back to article US forces drop dead drug-poison killer mice from helicopters

The United States military is waging war in the Pacific on invading jungle snakes - by dropping dead mice stuffed with household headache remedies on them from helicopters. Zombie mouse paratrooper in the War On Snakes. Credit: Peter Savarie/USGS In you go, Fluffy Stars and Stripes reports on the airborne murine drug- …


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  1. Neil Greatorex

    "airborne murine drug-zombie"

    Excellent, made my morning.

    Wonder how many grammar Nazis will be trotting out the "It's mArine you thickos..."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shouldn't that be


  2. Anonymous Coward

    I thank you...

    > The snakes are thought to have reached Guam aboard military transports

    So not so much 'snakes on a plane' as 'sneaks on a plane'

  3. Torben Mogensen

    Will they bite?

    AFAIR, it is common practice to feed snakes with live animals, as many snakes will not touch already-dead animals nor pieces of meat. So, unless the tree snake is an exception to this, it will not bite.

    1. Fred 21

      Not quite

      No the mice doesn't have to be alive, hence why you can buy frozen chicks \ pinkies \ mice for warming up and feeding to your pet snake or reptile. In the UK theres legislation that prevents you from feeding live food to your pet snake \ reptile unless its a last resort and plenty of people keep them as pets!

      1. Craig Chambers

        Not so

        I thought that this only pertained to feeding live vertebrates, but seeming not so at all. A quick Google there is no such law, though there are laws surrounding duty of care to animals, and there is also the issue that prey animals can cause significant injury to a pet in the process of being consumed. Even for those that don't consider feeding using live animals cruel, there is always the consideration that you don't want your pet to become injured by its dinner.

    2. CaptainHook

      @ Torben Mogensen

      In captivity, snakes can be trained to take dead food quite easily; Snakes are easier to keep as a pet compared to Lizards because the lizard generally only takes live food.

      I would bet in the wild snakes will eat anything they can get their jaws around so long as it doesn't smell to decomposed - for example, a lot of snakes love an egg if they can find one.

      1. alwarming
        Paris Hilton

        eggs ?

        > a lot of snakes love an egg if they can find one.

        sunny side up, I presume ?

        Paris, coz she likes her eggs unfertilized.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      Surely they will have tested this first? Ah, wait, it's the US Army innit - so pehaps not.

    4. Christoph

      Ancient Jokes R Us

      No, the real problem is whether the snakes can get to them before the parrots eat 'em all.

      1. Olafthemighty

        @ Christoph: That's...just...

        AWFUL! Please leave immediately. And take your pint with you.

        1. Christoph

          @ Olafthemighty: My work here is done

          Exits stage left, whistling the Angus Prune Tune.

          1. Zimmer

            The Prune tune

            Now that dates you (and me)....

        2. Trevor 3

          I agree...

          ...That joke was taking the hiss

      2. perlcat


        What? The Norwegian Blues?

        They're busy pining for the fjords, and cannot be bothered at the moment.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      That's exactly what I thought: snakes don't eat dead mice (at least in all cases I know of), what are they thinking about?

  4. Matt Bradley

    This isn't going to work

    Snakes use their smell and heat sense more that they do their eyes. The eyes being unable to focus, they also find it difficult to identify prey unless it is moving.

    In my experience, its hard to get snake to eat something unless it is warm and moving. Feeding my corn snakes at home required me to warm a frozen mouse corpse in warm water, the dangle it about in front of the snake's nose.

    Dropping cold dead mice into the tree canopy is unlike to attract many snakes, if you ask me.

    1. No, I will not fix your computer

      Maybe.... maybe not....

      These aren't corn snakes, and different snakes have different habits, I suspect that wild snakes are more likely to eat whatever they can find that smells about right, the big problem with domestic (captive bred) snakes is that their instincts are dampened by regular and unchallenging feeds, I never feed my snakes the same amount on the same day of the week, sometimes I let them gorge and sometimes I let them fast, this maintains their "strike" and you have to brumate them properly, taking the temp down during winter and feeding them less often rather than a steady temp all year and constant feeding (this is doubly important if you want to breed from them, I had 60 babies one year). My snakes (especially the anerythristic corns for some reason) would hapily eat a defrosted mouse just chucked in the viv, any movement and they'd have your arm off, but also they are OK to handle, as long as I don't smell of dead mouse (no big pointy teeth in the traditional sense, but fine razor sharp "ratchets" that can draw blood), so I assume the smell (taste) of the mouse is more important for a corn.

