Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Angelo Villagomez: Snake Killer

The entire MIC membership was invited to go on a "snake walk" with USDA last night. Out of the 30 people attending our conference, can you guess how many people went?


Apparently tree huggers don't like snakes.

Not me.

I was totally stoked to go on this "snake walk." Sure, meeting conservation leaders from across the region, staying in a fancy hotel, and eating at TGI Friday's is exciting...but not compared to catching Brown tree snakes!

I wouldn't miss this night for the world.

John and Larry: Our guides from USDA.
Our guides from USDA, John and Larry, met us in the Marriott lobby as night fell and we piled into the USDA snake trucks.

This wasn't so much a "snake walk" as it was an "air-conditioned, snake ride." It really felt like we were on some reality show adventure tour.

The trucks are equipped with a movable flood light that the USDA guys use to spot snakes crawling along fences. We didn't find anything on our first drive by, but at the power sub station off of Marine Drive, I spotted something moving in one of the traps.

Steve Why MICS
Can you see me?: Steve Why, Executive Director of Marshall Islands Conservation Society, takes a peek at a Brown tree snake in a cage.
It was a snake!

I was ready to climb the fence to get to the other side, but John informed me that the sub station employees checked the cages every other day for snakes. They'd get this guy in the morning.

Oh well.

There were about five more snakes in the cages ringing the substation, but we just left them there for someone else to collect.

After the sub station we drove to one of the military housing developments, I forget the name.

Our truck turned right and went through the complex counterclockwise, while the other truck, carrying Steve Why from the Marshalls and Kathleen Herman from Saipan, turned left.

Highway 1: Fences are the best place to find Brown tree snakes. Snakes are attracted to the large number of lizards and insects on the fence.
This place was Brown tree snake central. We saw several snakes already trapped in cages, then after about 15 minutes of spotting along the fence, we found one.

Caught: We only found one Brown tree snake along the fence, although we saw about 20 already trapped in cages.
This guy wasn't too big, probably only 2-3 feet. He was just slithering across the top of the fence looking for a scooby snack.

Come here, buddy: John used thick gloves and a pole to take the snake off the fence.
Our guide, John, was great. He let us take several pictures before finally trapping the little bird killer.

He broke out some thick gloves and a snake pole and caught him. He made it look so easy.

What's that smell?: As soon as you catch the snakes they start pissing all over you. The are nasty little creatures.
After catching the snake, John let Alyssa and me handle the snake.


They are nasty, smelly little creatures. I can't imagine anyone wanting to eat one of these. No wonder they are at the top of the food chain.

Smile!: Alyssa shows off the biggest snake of the night. Who cares if she's hurting it? It's destined for destruction.
After catching that first snake, we circled around until we met up with the other truck.

They had four snakes to our one!

A Good Night's Work: Steve and Kathleen's team caught four snakes, while Allysa and I only caught one.
John and Larry took the biggest snake, which was about 4-5 feel long, out of the bag and let us examine it.

The snakes are really amazing.

I hope they all die.

Snake Killers: Angelo and Alyssa with a bag of snakes.
Up until last night I had never seen a Brown tree snake in the wild. Now I've seen over 20 and handled several.

It was a great experience and I recommend you experience a "snake walk" if you get the chance, but I don't think I ever need to do this again.


Bruce A. Bateman said...

Since thousands are caught, what about using them for food? Rattlers taste good, I've eaten a cottonmouth caught at a campsite one evening in Florida...pretty good eating.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

My brain is being pulled in a million directions this week.

I could have done a better job on this post, but you get what you get.


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I don't think there's enough meat. I four foot long snake is only as thick as your finger.

the un cheesy Bree said...

I was just at the National Zoo in DC and their are 2 birds there that are now extinct on Guam because of the snake. I got a picture of one of them. I"ll get it uploaded soon.

Saipan Writer said...

You wouldn't be talking about the nightingale reed warbler, would you? Because Rep. Stanley Torres wants it taken off of the endangered species list, according to today's Tribune article. Extinct in Guam. Saipan and Alamagan habitat only. But he says they inhibit development and they're nesting outside his house!

(I'm sure complying with federal environmental regs is a much bigger deterrent to investment than our current barrage of power outages and the threat that power will be out completely starting tomorrow.)

Good thing there's a zoo.

bradinthesand said...

you could find a lot more snakes on capitol hill, but you'll need bigger bags...

the un cheesy Bree said...

it was a micronesian king fisher. and the picture is now uploaded. Also, they Nat'l Zoo is working on breeding kiwi birds in captivity to help New Zealand, since 70% of the eggs are lost each year to mongoose. Another introduced species.