The Myth and the Truth of Brown Tree Snake on Guam
Every so often, I like to remind my friends and family who have never been to Guam, that we are still alive and well. The brown tree snakes have not eaten us yet. A common myth about Guam is that Guam is infested with brown tree snakes, and that anyone moving to Guam should be aware. The truth is I haven’t seen a brown tree snake in years.
If anyone has read some of the articles on the internet about the brown tree snakes, you may have heard some over exaggerated story. Many of the articles seem to portray the brown tree snakes on Guam as ferocious predators out to kill. But that’s because the next ferocious predator on Guam is the pig or coconut crab. In reality the brown tree snakes basically prey on birds eggs, which basically just lays there to be eaten by anybody or anyone that can climb a tree. Brown tree snakes on Guam do not attack humans and really just look like an “overgrown worm”.
Not that brown tree snakes are commonly seen, but the most common place you will see a brown tree snake is on the road near a jungle, “dead”. The snakes seem to climb up the power pole and get electrocuted, fall to the ground, and get run over by cars until they are flat as a pancake. The life of a snake, exciting!
My most memorable experience with a brown tree snake on Guam was in elementary school, which I remember vividly. It was probably the most exciting day of elementary school. A classmate of mine brought a brown tree snake for “show and tell’. When he brought it to class, he brought the snake in a big aquarium, with a bunch of newspaper in it. The snake was all wrapped up hiding in the newspaper. The girls were all scared and the boys were all excited. As a kid, the only snakes I’ve all seen were the giant snakes in the movies or the zoo, so I was expecting a snake that was the size of a corn on the cob and about 5 feet long. When it was time to show the snake, I was shocked. The snake looked like an extension cord, skinny as a pencil with a head the size of a quarter. I was a bit disappointed and so were many of my classmates.
My friend who was showing the snake was not a bit scared, he pulled the snake out of the aquarium with his bare hands and was showing it to the class. The most dramatic moment of the exhibition was when my friend was not paying attention and was playing with the snake, the snake bit him. Everyone was shocked and imagined the worse. The nurse came by and all she did was clean out the wound with Hydrogen Peroxide and put a band aide and all was well. Basically the brown tree snakes on Guam do not have any venom that pose a threat to humans.
The truth about brown tree snakes on Guam is that they are just over grown worm and can’t really kill you. The likely hood of a snake encounter is rare and the even when you do get bit, a band aide and some peroxide will do the trick. Probably safer to get bit by a brown tree snake then a mosquito!