The South Pacific island of Guam is infested with brown tree snakes. Gazillions of them. The snakes have decimated the island's bird population, they bite, and they have even caused power outages by slithering along electrical lines. Not to fear, though, the US military has come up with an ingenious solution: Dead, acetaminophen-laced neo-natal mice will be dropped from helicopters. The snakes, which are susceptible to Tylenol poisoning, will eat the mice and helpfully die off. Horrific? Kind of, but here's the kicker:
"U.S. government scientists have been perfecting the mice-drop strategy for more than a decade with support from the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior."
Now, you may think, ten years an inordinately long time to spend perfecting the art of dropping mice. I certainly thought so. Until, that is, I got my hands on the classified reports of the unit assigned this vital task. Herewith, a selection:
7 August 2003--Had the first meeting of Special Forces troops assigned to Operation Mouse Droppings. (For the record, we would like to reiterate our objection to this code name and would resubmit for your consideration Operation Fuzzy Hailstorm.) After briefing the troops on the vitality of the mission, we began basic training.
8 August 2003--While we remain optimistic that this mission will have the desired effect of eradicating the brown tree snake infestation on Guam, we are concerned that the original timetable--to begin dropping mice by year's end--may be optimistic. Of the four team-members assigned to the crucial mouse-selection brigade, only two demonstrated satisfactory aptitude on the initial Mouse Identification Exam (MIE), correctly selecting "dead mice" from an array of objects on a neutral field: Sgt. Wollensky mistakenly pointed out a hamster, while Sgt. Jackson selected a 1983 edition of the World Almanac. We will continue training.
17 February 2005--All troops are now able to identify neo-natal mice with an average 70% proficiency. We will begin Phase II training in two weeks. The hiatus is undesirable but inevitable, as Dr. Shipley and I have been selected to present a keynote speech on the rodent ballistics at a conference in Rotterdam.
31 March 2006--Setback! After more than a year of high-intensity physical training, we have suddenly had to replace Sgt. Masterson! He became distressed when we explained our intention to drop mice on snakes: Explaining that he didn't realize we were talking about "actual snakes," Masterson backed out due to his paralyzing fear of reptiles! I must confess, I had assumed the recruiters had done a better job of psychological screening. Fear of snakes! I guess we should be thankful that none of the recruits have a fear of flying!
3 April 2006--Sgt. Wollensky must be replaced due to his paralyzing fear of flying.
9 May 2007--A good day of mouse-drop drills: The squad all showed satisfactory proficiency in the ability to release neo-natal mice from their hands. Tomorrow we begin helicopter training. Once we have ascertained the team's ability to ride in a helicopter, we will begin the most significant portion of the testing, determining whether it is possible to ride in a helicopter AND drop mice at the same time.
16 October 2010--We finally managed to get airborne. All went well until we gave the order to commence mouse dropping. Only Sgt. Taylor successfully dropped his "payload." Jackson and Morrison failed to open their hands, and Peterson dropped a handful of mice INSIDE the helicopter. Chaos ensued, and we were lucky to escape with our lives. The adage "Mouse dropping is Hell" has never seemed truer.
8 November 2012--After an extended period of uncertainty, the re-election of President Obama has assured us that sufficient resources will continue to be directed to Operation Furry Hailstorm (once again, thank you for rethinking the name). The last six months of inactivity have no doubt dulled the skills of out mouse-droppers, but we feel confident that we can once again be ready to go by early spring 2013.