The War On Snakes Continues

by Jonah Goldberg

While Florida seems to be following my advice in the worthy and necessary battle against invading giant snakes from Burma. When I wrote that post last year, I got a surprising amount of grief from some people saying that I was a hypocrite for supporting government intervention against enormous serpents sneaking into our country but not for, say, childhood obesity or something. As I said at the time, guilty as charged:

I’ll go one further: I think it is the right and proper role of government to protect us from giant alien snakes that are destroying our environment, threatening our children and pets. If you want to call me a RINO for that, go for it. I can do without the cowboy poetry festivals, but invasive giant snake genocide: mark me down for a yes.

Well, the latest news is that the U.S. government is taking a different approach in Guam. It is planning a major operation whereby mice spiked with acetaminophen (which brown snakes have no tolerance for) will be used to poison the brown tree snake which has pretty much eradicated the indigenous birds of Guam. I am still a skeptic about government interventions, but I think battling invading serpents is a proper concern and function for government. And again, not every battle has to be a big-government program. In Florida, they’re wisely offering bounties for every Burmese no-legged intruder in our midst. In Guam, they’re taking a different approach. That’s fine with me, different horses for different courses and all that. 

But make no mistake. The brown tree snake must go. (I have a small obsession with, and a good memory for, invasive species stories in general and ones about snakes in particular). This is from 1992 article in the New York Times:

The menace is the brown tree snake, infamous for having wiped out most of Guam’s forest bird species. This five-foot-long serpent first descended like a plague on Guam just 30 years ago, but it has bred so fast that there are now as many as 30,000 snakes per square mile in some areas.

In Hawaii, the beast has been kept at bay so far. At least that is what Hawaii’s officials keep hoping as they intercept the snakes that occasionally drop down from the holds and wheel wells of planes flying into Hawaii from Guam.

The snake would be a social menace as well as a threat to Hawaii’s already endangered native birds. Its behavior in Guam could well furnish scenes for a horror movie: armies of snakes crawling at night along electrical wires and hanging off fences; parents waking up in the morning to discover the coils of one of these serpents wrapped tight around their baby in a crib, chewing the child’s fingers; snakes swallowing puppies, kittens, domesticated rabbits and chickens wholesale, and, in bathrooms all around the island country, hundreds of snake heads popping out of drainpipes, ready with a painful and slightly venomous bite.

Now, for those who see no government role here, I ask you to replace the word “snake” with, say, “North Korean special forces” or words to that effect. “Armies of armies of North Korean special forces crawling at night along electrical wires and hanging off fences.” ”North Korean special forces swallowing [American] puppies and kittens.” “North Korean special forces chewing on the [American] child’s fingers.” “And, in bathrooms all around the island country, hundreds of North Korean soldiers popping out of drainpipes, ready with a painful and slightly venomous bite.”

Would you still sit idly by and say government has no role? If you’re answer is still no, I say to you, Why don’t you just move to snakeland and join your slithering chums since you love snakes so much?

American snakes, yes. Illegal-immigrant snakes, no. On this there can be no debate. 

UPDATE: In the comments section below Scott Wilson writes:

One of the other unintended consequences of the Guam brown snake invasion that isn’t talked about (necessarily) is spiders. In the jungle areas, and even in the inhabited areas, Guam has an INSANE number of spiders – some of which, are the size of small children. Apparently, without birds to keep them in check, spiders have taken the place over.

Me: Oh that is just great. Now we have spiders joining forces with the snakes against the humans. Now Mr. Snakey-snake-lover are you with me? Or do you want to live in a world where you can’t go to the bathroom in the morning without a by-your-leave from a spider and a how-do-you-do from a snake? 

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