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Biologists aim to wipe out "Rat Island"

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Anchorage, Alaska - Rat Island, like many other treeless, volcanic islands in the 1,000-mile (1,609-km) long Aleutian chain, is infested with rats that have proved devastating to wild birds that build nests in the earth or in rocky cliffs.

Rodents have reigned at Rat Island at the western end of the Aleutians since the 1780 shipwreck of a Japanese sailing ship, wreaking havoc on millions of seabirds with no natural defenses against land predators.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to find an effective way to wipe out rat populations without harming other wildlife. Rat Island is a good starting point, according to biologists, for a removal program because it is small without much other wildlife.

Rats are blamed for causing about half the extinctions of various species worldwide since the 1600s.

The Aleutian island of Kiska, which still holds a colony of millions of auklets, a small seabird, but where introduced rats are decimating that natural population.

Researchers commonly find vast stretches on Kiska with no live birds, only rotting bodies stuffed into burrows.

A lot of the birds you find, the only parts the rats eat are the eyeballs and the brains. Unless something is done in the next 20 to 40 years, that the rats will probably eliminate that colony.


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Posted (edited)

What would be an interesting method of removal in underdeveloped countries would be to award a certain amount of money per dead/live rat collected. Sort of like recycling - if I recall correctly it was done sometime during the era of the Bubonic plague in an attempt to rid the country (Europe?) of the population of rats spreading the dreaded sickness.

Edited by The Little Raven

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