…also Florida Everglades, where there is a Burmese Python invasion, partially from owners letting their “pet” snake go…ecodogs help fight the invasion in the Florida Everglades)

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