|  November 24, 2014  |  
Mostly Cloudy   27.0F  |  Forecast »
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed

Rat Island is Officially Rat-free - Restoration for Aleutian Seabirds Brings New Life to Refuge Island

Biologists who are restoring seabird habitat on a remote island in Alaska
Maritime National Wildlife Refuge confirmed today that Rat Island is now
rat-free. The report comes after two years of careful field monitoring at
Rat Island, where the invasive predator decimated native seabird
populations by preying on eggs and chicks.

"We’re incredibly pleased to see this fresh new start for Rat Island,"
said Randy Hagenstein, director of The Nature Conservancy in Alaska. "In
the Aleutians, great clouds of seabirds normally fill the skies over
islands teeming with life. The rats’ devastation had turned Rat Island into
an eerily quiet place."

Restoring habitat on Rat Island for native seabirds is the most ambitious
island habitat restoration project ever undertaken in the Northern
Hemisphere and the first in Alaska. The eradication of the non-native rats
took place in September of 2008 after four years of planning. The
restoration of the 10-square-mile island was led by Island Conservation,
The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Rat Island is the most ambitious restoration effort we’ve undertaken on a
refuge island, and we couldn’t have done it without our partners," said
Geoff Haskett, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Nearly 7,000 acres of wildlife refuge habitat has been reclaimed for
native wildlife and that is an exciting result."

Biologists have confirmed increased numbers of at least one native bird
after just two rat-free nesting seasons on the island. The giant song
sparrow, found only in the central and western Aleutian Islands, is now
commonly occurring on Rat Island. Song sparrows were only rarely seen on
the island prior to the restoration. Other species confirmed nesting on the
island and expected to benefit from rat removal include black
oystercatchers, glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, rock sandpipers,
common eiders, red faced cormorants and gray-crowned rosy finches.

"The presence of nesting birds is deeply gratifying," says Bill Waldman,
executive director of the nonprofit Island Conservation. "Our field team
was overjoyed to see so many song sparrows this year after working on the
island for several years with only an occasional glimpse of one."

Though Rat Island is a remote island in the Aleutian chain about 1,300
miles west of Anchorage, invasive Norway rats preyed on its seabird nests
after spilling from a 1780's shipwreck. The Rat Island restoration is the
most recent project in a long campaign to restore otherwise healthy seabird
habitat in the Aleutians.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been at work in the Aleutian
Islands, most of which lies within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife
Refuge, restoring seabird habitat by eradicating non-native species for
more than four decades. Non-native foxes have been taken off over 40
islands in the refuge including Rat Island but this was the first rat
eradication for the refuge.

To ensure that invasive rats don’t spread to other globally significant
seabird habitats in Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leads the
ongoing Stop Rats!campaign to help ships, harbors, and towns to prevent the
spread of rats.

"The history of Rat Island shows we need to prevent future disasters caused
by invasive species. Alaska is almost entirely rat-free, and it’s
absolutely vital we work together to keep it this way. Birds that build
nests on the ground – such as ducks, seabirds and songbirds – simply can’t
defend their eggs and chicks from non-native predators such as rats," said
Haskett of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Island habitat restorations are occurring across the globe. Worldwide,
there have been more than 300 successful eradications involving invasive
rodents. Rats are responsible for about half of all bird and reptile
extinctions on island habitats.

In 2008, the Rat Island Seabird Habitat Restoration team spread grain-based
bait pellets across the island from helicopters flying a GPS-guided flight
path.

Two years of monitoring following international standards revealed no sign
of rats. Although initial non-target mortality was higher than expected, no
sign of any additional bird mortality was observed in 2010 and populations
of affected bird species are already recovering on Rat Island.

With the rats gone, restoration partners and the Aleutian Pribilof Island
Association agree that an Aleut name would be a fitting tribute to the
restored island. APIA is now taking steps to enact a name change. Once a
name is selected, it will await approval from the U.S. Board on Geographic
Names.

For more information, please visit:

Rat Island Seabird Habitat Restoration Partnership:
www.seabirdrestoration.org (high-res photos available for download here)
Biologists who are restoring seabird habitat on a remote island in Alaska
Maritime National Wildlife Refuge confirmed today that Rat Island is now
rat-free. The report comes after two years of careful field monitoring at
Rat Island, where the invasive predator decimated native seabird
populations by preying on eggs and chicks.