      I guess what I'm trying to say is not that this will work, but it's wrong to say it isn't going to, after all, the feeding habits of king snakes (which are close enough to a corn to interbreed) prefer lizards to mice and other snakes only eat birds, there's some very good reasons why it will work, I suspect that it will as wild snakes are not as fussy (fussy snakes starve to death in the wild), oddly enough if it works this will wipe out the snakes which eat carion, leaving the fussy ones, so it will be a bit of selective breeding and not a complete solution anyway.

    2. FreeTard

      bet your wrong

      Snakes use their forked tongues to taste the air chemically to identify what is around them.

      Their eyes are indeed (almost) useless in this regard.

      Yes they can also detect heat very well, but the rely on their tongues for every day life, even sexual courtship/reproduction. Google Jacobson's organ.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Rumor has it that humans use them to for.....

        Sig cos where is Paris when you need her?

      2. Matt Bradley


        By smell sense I was oversimplifying, yes, they use their tongue and the jacobsens organ, but it amounts to essentially scent on the air which they are relying on. I was assuming that everybody knew that snakes "smell" with their tongues. :)

        The key point is that heat, smell and movement are the key factors. None of which you'll really get with a cold dead mouse.

    3. Asgard

      @Matt Bradley, snakes, falling mice and monkeys in trees...

      @"Dropping cold dead mice into the tree canopy is unlike to attract many snakes, if you ask me."

      But at least the monkeys get a free snack and no lasting headache after having dead mice dropped on their heads!

      1. Asiren

        Monkey hangover cures?

        Maybe those monkeys partaking in a few too many "rotten fruits" might start hunting mice for hangover cures?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Beautifully-written article

    This is why I come to the Register.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weren't they planning the same trick in Afghanistan using pork pies?

    A few of Melton Mobrey's finest left at bite hight.

    1. Anonymous Coward



    2. Anonymous Coward


      Melton Mowbray, home of the famous Melton Mowbary pork pie.

      1. Code Monkey


        Muphry strikes again

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I heard they trialled this in Wigan

      but ran out of pies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Might not work

        since Muslims (and therefore the Talaban) don't eat pork.

        Other than that, I see no floor.

        1. Wize

          @ac 15:03

          Thats kind of the point. I don't think the snakes plan to eat poison either.

        2. Rob

          Sorry couldn't resist

          ... I see no roof, anyone seen the walls?

  7. V 3
    Dead Vulture

    Sasebo is in Japan

    -- quote from Reg story--

    According to Stars and Stripes, the first waves of dead killer mouse drug paratroopers went in to the jungles surrounding Sasebo Naval Base yesterday.

    -- /quote --

    Sasebo Naval base is in Japan, and it is from there that the story was filed, I assume. The jungles of Guam are rather a long way away, although pleasingly adjacent to Naval Base Guam.

    The hint is in the first paragraph of the story linked to.

    -- quote from linked story--

    SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The dead mice were laced with a common pain reliever — about one quarter of a child’s dose of acetaminophen each — and dropped Wednesday from a helicopter into the jungle canopy around Naval Base Guam.

    -- quote --

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Internet for you

  8. Tim #3


    So, according to their official, they're going out into the jungle at night to look for dangerous snakes up trees.

    Makes me realise why office work is my true vocation.

  9. Mark Rosher

    And if the Chamorros folk get a headache...

    You really couldn't make it up!

    Badgers coz, well, they might too... I just don't know.

  10. Jonjonz
    Jobs Horns

    Military Industrial Complex

    Your tax dollars, down the drain faster than you can say, decaying infrastructure.

  11. Stratman


    So, the serpents have been getting it on far too readily with the inevitable results, and the solution is to give them a cure for headaches?

