The Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis (Merrem, 1802), was accidentally transported to the island of Guam shortly after World War II. Over the following two decades it spread throughout the island with little public or professional recognition of its extent or impacts. This secretive nocturnal arboreal snake occurs in all habitats on Guam, from grasslands to forests. Under the right conditions, it is capable of high rates of reproduction and population growth. The Brown Tree Snake caused the extirpation of 13 of Guam's 22 native breeding birds and contributed to the extirpation of several species of native bats and lizards. Guam's 12 forest birds were especially impacted, with 10 species eliminated and the other two severely reduced. In addition, the snake continues to substantially impact domestic poultry, pets, the island's electrical power infrastructure, and human health. To protect other vulnerable Pacific islands, the U.S. government annually spends several million dollars inspecting cargo outbound from Guam to exclude Brown Tree Snakes. Cargo destinations most at risk are in Micronesia, especially the Northern Mariana Islands, but Guam also has direct air transportation links to Hawai‘i that will soon be supplemented with direct ship traffic. Ultimately, all Pacific islands are at risk but especially those obtaining cargo through Guam.
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