Sunday, August 02, 2009

Battling Guam's Fierce Brown Tree Snake...

For a place that is nothing more than a dot on the map in the middle of the vast blue oceans of the Pacific, Guam has it's share of fame. A few years back there was an email floating around about a job in Guam where a guy goes from village to village to deflower young women when they reach a certain age. Also, anyone who knows anything about WWII is familiar with Guam's importance in the war.

But one of the best known rumors of Guam is the legend of the snakes. I've read that we have as much as 13,000 snakes per square mile on Guam; which would mean a total of 5.2 million. That's almost 35 snakes for every person. Although you can find them around the island, no one in Guam believes that number to be true. In the three years that I've lived in Guam, I've only seen one of the infamous Brown Tree Snakes. And that was a snake in a cage that some missionaries had as a pet. But after today, Anna and I think it may be a more serious threat than we had surmised.

Behind our chapel we have a large field. Anna is fruit crazy and she is always bugging me to get her some of the bananas that grow wildly there. Since they usually go to waste or are stolen by the neighbors anyway, I've gotten her some from time to time. Anna was pushing me to get them today, so I took a kitchen knife and cut down a tree that was nearly ripe. I found a gecko hiding out in the bunch. I scared him out and loaded the bunch in the back of my car.

We took the bananas home and cleaned them up. The bunch was still green, so I put them in our guest bathroom tub to ripen for a while.

Shortly after it got dark, I went to use the toilet. As I sat down I saw what looked like a skinny rope at the base of the toilet, but it seemed to move just slightly. Seeing as how inanimate objects shouldn't move on their own accord I stood up to verify my fear. Yeah, it was a brown tree snake. These snakes grow to be 3-6 feet long on average and the largest one ever found was here on Guam at 9 feet. This particular one was maybe 18 inches long and pretty small - obviously a juvenile.

I didn't want the snake to get out of sight while I went looking for something to grab it with, so I asked Anna to grab something. Perhaps that was a bad idea. Anna is a bit on the squeamish side. Yesterday she was concerned when she saw a harmless little gecko on our door. So this snake was a bit much for her to handle. The second she saw it she was up on the futon in the guest room convinced the whole apartment was now riddled with snakes, ala Snakes on a Plane.

I was able to convince her to step on the floor again so she could grab me the salad tongs. The only way to do that was explain that either she stay there and watch the snake while I get the tongs or she gets to leave the room and let me deal with it. Once she handed me the tongs I maneuvered carefully and was able to grab the snake close to the head. Although these snakes are not deadly to adults, I still didn't fancy getting bitten. Once we had the thing controlled I realized this would make great blog fodder, so I got the camera out.

The snake in our salad tongs with the vessel of its entry in the background.

These snakes do not belong in Guam. They were accidentally introduces via cargo around the end of WWII. Authorities ask that you don't release these things back into the wild. They want these snakes dead, dead, dead. Quite frankly, so did Anna and I.

I had Anna bring me a cutting knife from the kitchen. I locked the salad tongs and lay the serpent in the sink I then leaned on my sword a little. This little bugger was surprisingly difficult to pierce. It took more work than anticipated, but before long he gave up the ghost.

After he was good and dead we took him to a woodland area directly behind our apartment to send him to his final resting place.

One would think this was the end of it, but no. My poor traumatized wife hasn't been the same since. I have scoured every nook and cranny of this place looking for a second snake that my wife is convinced is lurking around. Every fifteen minutes she asks me to look again. Although she wants me to protect her, my previous proximity to the snake has made me an "untouchable" for the time being. She has been in the fetal position for the last 4 hours now and shows no sign of recovery. There has even been concerns that there may be a deadly rattle snake poised to strike in those now cursed bananas. (No, really, I'm not making that up.) Rationality has taken a back seat in this time of fear. She hasn't been able to stop thinking or talking about the snake.

"Let's move."

We are currently looking for a house in Guam anyway. "Of course, honey, we are looking. We'll be moved in a couple of months."

"I don't mean out of the apartment, I mean out of Guam."