  12. Peter Simpson 1


    "each drug-laced corpse is attached to a special drag streamer which deploys on departing the aircraft,"

    One dare not even attempt to calculate the cost per mouse. This must be a very profitable contract for some large US firm, hurting no doubt, from a recent loss of work in Iraq.

    //Mine's the one with the KBR logo

  13. Arclight


    general consensus seems to be wild snakes are unlikely to eat the dead mice, leaving the tainted food for native carrion eating species to feed on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      You mean like several types of bird?

  14. the spectacularly refined chap

    Lingual imperialism...

    Paracetamol is not the UK name for acetaminophen. Paracetamol is the internationally recognised and WHO-recommended name for the drug. It is known as acetaminophen in only the US, because of the practice of adopting their own names for generic medicines instead of the International Nonproprietary Name used by everyone else. This also serves to confuse themselves and everyone else in the process.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Quite so

      Because of the proximity of Canada to the US, this is also the practice here.

      To howls of outrage by my British wife (who is a nurse), they regularly use the brand name Tylenol when referring to paracetamol (acetaminophen) in the medical profession which is an insanely mad thing to be doing. Tylenol is a brand name covering a range of different products all using paracetamol in their formulation so the name is not specific enough when talking medically about prescriptions for patients.

      The overuse of brand names here is a testament to the power of drug companies and their marketing, especially for drugs that have gone generic for so many years,

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lingual imperialism...

      "because of the practice of adopting their own names for generic medicines instead of the International Nonproprietary Name used by everyone else"

      Like the practice of adopting their own names for SI units.

    3. peyton?

      Deep roots run deep

      The mass hysteria and confusion caused by American misnaming is not a recent problem. Probably the original example would be our (at least here in The South) referring to all varieties of carbonated sugar water as "coke" (recall that Coca-Cola was originally marketed as a medicine). It is a little known fact that this confusion was the true cause of the American Civil War. A visiting Yankee asked for a bit of Coke in his julep. When his host, the Most Honorable Major Colonel Bogardus the Third, politely inquired as to just what kind of coke he preferred, the situation escalated in a who's-on-first style exchange of words. Ultimate result: a death toll of billions.

      Though, now that I think about it, I can't recall ever having been confused by the name 'acetaminophen'.

      1. Arclight

        Wasn't that

        Colonel Ingus?

  15. Diziet Sma


    Tylenol to be fair is paracetamol and codeine and not just paracetamol. Commonly called co-codamol in this country. Maybe they should give the snakes some codeine so they can have a slightly more happy send off.

    1. Painless

      Tylenol |= codeine

      Tylenol that you can buy over the counter in the US does not contain codeine. Codeine is a controlled substance and can only be bought via prescription. There is a drug called Tylenol 3 which does contain codeine. It makes happy faces............

    2. W. Keith Wingate

      Not quite

      I'm no pharmacist, but in the US (Canada may be different; codeine is much easier to get there I believe; I think you can even get "real" cough syrup without an Rx) OTC Tylenol does NOT contain codeine. Dentists and other doctors will often prescribe acetaminophen with codeine, called (I think) by various names, but most commonly "Tylenol with Codeine".

      Oddly, the purportedly more liver friendly "Vicuprofin" (with ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen) is nearly impossible to get a script for because the MD's seem to think junkies might abuse it, but won't abuse the vicodin for fear the acetaminophen would do in their livers.

      No, I couldn't make this stuff up...

  16. Fluffykins Silver badge


    Thanks, Mr Pratchett

  17. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    So, have they invstigated

    The toxicity of acetamidophen on the native wildlife? If it's toxic to snakes, how about native birds and mammals, if there are any left?

    1. John Gamble

      Might Be Problem


      Toxic to cats and snakes. An admittedly hasty search leads me to believe that there are no native cats on the island (feral cats are there, and are another invasive species problem. Yes, I'd have a problem with using this technique to deal with feral cats too). I'm also not sure that this represents the complete toxicity list.

