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Surface material and snout-vent length predict vertical scaling ability in brown treesnakes:an evaluation of multispecies barriers for invasive species control on Guam

April 16, 2021

The combination of snake-proof barriers and an aerial toxicant delivery system for snake suppression may allow large-scale control of invasive brown treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) on Guam. However, suppression or local eradication of several other species (e.g., introduced ungulates, cats, rodents) may be required for successful restoration and recovery of forest habitat and reintroduction of native fauna. Island-wide eradication of invasive species is unlikely on Guam, and existing snake-proof barriers are largely ineffective against cats, rodents, shrews, or monitors. Improved barrier technology and pest-control tools may together provide a viable solution to support localized restoration of species and habitats. We designed and tested prototype multispecies barriers using materials known to repel ungulates, cats, and rodents, with a focus on testing the ability of a rolled hood installed over three different mesh designs to repel brown treesnakes and black rats (Rattus rattus). Woven wire (4.9 × 12 mm aperture, 2.5 mm dia. wire) repelled 99.1% of all snakes, including ≥1031 breach attempts by 112 individuals and 2 successful breaches by 1 small individual. Woven wire (6 × 6 mm aperture, 2.7 mm dia. wire) repelled 100% of all snakes, including 611 breach attempts by 65 individuals. Mini chain link mesh (7 × 9 mm aperture, 1 mm dia. wire) repelled 100% of all snakes, including 1053 breach attempts by 97 individuals. Brown treesnakes were unable to climb either of the two woven wire designs (1642 breach attempts by 160 individuals), making the rolled hood serve as a redundant secondary snake barrier. The rolled hood repelled 100% of all snakes when individuals were provided a climbable surface to access the hood (94 breach attempts by 39 snakes). The probability of a snake being able to climb the mini chain link mesh was inversely related to SVL. The rolled hood repelled 100% of all rats, with 5079 breach attempts by 21 individuals. Recommended next steps include consultation with engineers to address wind loading, structural integrity, material interactions, and integration of decision support tools to optimize cost and efficacy of barrier designs on the landscape.