Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fish & Wildlife: Snake sighting at American Memorial Park

A confirmed snake sighting was reported by a National Park Service employee at approximately 8pm on Thursday, May 1, 2008, to Department of Lands and Natural Resources-Division of Fish and Wildlife staff. DLNR-DFW responded at 8:15pm and began searching the area. On May 2, 2008 DLNR-DFW staff set up alert notices, snake traps and have begun conducting visual and canine searches in the area.

The sighting occurred directly across the street from the Smiling Cove Marina on American Memorial Park property. The witness reported the snake as it slithered along a guide wire between two telephone poles. Although the witness observed the snake for about 2-3 seconds before the snake fled, he was very certain that it was a snake. The witness had recently been trained by the U.S. Geological Survey's Rapid Response Snake Team in Guam and was conducting a snake search around the park when he observed the snake.

After DLNR-DFW staff conducted the snake-sighting interview on May 2, it was concluded that the sighting was credible and the Guam-based USGS Rapid Response Team was called in to assist. National Park Service also called in their trained snake searchers from Guam to assist during the response. On the evening of May 2, 2008, 18 trained snake searchers and one detector canine were at the scene searching for the snake.

DLNR-DFW has been working with the USGS Rapid Response Team and National Park Service in response to this snake sighting. The sighting location and the immediately adjacent areas have been surveyed and search zones have been established. These zones are currently being and will continue to be intensively searched for several more weeks. Searches are being conducted at night by trained personnel and dog teams. In addition, several BTS detector dogs will be utilized during the day to attempt to locate the snake or at the very least narrow search efforts.

The American Memorial Park is considered a high-risk site for a brown tree snake population due to its close proximity to the commercial seaport and excellent habitat for snakes. The Rapid Response Teams are looking for the sighted snake, but they are also expanding their search efforts to locate a snake population.

Division of Fish and Wildlife director Sylvan O. Igisomar is reminding residents that all snakes seen in the CNMI should be approached with caution and be reported immediately to the snake hotline 28-SNAKE (287-6253). If the snake sighted is confirmed as a brown tree snake, it may easily be killed by a blow to the head or body with a heavy object. Brown tree snakes are typically described as brown to olive green in color, with yellowish bellies, a triangular shaped head that is noticeably larger than the neck, with vertical cat shaped pupils.

The brown tree snake was introduced on Guam in the 1940s and has since been responsible for the extinction of numerous bird and lizard species as well as frequent power outages. It also poses a health risk to infants. DFW reminds everyone that the CNMI has no native snake species. Therefore, it is extremely important to report all snake sightings to the DLNR-DFW immediately at the brown tree snake Hotline at 670-28-SNAKE (670-287-6253). (DFW)

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