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Melissa Mayntz

Fewer Rats, More Birds

By August 24, 2009

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For the first time 230 years, Rat Island in the Aleutian Islands is free of the invasive rodents, permitting seabirds to return to the popular nesting site, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Since a Japanese sailing ship wrecked on the island in the late 1700s, rats took over the ecosystem and preyed on eggs and nestlings.

To return the island to its natural state, a $3 million rat eradication project has been underway since September with great success. Several conservation groups and research teams have been involved with the effort, which has been funded primarily by private donations. While more than 250 birds have also been killed by the poison used to eradicate the rats, including 43 bald eagles, those are small numbers compared to the benefits of eliminating the rats. The Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the spread of the poison to determine why so many birds were killed.

Several bird species, including black oystercatchers, ptarmigan and peregrine falcons have already returned to nesting on the island. It is hoped that the island will now be able to be returned to its Aleut name, Howadax, or “welcome,” as more birds feel welcome to nest.

Do you agree with rat eradication projects on islands that are important nesting areas for seabirds? Share your thoughts in the comment!

Black Oystercatcher
Photo © Chuck Abbe, Nine Sisters Photography


August 24, 2009 at 12:45 pm
(1) Cliff Klinert says:

People are always suspicious when they see the government spreading poison. Another form of warfarin called Bromadiolone is used here and is thought to have killed all the squirrels at Chula Vista Bayside Park early in 2008:


Add to this the widespread spraying of herbicide in and around public parks, and you can see why people are nervous. There is no way for people who use the parks to know this, so public outrage has been minimal.


August 31, 2009 at 3:32 pm
(2) Kevin says:

I think that humans have a right to know about poisons put in areas. They should be notified, (banners, flyers, newspapers, TV, etc.), BEFORE it is done so that they can be aware of it and avoid those areas if they choose.

September 11, 2009 at 12:34 pm
(3) MorroBayChuck says:

Perhaps notifications should be done, but I guess the greater good was served. I, however, always mourn the unnecessary loss of any of our beautiful sea birds. The bald eagles in particular are a tragic loss.

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