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The Brown Tree Snake

Ashleigh Jenks
Mr. Brinkley
Bio 112 IN3
5 May 2014

The Brown Tree Snake is native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guina but after
World War II it was brought into Guam. Since being in Guam it has become an invasive
species. As an invasive species it has caused power outages, the loss of family pets and
the extinction of birds indigenous to Guam. There have been many efforts to eradicate
The Brown Tree snake from Guam but none have been successful.

The Brown Tree Snake, also referred to as Boiga irregularis, is an invasive
species to Guam. According to Marielle Hoefnagels book Biology Concepts and
Investigations an invasive species is an introduced species that establishes a breeding
population in a new location and spreads widely from the original point of introduction
(2009). An invasive species is a species outside of its habitat that has made home in
another one, that causes some sort of destruction to the ecosystem of the new habitat. The
Brown Tree Snake fits the criteria of an invasive species. Through extensive research it
can be shown where the Brown Tree Snake originated, how it was brought to Guam, its
Niche, various interspecies interactions, the changes it has caused to its new habitat, why
this habitat allows them to thrive and the natives attempt to control them.
Brown Tree snakes come in all sorts of sizes. They can be as small as eighteen
inches and grow to over eight feet long. They are long and slender they are able to move
quickly in the trees making it easy for them to catch prey and hard for them to be preyed
upon. They appear to be light brown or some may look more yellow. They have a large
head compared to the rest of their bodies. They also appear to have cat eyes which just
means they have vertical pupils. When looking at a Brown Tree Snakes eyes they appear
yellow with the vertical slanted black pupil. A female can produce anywhere form four to
twelve eggs at a time twice a year. The snake is very protective and when it feels
threatened it is not scared to lunge repeatedly at the attacker. The Brown Tree Snake is
mildly venomous having enough venom to harm their small prey and a small child but
not enough to harm an adult. Their mouths contain many teeth but only the last two on
the top jaw are able to inject venom. This means they must open their mouths very wide
in order to consume their prey. The Brown Tree Snake is also a constrictor so after it has
poisoned its prey it wraps itself around it and squeezes it until it can safety consume it
(Sadvidge 2007).
The Brown Tree Snake can be traced back to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New
Guinea. In this original habitat the snakes thrived and were able to catch their prey just
fine. After World War II the Brown Tree Snake snuck onto United States Ships cargo.
When they docked in Guam the cargo was unpacked and the snakes were let out. When
the Brown Tree Snake originally slithered off the ships they did not have any predators.
Since the climate of Guam was conducive to their reproduction they were able to
reproduce rapidly and spread all over the little island. While in their native habitats The
Brown Tree Snake could only reproduce twice a year but in Guam they were able to
reproduce three to four times a year. This allowed them to reproduce and not be killed
off. The Brown Tree Snake lives in high elevations and is most commonly found in trees
but can easily come down to the ground. Since it is nocturnal it usually comes out of the
trees at night in order to find its prey.
The Brown Tree Snake preys on small birds, lizards, bats, rats and small rodents.
It is nocturnal so it does the majority of its hunting at night. The brown tree snake will
hunt its prey by stalking it until the right moment. It will then strike biting the prey with
its fangs and injecting its venom into it. This immobilizes the prey long enough for the
snake to wrap its long body around the prey and constrict it. The brown tree snake then
consumes its prey. The brown tree snake has various interspecies interactions including
its prey and its predators (Sadvidge 2007).
As discussed before the Brown Tree Snake consumes small rodents, rats, bats,
birds, and lizards. When the Brown Tree Snake first appeared in Guam it did not have
any predators but over time other animals began to start hunting these clever snakes. The
Red-bellied black snakes are bigger and more dangerous than the Brown Tree snake and
occasionally like to have one of dinner. The Cane toads also began hunting the Brown
Tree Snake. Although the Brown Tree Snakes populated Guam so quickly the people on
the island rarely saw them, and so humans were not frequently part of their interactions
(Mathies 2011). Although The Brown Tree Snakes hid up at the top of the trees during
the day they were able to cause some major problems for Guam.
In order to be termed an invasive species the species must cause some type of
harm to the new environment. The Brown Tree snake has caused many problems for
Guams environment. The Brown Tree snakes enjoy wrapping themselves on power lines
which causes electricity issues. The snakes are hard to remove from these lines and have
been known to cause power outages throughout the island. Although rare these snakes
have been known to prey on small domestic pets such as birds, hamsters and even small
dogs. The biggest issue that The Brown Tree Snake has caused for Guam is the
consumption of many native animals. They have eradicated man species of birds. The
Brown Tree Snake caused the extinction of the Guam rail and the Micronesian kingfisher,
two species who used to call Guam their home (Rodda 2007). If the Brown Tree Snakes
are able to cause so much destruction there must be a reason why they are able to strive in
There are many factors that have allowed these Tree Snakes to thrive in Guam.
The first is Guams climate, which allows for reproduction all year long. Since there are
so many of them constantly reproducing and so few predators for these snakes they are
able to get out of control causing major problems with the environment. Another huge
factor that allows them to thrive is the availability of their food supply. Since many
species of small animals thrive in Guams climate The Brown Tree Snake has an endless
supply of prey (Perry 2009). The Brown Tree Snake also does not tend to associate with
humans. This allows it to not be killed off as quickly. Also since they live at such high
elevations it is hard for them to be controlled by different traps and things like that. Since
there are so many factors that have led to the rapid reproduction of these snakes Guam
has had to come up with a few plans to control the snakes.
Guam knows that these snakes are causing major problems for their island and so
they have started to come up with various solutions to get rid of these snakes. The first
plan introduced was to release many Red-bellied black snakes and cane toads into the
wild in order to consume The Brown Tree Snakes. Since these two species hunt these
snakes it would help with the eradication of them in Guam, which is a positive. With this
positive come many negatives though. The Red-bellied black snake is dangerous to
humans and so releasing many of them into the wild and allowing them to thrive causes a
bigger threat than it would be worth to just allow the Brown Tree Snakes to live. Another
solution was to dose small rodents, which The Brown Tree Snakes prey on with Tylenol
and release them into a controlled space. The Brown Tree Snakes would then hunt them
and be captured. The problem with this method is that they did not have a solution of
where to put the Brown Tree Snakes humanely after they were captured. (Mathies 2011).
For now Guam is still thinking of new ideas on how to control their major infestation of
The Brown Tree Snake.
In conclusion the Brown Tree Snake is a slender, fast moving snake that was
transported to Guam. Since being in Guam it has caused much destruction such as
causing power outages, consuming peoples pets and causing birds indigenous to Guam to
go extinct. Although Guam has tried many methods of eradicating this species from their
environment they have not yet been successful. The Brown Tree Snake is an invasive
species that could cause your favorite bird to go extinct.

