Potential Economic Damage from Introduction of Brown Tree Snakes to Hawaii

The Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis (Merrem), arrived accidentally on Guam, an island in Micronesia, shortly after World War II, probably as a stowaway on U.S. military cargo ships from the New Guinea area (Fritts and Rodda 1998).

Without any natural predators or parasites on Guam, and with an abundant prey base, the snakes increased in number dramatically. The Brown Tree Snake is a mildly venomous generalist predator with grooved, venom-conducting fangs at the rear of the maxillae (Fritts et al. 1994, Fritts and Rodda 1998). It is abundant in many habitats in both urban and rural areas and is successful in maintaining high densities near human populations (Fritts and Chiszar 1999, Engeman and Vice 2001). The Brown Tree Snake has caused human health concerns, power outages, and the extirpation of 10 of 13 native bird species on Guam (Savidge 1987, Fritts 1990, Fritts et al. 1994, Rodda et al. 1997, Fritts and Rodda 1998, Fritts and Chiszar 1999, Fritts and McCoid 1999, Fritts 2002). Although extensive research has been conducted on the biology and habitat of the snake and on efforts to control the movement of the snake (Fritts and Chiszar 1999, Rodda et al. 1999, Savarie and Bruggers 1999, Engeman and Vice 2001, Burnett et al. 2008), few studies have measured the economic damages (except for power outages) caused by the snake on Guam (Fritts 2002). The only study that estimated the potential damage of the snake in Hawai’i (Burnett et al. 2008) utilized preliminary results from the study reported here.

Islands are especially vulnerable to biological invasions because their human populations import large amounts of food and other goods, and Guam is a major transportation center for both civilian and military traffic in the central Pacific region. Of particular concern is the potential transportation of Brown Tree Snakes to the islands of Hawai’i (Kraus and Cravalho 2001). Like Guam, Hawai’i has no endemic terrestrial snakes (Fritts et al. 1994), and despite intensive cargo-screening measures to prevent the snake from leaving Guam, eight Brown Tree Snakes have been found on O’ahu since 1981, transported on commercial and military aircraft from Guam (Fritts et al. 1999, Burnett et al. 2008).

Read full story HERE.

About Candace M Hansen

Wildlife advocate, conservationist and environmentalist.
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