      1. Faceless Man


        It's toxic to most things, including humans. That's why you can only take so many a day, any more than that, your liver packs it in, and you die a few days later.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up


          A most unpleasant death I gather...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Technically

          Equally technically, most things are lethal in a high enough quantity, including big macs.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    So this is how it ends, not with a bang but a squeek!

    I say we take of and mouse them from orbit, it's the only way to be sure

  19. wobbly1

    they couldn't lace the mice with aspirin

    ...because the parrots eat them all.

    coat already got and i'm on the way out of the door

  20. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Wait for it....!

    Wikipeadia lists one of the native Guam predators that could eat the brown tree snales as feral pigs. I guess the problem is that the pigs aren't getting up the trees. So we don't need airborne murines zombie drug-mules, all we really need to do is introduce some flying pigs....

    1. David Pollard
      Paris Hilton

      Wow - flying pigs

      The successor to the Paris Project!

    2. Roger Varley

      Wait for it...!

      I don't see why that should be a problem for such a resource rich organisation as the US Marine Corp. There is no reason why pigs cannot fly. It's simply a question of getting the launch angle correct and applying sufficient impetus.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just couldent help yourself could you.

    -- quote from Reg story--

    "Even then it's no picnic getting dead mice into the high jungle canopies where the scaly invaders congregate, but fortunately the US military is seldom unable to get its hands on a helicopter."

    -- /quote --

  22. Michael 28

    Killer badgers next!!!!

    That is all

    1. Mike VandeVelde

      how often could you get to say this

      "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area."

      1. SirTainleyBarking

        With added mushrooms?

        Certainly annoys snakes

  23. JaitcH

    Should the plan prove successful translates as 'if'

    Over the decades, nay centuries, man has transported flora and fauna to non-native habitats with deleterious effects.

    Witness the unchecked invasion of North American waterways by Chinese Carp.

    How do they know nothing untoward will happen this time? (Think Army Corp of Engineers, levees and Hurricane Katrina.)

    1. Al Jones

      Probably because the mice are dead......

      and dead mice aren't very successful at reproducing in the wild.

      1. Francis Boyle

        Well Lewis did say they were zombie mice

        and according to the "documentaries" I've watched reproducing is what zombies do best.

        Hand grenade, due to it being an effective, if messy way, of stopping zombies reproducing.

  24. Ball boy Silver badge

    Umm..track what, exactly?

    So, they'll use radio becons to see what's going on, will they?

    Picture the scene: snake eats dead mouse & dies shortly after.

    Next morning, in circling helicopter...

    Sarge: "Anything going on down there, Private?"

    <peering at beacon signals overlaid on ground map> "Well, Sarge, nothing's moving. It's all in the same place as yesterday"

    "Damn. Okay, let's move out to zone D and we'll see if Charlie's moving over there. Oh, I love the smell of mouse in the morning", etc. etc. the basic flaw in the plan!

  25. kain preacher

    Title required

    ] The words acetaminophen (used in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Iran,[11] Colombia and other Latin American countries) and paracetamol (used elsewhere) both come from chemical names for the compound: para-acetylaminophenol and para-acetylaminophenol. In some contexts, it is simply abbreviated as APAP, for N-acetyl-para-aminophenol.

    "Tylenol to be fair is paracetamol and codeine and not just paracetamol. Commonly called co-codamol"

    Wrong plain Tylenol has no codeine in it. Tylenol 3, Tylenol 4. Tylenol 5 have codeine.

  26. David Kelly 2

    Tasty Snakes?

    Wouldn't it have been easier and cheaper to convince the locals that snake was a tasty aphrodisiac? :-)

  27. Anonymous Coward

    This sounds like they need to CAPTURE the snakes

    And move them here:

    Then drug-mouse the remaining snakes to get rid of them.

  28. Seamless
    Black Helicopters


    Guam is in a precarious situation already. The extra added weight of those rodents will cause it to tip over and capsize. (Somebody ought to alert the House Armed Services Committee.)

  29. Panix

    Titles are stupid

    Since the US govt has been talking about destroying the poppy fields in Afghanistan, why not just use the opium crops instead of tylenol to destroy the snakes? 2birds1stone and they'll be alot happier when they die. =D

    1. A J Stiles

      Can't have that

      You can't finish them off with an opiate overdose. They might actually *enjoy* it!

