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Friday, August 19, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesWAR ON RATS DECLARED AT BUCK ISLAND

WAR ON RATS DECLARED AT BUCK ISLAND

The National Park Service on St. Croix is declaring war on alien rats.
Over the years, tree rats have made themselves at home on the Park Service’s Buck Island Reef National Monument, wreaking havoc on the island’s endangered and threatened flora and fauna. The invaders are not native to the Virgin Islands, said Zandy Hillis-Starr, a Park Service resource management specialist. In fact, she said, they were accidentally introduced to the West Indies.
Without any natural predators, the number of rats on the island has grown to the point that they can devastate both plant and animal populations, Hillis-Starr said.
"At Buck Island, rats have become not only a problem to our visitors in the picnic areas," she said, "but their foraging activities are impacting ground nesting shorebirds, sea turtle nests and hatchlings and many small trees and shrubs."
In 1995, park staff began trapping and baiting the invaders with some success in and around the island’s picnic areas.
But the rats occupy the whole island, and that means a major eradication program is needed. Getting rid of the rodents won’t be an easy task. Starting this month and for the next two years, park staff will join forces with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to trap and bait the rats all over the island.
"We will begin baiting the picnic areas, West Beach and Dietrich’s Point the last week of August," Hillis-Starr said. "Over the next several months we will extend our baiting program to the entire island. A team of wildlife biologist/pest control specialists will be monitoring the success of the baiting on a daily basis."
A major strategy in the rat war will be the "pack-it-in, pack-it-out" tactic. That means visitors must assist in the effort to rid the island of rats, by leaving no garbage behind when they leave.
"We are requesting that any food and resulting trash be taken back off the island," Hillis-Starr said.
Buck Island and its reef have been battered by hurricanes and its plants and shrubs have been parched by reduced rainfall, and these are events beyond the control of humans, Hillis-Starr said. In contrast, she said, the rat problem is one that can solved.
But it will take the help of the island’s visitors, who should avoid the rat trap and bait stations. Because the rats are not afraid of people, Hillis-Starr said, visitors should also avoid leaving food unattended on picnic tables and should not throw any food waste into the bush.
"We hope to reduce the immediate threat of rats in the picnic areas quickly," she said, "but ask visitors for patience in eliminating the problem. We have been advised that island-wide control is possible, but it will take years to accomplish."

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The National Park Service on St. Croix is declaring war on alien rats.
Over the years, tree rats have made themselves at home on the Park Service’s Buck Island Reef National Monument, wreaking havoc on the island’s endangered and threatened flora and fauna. The invaders are not native to the Virgin Islands, said Zandy Hillis-Starr, a Park Service resource management specialist. In fact, she said, they were accidentally introduced to the West Indies.
Without any natural predators, the number of rats on the island has grown to the point that they can devastate both plant and animal populations, Hillis-Starr said.
"At Buck Island, rats have become not only a problem to our visitors in the picnic areas," she said, "but their foraging activities are impacting ground nesting shorebirds, sea turtle nests and hatchlings and many small trees and shrubs."
In 1995, park staff began trapping and baiting the invaders with some success in and around the island’s picnic areas.
But the rats occupy the whole island, and that means a major eradication program is needed. Getting rid of the rodents won’t be an easy task. Starting this month and for the next two years, park staff will join forces with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to trap and bait the rats all over the island.
"We will begin baiting the picnic areas, West Beach and Dietrich’s Point the last week of August," Hillis-Starr said. "Over the next several months we will extend our baiting program to the entire island. A team of wildlife biologist/pest control specialists will be monitoring the success of the baiting on a daily basis."
A major strategy in the rat war will be the "pack-it-in, pack-it-out" tactic. That means visitors must assist in the effort to rid the island of rats, by leaving no garbage behind when they leave.
"We are requesting that any food and resulting trash be taken back off the island," Hillis-Starr said.
Buck Island and its reef have been battered by hurricanes and its plants and shrubs have been parched by reduced rainfall, and these are events beyond the control of humans, Hillis-Starr said. In contrast, she said, the rat problem is one that can solved.
But it will take the help of the island’s visitors, who should avoid the rat trap and bait stations. Because the rats are not afraid of people, Hillis-Starr said, visitors should also avoid leaving food unattended on picnic tables and should not throw any food waste into the bush.
"We hope to reduce the immediate threat of rats in the picnic areas quickly," she said, "but ask visitors for patience in eliminating the problem. We have been advised that island-wide control is possible, but it will take years to accomplish."