Canines sniff out sneaky snakes
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – Last year, 10 to 12 thousand brown tree snakes were captured by the USDA on Guam, with approximately 4,000 on Andersen.
Many of these captures can be attributed to the Jack Russell terriers that are trained specifically to locate and capture the snakes.
There are approximately 24 trained terriers with USDA, with teams working at Andersen and Naval Base Guam.
Jack Russell terriers are used for these inspections because they are agile, highly energetic. Naturally aggressive, their hunting skills make them perfect for detecting brown tree snakes.
The brown tree snake is an invasive species native to Northern Australia, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. They were accidentally transported to Guam shortly after World War II.
“We work on and around the flightline where we conduct canine inspections with Jack Russell terriers,” said Marc Hall, USDA program manager. “We inspect 100 percent of outbound military goods. This includes cargo, munitions and household goods.”
Along with inspecting cargo, the terriers and their trainers also inspect munitions storage areas and base housing before servicemembers permanently change duty stations.
“We check housing because it is not unheard of for these snakes to show up in unwanted places such as backyards and living areas,” said Paul Roberts, USDA canine trainer and instructor.
The brown tree snake will often upset Guam’s delicate eco system, due to lack of natural predators on the island. Guam’s warm and hospitable environment means the invasive species does not migrate and has a year-round mating season.
Brown tree snakes average from two to five feet long, but may grow up to 10 feet long. These snakes are mildly venomous to humans. Younger children and the elderly may be more sensitive to their venom.
Though their bite is not lethal, it is painful due to the amount of teeth and strength of bite.
The goal of USDA is to keep this invasive species from spreading to other territories and islands in the Pacific, where they could disturb a natural balance within the territories eco system.
To report a brown tree snake contact the USDA between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 366-3261.