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Last updateFri, 23 Feb 2018 12am







    Wednesday, February 21, 2018-6:07:11A.M.






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Brown Tree Snake Program exceeds inspection performance for FY17

(Office of the Governor) — Closing out fiscal year 2017, Secretary of Lands and Natural Resources Anthony Benavente notes that the Brown Tree Snake Interdiction or BTS Program has exceeded its inspection performance for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

“The CNMI Brown Tree Snake Interdiction team has done amazing work in the past year and prevented the entry of snakes to the islands. I commend our program coordinator and K9 inspectors for their ongoing diligence to ensure that all vessels and cargo arriving at ports of entry on Saipan, Tinian, or Rota are clear and snake free. Our program performance standards for inspections are to maintain a 90 percent canine inspection rate of Guam-based cargo arrivals, and maintain approximately 450 snake traps at all CNMI ports of entry. I am very pleased that the team has exceeded this and no brown tree snakes have entered the CNMI,” Benavente said.

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The Brown Tree Snake Program has nine staffers, with one BTS Conservation Canine Trainer, four Saipan-based BTS Conservation Canine Handlers, one Tinian-based BTS Conservation Canine Handler, and two Rota-based BTS Conservation Canine Handlers.  Office of the Governor photo

According to Brown Tree Snake Program Coordinator Kevin Donmoyer, the program is made up of nine staffers, with one BTS Conservation Canine Trainer, four Saipan-based BTS Conservation Canine Handlers, one Tinian-based BTS Conservation Canine Handler, and two Rota-based BTS Conservation Canine Handlers.

The program received no credible snake sightings within the reporting period, although calls on the snake hotline were received. During this reporting period, three calls on Saipan and one on Rota were confirmed as brahminy blind snakes (Indotyphlops braminus), which are a non-injurious snake species known to be common in the CNMI.

Donmoyer said the island of Saipan exceeded the 90 percent inspection performance goal each month. At the same time 2,307 out of 2,423 commercial flights were successfully inspected. Of those inspections, 84.5 percent utilized a K-9 team and 12.3 percent were visually inspected.

“In addition to the commercial flights, the CNMI also received military aircraft. During the reporting period, the program inspected 38 military aircraft on Saipan, which used the international airport to refuel, unload/on-load personnel, or offload cargo prior to heading to the Northern Islands. During a May exercise, some helicopters preferentially came to Saipan prior to Tinian, so they may receive a BTS inspection. Saipan also received three military vessels, which unloaded vehicles and supplies for an exercise, and on Tinian, many aircraft landed as part of the COPE North and ARC-17 training exercises. Although all reported military flights were inspected, the program became aware of frequent Guam National Guard flights, which were not contacting Saipan operations prior to arrival. Once this hole in communication was identified in May, the Commanding Officers in Guam were notified and Saipan personnel are a part of the National Guard’s phone tree, ensuring we are alerted of their future arrivals,” Donmoyer said.

In terms of cargo entering the CNMI’s seaports, Donmoyer noted that the majority of the seaport activity occurs on Saipan, with a minimal amount of seaport activity occurring on Rota and Tinian. On Saipan, 94 cargo inspections were reported and on Rota there has been an increase in the number of private vessels transporting cargo from Guam. On average, BTS staff on Rota expect four private-vessel arrivals per week at the small-boat harbor on Rota, and three vessels with cargo on Tinian during the reporting period.

“We are happy to report that there have been no credible BTS sightings reported. Our program has shown continued improvement over the year, but there is still more growth ahead. We look forward to improving our data collection on all islands and strengthen contact with all incoming vessels and we hope for even better outcomes as time progresses,” Donmoyer said.

Expressing the need to combat all invasive species, Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres emphasized that the Brown Tree Snake program plays a key part in safeguarding our ecosystem and community.

“Invasive species significantly damage our local habitat and can have significant effects and disruption to the economy. Preventing the spread of BTS is a continual effort, and I recognize and commend the efforts of our BTS team who’ve maintained and exceeded their program’s inspection performance. Again, we’ve been so fortunate to say that our Commonwealth is snake-free and that our bird population is thriving. DLNR’s perseverance has helped preserve our current bird habitat and ecosystem. As we continue work in containing and eradicating invasive species such as the coconut rhino beetles on Rota, I maintain our commitment to providing the necessary resources to combat all invasive species as much as possible,” Governor Torres said.

The last snake to be trapped outside of Guam was on the island of Rota in August of 2014. The last BTS found on an aircraft in the CNMI occurred in 2000 on the island of Saipan.