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Demographic response of brown treesnakes to extended population suppression

December 28, 2021

From a management perspective, reptiles are relatively novel invasive taxa. Few methods for reptile control have been developed and very little is known about their effectiveness for reducing reptile populations, particularly when the goal is eradication. Many reptiles, and especially snakes, are cryptic, secretive, and undergo extended periods of inactivity, traits that decrease detection probabilities and create challenges in estimating population size or evaluating management effects. The brown treesnake (Boiga irregularis) is a notorious invasive species that continues to cause major ecological and economic harm following their introduction to the island of Guam after World War II. They have been the subject of intensive research on the effectiveness of various techniques to control snakes, including the first ever aerial system for the distribution of toxic acetaminophen baits for reptile control. We provide a cohort-based life table for a cryptic and invasive reptile undergoing extended population control using toxic baits from March 2017–2020. We also evaluated the effects of single (toxic bait) versus multi-tool (toxic bait and live trapping) management efforts on population trajectories, and estimated which population vital rates are most important for influencing population growth or decline in a treated landscape. Treatment of the population with acetaminophen-laced baits resulted in an immediate reduction followed by a gradual population decline that suggested that eradication was the probable outcome given sufficient treatment time but that the period of treatment was decades in magnitude. Inclusion of live trapping reduced the predicted time required to achieve eradication by more than half. Preventing the transition of 1,000-mm snout-vent length (SVL) females to larger sizes was predicted to have the greatest effect on population reduction based on integral projection modeling. Our results suggest that toxic baits are capable of eradicating brown treesnakes in an enclosure, although inclusion of trapping reduced overall treatment time required. Tools that effectively target females >1,000 mm SVL may have the greatest effect on reducing overall treatment timelines.

Publication Year 2022
Title Demographic response of brown treesnakes to extended population suppression
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.22136
Authors Melia G. Nafus, Shane R. Siers, Brenna A. Levine, Zachary C. Quiogue, Amy A. Yackel Adams
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70227293
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center