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Island Restoration Project Commences

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Date: December 2, 2001
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have begun a restoration project to remove invasive black rats on Anacapa Island. Non-native rats are responsible for an estimated 40-60% of bird and reptile extinctions in the world. Rats prey on birds, reptiles, plants, and invertebrates on Anacapa Island. "The purpose of this project is to protect rare seabirds and other native wildlife on the island," said Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Tim J. Setnicka. He notes, "On Anacapa, rats eat the eggs, chicks, and adult Xantus' murrelets, a small seabird whose world-wide distribution is extremely limited."

Dr. Harry R. Carter, a seabird expert who has been studying the Xantus' Murrelets at the Channel Islands since 1981, has noted substantial rat predation on murrelet eggs during his monitoring. Carter estimates the current population size of murrelets on the island as between 200-400 nests. He states, "The population is likely to reach levels at least ten times larger, if not more, than it is at present, without the detrimental effects from rats."

Today, a helicopter carefully delivered bait on the rugged terrain of East Anacapa Island. The application distributed bait to all rat territories at a rate of approximately one pellet every square yard. This method is modeled after successful rat eradication projects on other islands which have resulted in considerable recovery of seabirds. To date, rats have been eradicated from over 70 islands worldwide by applying rodenticide in a bait; trapping alone has never succeeded.

The bait contains brodifacoum, an anticoagulant, which will cause the rats to die within a few days after eating the bait. The bait that will be used contains half the amount of rodenticide than is found in rodent-control products that homeowners can purchase in the local grocery store. This application of rodenticide will not accumulate in the environment; it immediately begins to break down into harmless carbon dioxide and water once it lands on the ground with no harmful byproducts.

Numerous environmental groups have endorsed the project including the American Bird Conservancy, Pacific Seabird Group, California Audubon Society, Endangered Species Recovery Council, Audubon Living Oceans, and Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures. American Bird Conservancy President, George H. Fenwick, stated, "The Anacapa Island project is precisely the type of well-designed, extensively researched, and responsibly implemented program that the American Bird Conservancy supports and encourages. The long-term benefits of rat eradication on Anacapa Island are enormous for the conservation of one of North America's most distinctive ecosystems."

Did You Know?

Santa Barbara Island live-forever                 timhaufphotography.com

The Channel Islands are often called the "North American Galapagos" because they are home to over 150 endemic or unique species.