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Title: Development of artificial bait for brown treesnake suppression

item KIMBALL, BRUCE A. - Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
item STELTING, SCOTT A. - Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
item MCAULIFFE, THOMAS W. - Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
item STAHL, RANDAL S. - Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
item Garcia, Rafael
item PITT, WILLIAM C. - Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Submitted to: Biological Invasions
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/23/2015
Publication Date: 2/1/2016
Citation: Kimball, B., Stelting, S., Mcauliffe, T., Stahl, R., Garcia, R.A., Pitt, W. 2016. Development of artificial bait for brown treesnake suppression. Biological Invasions. 18:359–369.

Interpretive Summary: Accidental introduction of the brown treesnake to the American territory of Guam has been an ecological disaster for the island. The snake has devastated many native species, especially birds and reptiles. One of the main strategies used to control the snake population is the distribution of toxic bait material. Currently used baits have disadvantages including difficulty in preparing the baits, and a short duration that the baits are effective after being deployed. This research explored many alternatives in an effort to design highly attractive bait material that would not suffer from these disadvantages. Sensory characteristics of the current baits were characterized. Materials, including a variety of animal by-products, were used in formulating baits, and the baits were tested both in the laboratory and in wilderness areas in Guam. The most effective and practical baits tested were made from the commercial food product Spam which had been treated with a particular mix of fats to give it the correct sensory profile for attracting the snakes. This advance in bait design is expected to aid in brown treesnake control efforts by increasing the number of snakes that can be eliminated on a limited budget.

Technical Abstract: The brown treesnake (Boiga irregularis) was accidentally introduced to Guam in the late 1940s or early 1950s, probably from the Solomon Islands. A native of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, the brown treesnake (BTS) continues to threaten the economy and ecology of Guam and is currently the subject of a cooperative program to control snake populations on the island and prevent its spread throughout the Pacific Rim. Delivery of toxic baits is a primary component of eradication efforts. While many food items tested as baits for toxicant delivery provide relevant food prey cues leading to investigatory behaviors in BTS, only a few items tested in the past two decades have adequately promoted reliable consumption. Chief among them is the dead neonatal mouse (DNM). A series of chemical and bioassays were performed to identify materials with similar sensory qualities as DNM. Among the many items tested in a series of field experiments with free-ranging BTS in Guam, a processed meat product (Spam®) treated with an artificial mouse fat mixture was highly preferred by BTS. Furthermore, Spam® baits demonstrated excellent durability under field conditions. Further development of this bait offers great potential to satisfy many desirable attributes for BTS baiting operations.