  30. VeganVegan

    Move on, old news

    They've been doing this for quite a while now. For example, here is a research report, from 2002, on controlling brown tree snakes with acetaminophen, to check that it has no untoward effects on other species in Guam (

    Evidently the scheme has worked rather well, at least in the more built-up areas; and this is just a new phase of the control program, to try to target snakes out in the forests.

    Acetaminophen is well-known to be liver toxic in large doses. It is rumored that some animal control folks would, in an emergency (e.g., a rabid raccoon in a neighbourhood), try to posion it using bait laced with children's Tylenol (a sickly sweet version of acetaminophen), instead of waiting for the long approval process to get permission to use 'regular' poisons.

  31. Adrian Esdaile

    Not April 1st...

    so it HAS to be real. Actually surreal is more like it.

    Get these goddam snakes off my goddam island!

    I say we take off, and nuke'em from orbit. WITH POISON ZOMBIE-MICE.

    You can't make this shit up!

  32. tonycole

    Er...... How can a snake


  33. George Nacht

    Maybe a stupid question

    ...actually, two stupid questions: Where do you place order for several tons of dead mice? OK, mice are common feed for pets, but still...

    And second stupid question, how do you "lace" the mice with paracetamol?

    Did they actually drown the live mice in paracetamol solution? Did they fed it with paracetamol, until they died of liver failure? Did they stabbed each one to death with syringe? And if they did it post mortem, how?

    If you think about technical details, it doesn´t bring very comforting images into brain...

    As for the willingness of snakes to ingest dead mice, I am quite optimistic. Let´s not forget that the mice will be actually hanging from the tree branches. So they will be smelling good AND moving, actually swinging in the breeze. Lack of thermal image should not be a big problem. After all, it is quite warm on Guam, so the background will be drowning body heat anyway.

    I think more about the streamers these mice will be attached to . Will there be many dead snakes with streamers hanging from their mouths?

    1. SirTainleyBarking
      Paris Hilton

      No stupid questions only stupid answers

      Plenty of places actually raising rodents for sale as food. When I was at school they were supplied euthanised and plastic wrapped for freshness, and kept in the freezer. Just like value burgers from Iceland or farmfoods, albeit with a higher meat content.

      As for dosing said pre-euthanised rodents, I would envision a highly paid technician armed with a large syringe full of Calpol (Brand named childrens paracetamol suspension) and no squeamishness as to which of the two orifices (s)he roughly inserts it.

      And if that thought doesn't make your eyes water....

      Paris? I leave that one to your imagination

  34. riCh chestMat

    It's a hamster

    That picture on the front page linking to this? It's a hamster not a mouse. Cute though.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interspecies confusion?

    Why is there a thumbnail picture of a hamster on the link to this article?

    Are hamsters involved too? The plot thickens ...

  36. Deadly_NZ

    Not tonight Dear

    I Have a Headache


  37. Magnus_Pym

    Thank to all the US based posters...

    ...for clearing up that confusion. Let me see if I've got this right:

    1. 95% of the worlds population calls it Paracetamol.

    2. WHO recommends it be called Paracetamol.

    3. US food and drug admin calls it Acetaminophen.

    4. US doctors and Pharmacists call it Tylenol.

    5. Tylenol comes in a host of formulations many containing paracetamol (acetaminophen).

    6. Tylenol is a trade name and uses a bizarre and opaque numbering system to differentiate between the different formulations.

    What could be more straight forward than that?

  38. Ylydxi Reclo

    Even if this works -

    Suppose the paracetamol works for 99.9% of the snakes. Then the 0.1% which are resistant to it survive and breed an updated generation of snakes, now also Resistant Against Paracetamol (tm). Bravo. Problem solved.

  39. Stoneshop

    So they switched

    To "War WITH Drugs"

  40. wayne 8
    Dead Vulture

    snake clubbing day?

    I guess Guam doesn't celebrate Snake Clubbing Day, the heathens.

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