Wildlife Services responds to typhoon

By Robert Gosnell, Director, USDA Wildlife Services-Guam/Pacific

A canine team looks for stowaway brown treesnakes. ©USDA Wildlife Services

While most mainland U.S. residents were focusing on the potential of Hurricane Florence to harm coasts in the Southeast, other American territories were under threat from another massive and damaging weather pattern. In its aftermath, Wildlife Services in Guam has been called out to help prevent additional problems.

The island of Rota took the brunt of Typhoon Mangkhut as the Category 2 storm passed over the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) on Sept. 10 with sustained winds of 139 miles per hour and dropping eight to 10 inches of rain. With damage to the airport, power outages and widespread damage, the U.S. military agreed to provide transportation for first responders between the four major islands of Saipan, Tinian, Rota and Guam. Disaster relief will be arriving in cargo shipments, many from Guam, which is the source of concern.

A brown treesnake appears on an airport wall. ©USDA Wildlife Services

“Our program is asking all agencies, businesses and citizens on Rota to make sure all boats, planes and cargo arriving from Guam receive a required snake inspection from the CNMI Brown treesnake program or USDA upon arrival,” said Kevin Donmoyer, the BTS Program Coordinator for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the CNMI.

“Let us not make this disaster even worse by allowing brown treesnakes to infiltrate our beautiful island during this time of crisis,” Donmoyer said.

USDA’s Wildlife Services-Guam has provided a snake detector canine and handler to assist Rota with inspections of all arriving cargo.

A NASA image shows Typhoon Mangkhut over the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

It is believed that brown treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) came to Guam as a stowaway in the mid-1900s, eventually causing wide-scale destruction to native birds and lizards. To prevent the further distribution of the invasive snake in the region, Wildlife Services-Guam employs two dozen teams of snake-detector canines and handlers to inspect all outgoing commercial and military shipments from Guam.

After passing the CNMI, Typhoon Mangkhut gained strength hitting the Philippines as a Category 5 and weakening before hitting Hong Kong as one the year’s strongest storms.


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