Literature Cited
Mathies, T., Scarpino, R., Levine, B. A., Clark, C., & Savidge, J. A. (2011). Excluding
Nontarget Species from Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis (Reptilia:
Colubridae), Bait Stations: Experimental Tests of Station Design and Placement.
Pacific Science, 65(1), 41-57. doi:10.2984/65.1.041
PERRY, G., & VICE, D. (2009). Forecasting the Risk of Brown Tree Snake Dispersal
from Guam: a Mixed Transport-Establishment Model. Conservation Biology,
23(4), 992-1000. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01169.x
Rodda, G. H., & Savidge, J. A. (2007). Biology and Impacts of Pacific Island Invasive
Species. 2. Boiga irregularis, the Brown Tree Snake (Reptilia: Colubridae).
Pacific Science, 61(3), 307-324.
Savidge, J. A., Qualls, F. J., & Rodda, G. H. (2007). Reproductive Biology of the Brown
Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis (Reptilia: Colubridae), during Colonization of
Guam and Comparison with That in Their Native Range. Pacific Science, 61(2),
Wiles, G. J., Bart, J., Beck Jr., R. E., & Aguon, C. F. (2003). Impacts of the Brown Tree
Snake: Patterns of Decline and Species Persistence in Guam's Avifauna.
Conservation Biology, 17(5), 1350. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2003.01526.x