The accidental introduction of the brown treesnake (BTS; Boiga irregularis) to the island of Guam after World War II set off a chain of bird, bat, and lizard extirpations. Fortunately, many of the eliminated species have the potential to be restored following population reduction or eradication of the snake. The primary operational tool for population reduction is an effective snake trap, but areas subjected to long-term trapping continue to support BTS, suggesting that some adult snakes are refractory to trapping. We closed a 5-ha area to BTS emigration and immigration and surveyed the population using trapping and visual surveys to determine whether a refractory stratum of adult snakes existed and if trapping was effective for snakes of all sizes. Our surveys included 101 trapping occasions and 109 visual surveys over 309 days, resulting in 2,522 detections of 122 individuals. We detected 44 of 45 supplemented snakes by this intensive sampling effort, which also revealed that trapping was fully effective for snakes >900 mm in snout–vent length (SVL), partially effective for snakes 700–900 mm SVL, and totally ineffective for smaller juveniles (350–700 mm SVL). Visual searching was effective for snakes of all sizes. As BTS mature at approximately 950–1,050 mm SVL, continuous trapping should suffice to eliminate recruitment in the absence of immigration. Immigration or inadequate effort is most likely responsible for the persistence of BTS in areas subject to long-term trapping. Thus, current efforts to capture trap-refractory adult snakes with alternate control tools are less likely to be successful than immigration barriers alone or in combination with elevated capture effort.
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Vol. 71 • No. 2