"We’re incredibly pleased to see this fresh new start for Rat Island,"
said Randy Hagenstein, director of The Nature Conservancy in Alaska. "In
the Aleutians, great clouds of seabirds normally fill the skies over
islands teeming with life. The rats’ devastation had turned Rat Island into
an eerily quiet place."

Restoring habitat on Rat Island for native seabirds is the most ambitious
island habitat restoration project ever undertaken in the Northern
Hemisphere and the first in Alaska. The eradication of the non-native rats
took place in September of 2008 after four years of planning. The
restoration of the 10-square-mile island was led by Island Conservation,
The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Rat Island is the most ambitious restoration effort we’ve undertaken on a
refuge island, and we couldn’t have done it without our partners," said
Geoff Haskett, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Nearly 7,000 acres of wildlife refuge habitat has been reclaimed for
native wildlife and that is an exciting result."

Biologists have confirmed increased numbers of at least one native bird
after just two rat-free nesting seasons on the island. The giant song
sparrow, found only in the central and western Aleutian Islands, is now
commonly occurring on Rat Island. Song sparrows were only rarely seen on
the island prior to the restoration. Other species confirmed nesting on the
island and expected to benefit from rat removal include black
oystercatchers, glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, rock sandpipers,
common eiders, red faced cormorants and gray-crowned rosy finches.

"The presence of nesting birds is deeply gratifying," says Bill Waldman,
executive director of the nonprofit Island Conservation. "Our field team
was overjoyed to see so many song sparrows this year after working on the
island for several years with only an occasional glimpse of one."

Though Rat Island is a remote island in the Aleutian chain about 1,300
miles west of Anchorage, invasive Norway rats preyed on its seabird nests
after spilling from a 1780's shipwreck. The Rat Island restoration is the
most recent project in a long campaign to restore otherwise healthy seabird
habitat in the Aleutians.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been at work in the Aleutian
Islands, most of which lies within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife
Refuge, restoring seabird habitat by eradicating non-native species for
more than four decades. Non-native foxes have been taken off over 40
islands in the refuge including Rat Island but this was the first rat
eradication for the refuge.

To ensure that invasive rats don’t spread to other globally significant
seabird habitats in Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leads the
ongoing Stop Rats!campaign to help ships, harbors, and towns to prevent the
spread of rats.

"The history of Rat Island shows we need to prevent future disasters caused
by invasive species. Alaska is almost entirely rat-free, and it’s
absolutely vital we work together to keep it this way. Birds that build
nests on the ground – such as ducks, seabirds and songbirds – simply can’t
defend their eggs and chicks from non-native predators such as rats," said
Haskett of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Island habitat restorations are occurring across the globe. Worldwide,
there have been more than 300 successful eradications involving invasive
rodents. Rats are responsible for about half of all bird and reptile
extinctions on island habitats.

In 2008, the Rat Island Seabird Habitat Restoration team spread grain-based
bait pellets across the island from helicopters flying a GPS-guided flight
path.

Two years of monitoring following international standards revealed no sign
of rats. Although initial non-target mortality was higher than expected, no
sign of any additional bird mortality was observed in 2010 and populations
of affected bird species are already recovering on Rat Island.

With the rats gone, restoration partners and the Aleutian Pribilof Island
Association agree that an Aleut name would be a fitting tribute to the
restored island. APIA is now taking steps to enact a name change. Once a
name is selected, it will await approval from the U.S. Board on Geographic
Names.

For more information, please visit:

Rat Island Seabird Habitat Restoration Partnership:
www.seabirdrestoration.org (high-res photos available for download here)
Island Conservation: www.islandconservation.org
The Nature Conservancy in Alaska: www.nature.org/alaska
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge: http://alaskamaritime.fws.gov
Stop Rats in Alaska: www.stoprats.org

### Island Conservation: www.islandconservation.org
The Nature Conservancy in Alaska: www.nature.org/alaska
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge: http://alaskamaritime.fws.gov
Stop Rats in Alaska: www.stoprats.org

###

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement