BROWN TREESNAKE ALERT - SIGHTING ON SAIPAN

January 17, 2016 - Divison of Fish and Wildlife - An interagency Brown Treesnake Rapid Response team has been deployed in response to two sightings of a brown treesnake in the Dandan area of Saipan, in the area northeast of the Saipan Airport. The first snake was reported to the CNMI Brown Treesnake program on January 2, 2016, with an additional snake sighting, which had occurred approximately 2 weeks earlier, reported on Jan. 8, 2016. The sightings were reported by residents of Dandan. Expert investigators conducted and analyzed detailed interviews with the people reporting sightings, and deemed those reports credible.

On Jan. 5, 2016, a team of 6 highly trained Brown Treesnake searchers was deployed by U.S. Geological Survey on Guam, to work alongside 13 biologists and staff of the CNMI Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the CNMI BTS Coordinator from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This Rapid Response team has been establishing search transects, cutting trails, conducting intensive night searches, and setting snake traps to cover the area the snake or snakes may have reached. Over 80 mouse-baited traps have been set. Searchers wearing orange safety vests are using high-powered headlamps to carefully search the ground and trees for 4-5 hours nightly, 7 days a week. Brown Treesnakes tend to move and search for prey at night and around dawn and dusk.

"A brown treesnake sighting in the CNMI is serious business", said DLNR-DFW Director, Manny Pangelinan, "We don't take snake sightings lightly. This effort requires the people's involvement to make sure the brown treesnake is killed and does not establish itself on Saipan. This is not just the agencies' work, we can't do it alone. We ask the people of Dandan to be vigilant and help in this team effort. If you see a snake, kill it and report it by calling 28-SNAKE."

Richard Seman, DLNR Secretary, says ""We cannot afford to have any snakes establish here in the CNMI. The bird population is currently healthy which in turn provides us natural defense against potential invasive species such as the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle. Without our birds, perhaps more invasive species would be present on our island just like Guam where there are practically no birds."

Sylvan Igisomar, the USFWS Coordinator/Biologist for the CNMI Brown Treesnake Program stresses, "The brown treesnake could have devastating effects on not just Saipan's unique animals and plants, but its economy as well, as seen in places like Guam. We are working with our partners and local government, but also need the public's help to make sure this doesn't happen and Saipan remains brown treesnake free."

Adam Knox, BTS expert from USGS in Guam, instructs "If you see a snake approach it slowly, as not to scare it away, then strike it with a sharp object preferably decapitating it or cutting it in half. This is most easily accomplished when a snake is laying on a hard surface. If a Brown Treesnake is in vegetation it may be necessary to grab it by the tail or mid-body with your hands in order to keep it from escaping, but exercise caution when attempting this and keep a safe distance from the head. Immediately kill the snake once you have it in your control by using a sharp object such as a machete or shovel tip to strike the snake. Brown Treesnake rapid response is a top priority for USGS in the Marianas as well as other island regions throughout the world. We will continue to work closely with our partners at the CNMI DLNR-DFW and US Fish & Wildlife Service to identify any possible Brown Treesnakes existing on Saipan."

The Rapid Response team sincerely thanks the community of Dandan for their support and enthusiasm, and for the cooperation and kindness they have shown the search team. The USGS will remain on island coordinating the intensive Rapid Response through Jan. 24. The DLNR-DFW will continue long-term trapping, nighttime snake searches, and bird and snake prey monitoring.

The BTS Rapid Response team urges the public to assist this effort by calling the snake hotline at 28-SNAKE (287-6253) if they see a snake, or if they have seen a snake previously and did not report it at that time.