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HomeNewsArchivesNPS RIDDING RATS FROM BUCK ISLAND

NPS RIDDING RATS FROM BUCK ISLAND

Buck Island Reef National Monument is one of St. Croix’s most beautiful natural areas. It is home to many delicate plant and animal species, including endangered sea turtles, brown pelicans, and threatened migratory shorebirds.
Each year thousands of local and off-island visitors come to Buck Island Reef to enjoy the white sand beaches and snorkel the underwater trail through the elkhorn coral barrier reef.
But according to the Park Service’s Zandy Hillis-Starr, over the last several years Buck Island Reef has been devastated by hurricanes, overfishing, coral diseases, drought, and exotic pests. Many of these events are beyond the control of the park administration, but one damaging activity that can be controlled is the foraging and predatory acitvities of exotic tree rats.
Tree rats, accidentally introduced to the West Indies, have no natural predators, according to Hillis-Starr. On most offshore islands they can become so numerous they will devastate both native plants and animal populations. At Buck Island, not only have rats become a problem to visitors in the picnic areas, but their foraging is affecting ground-nesting shorebirds, sea turtle nests and hatchlings, and native trees and shrubs.
Last year the island's Division of Resource Management, working with the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, began the Buck Island Rat Eradication Program. The picnic areas and shoreline were baited in the fall to reduce the rat impact on sea turtle nests and hatchlings, and disturbances to visitors.
Over the last several months the eradication team has been preparing for an island-wide baiting program by conducting a rat population estimate, field-testing bait stations, cutting trails, and surveying rat-caused damage. Over the next two weeks they will begin the island-wide program.
A team of biologists from Wildlife Services will be working every day for the next month baiting and monitoring the bait stations distributed across the entire island. The success of the eradication program depends on the bait reaching the rats.
The Park Service has asked that visitors to the park respect and avoid any rat traps or bait stations they may encounter.
"Please do not touch any traps or black plastic boxes," said Hillis-Starr. "We strongly advise our visiting public to adhere to the policy of no dogs allowed on the island at any time," because the bait is toxic to mammals if ingested.
"Please continue to help us control the rat problem by keeping all food items inside containers," said Hillis-Starr. "Do not leave any food out on the picnic tables unattended. The rats are not afraid of humans and will take advantage of any food items not carefully attended."
Hillis-Starr said there may be some odor associated with "rat casualties" and apologized for any discomfort to visitors. She advised guests not to touch any dead rats found on the beach or shoreline; they will be collected as soon as possible.
"Remember, Buck Island Reef is now a trash-free area," she said. "The ‘pack-it-in, pack-it-out’ policy the park initiated in August 1999 has been a success and we appreciate the public’s participation in making it so."
Hillis-Starr said the Park Service will keep the public informed about the program’s progress. "Biologists have advised that island-wide rat eradication is possible, but it will take years to accomplish," she said. "We ask our visitors for patience in eliminating the problem." For more information, contact the National Park Service, (340) 773-1460, ext 35, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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Buck Island Reef National Monument is one of St. Croix’s most beautiful natural areas. It is home to many delicate plant and animal species, including endangered sea turtles, brown pelicans, and threatened migratory shorebirds.
Each year thousands of local and off-island visitors come to Buck Island Reef to enjoy the white sand beaches and snorkel the underwater trail through the elkhorn coral barrier reef.
But according to the Park Service’s Zandy Hillis-Starr, over the last several years Buck Island Reef has been devastated by hurricanes, overfishing, coral diseases, drought, and exotic pests. Many of these events are beyond the control of the park administration, but one damaging activity that can be controlled is the foraging and predatory acitvities of exotic tree rats.
Tree rats, accidentally introduced to the West Indies, have no natural predators, according to Hillis-Starr. On most offshore islands they can become so numerous they will devastate both native plants and animal populations. At Buck Island, not only have rats become a problem to visitors in the picnic areas, but their foraging is affecting ground-nesting shorebirds, sea turtle nests and hatchlings, and native trees and shrubs.
Last year the island's Division of Resource Management, working with the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, began the Buck Island Rat Eradication Program. The picnic areas and shoreline were baited in the fall to reduce the rat impact on sea turtle nests and hatchlings, and disturbances to visitors.
Over the last several months the eradication team has been preparing for an island-wide baiting program by conducting a rat population estimate, field-testing bait stations, cutting trails, and surveying rat-caused damage. Over the next two weeks they will begin the island-wide program.
A team of biologists from Wildlife Services will be working every day for the next month baiting and monitoring the bait stations distributed across the entire island. The success of the eradication program depends on the bait reaching the rats.
The Park Service has asked that visitors to the park respect and avoid any rat traps or bait stations they may encounter.
"Please do not touch any traps or black plastic boxes," said Hillis-Starr. "We strongly advise our visiting public to adhere to the policy of no dogs allowed on the island at any time," because the bait is toxic to mammals if ingested.
"Please continue to help us control the rat problem by keeping all food items inside containers," said Hillis-Starr. "Do not leave any food out on the picnic tables unattended. The rats are not afraid of humans and will take advantage of any food items not carefully attended."
Hillis-Starr said there may be some odor associated with "rat casualties" and apologized for any discomfort to visitors. She advised guests not to touch any dead rats found on the beach or shoreline; they will be collected as soon as possible.
"Remember, Buck Island Reef is now a trash-free area," she said. "The ‘pack-it-in, pack-it-out’ policy the park initiated in August 1999 has been a success and we appreciate the public’s participation in making it so."
Hillis-Starr said the Park Service will keep the public informed about the program’s progress. "Biologists have advised that island-wide rat eradication is possible, but it will take years to accomplish," she said. "We ask our visitors for patience in eliminating the problem." For more information, contact the National Park Service, (340) 773-1460, ext 35, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.