Success on Rat Island
Rat Island is officially rat-free!
Biologists working to eradicate rats on this remote island in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge reported in late summer that Rat Island is now free of invasive rats that had decimated native bird populations by preying on their chicks and eggs.
Getting rid of rats on the 10-square mile island, located in the Aleutian chain some 1,300 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska, was the most ambitious island habitat restoration project ever undertaken in the Northern Hemisphere and the first in Alaska.
The Aleutian Seabird Restoration Project was a collaborative effort among The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California-based Island Conservation and Ecology Group. After four years of planning, in September 2008, a specially equipped helicopter aerially broadcast 25 tons of brodifacoum bait pellets, manufactured by Bell, on the island, with a second pass of bait a week later.
For the next two years, biologists monitored the island for signs of rats. In August 2010, they declared the island rat-free with confirmed sightings of seabird nesting and substantially increased numbers of seabirds, including the giant song sparrow, rarely seen on the island prior to the eradication project.
Gratified by the success of this project, restoration partners are further marking the occasion by taking steps to bestow a more appropriate Aleut name to this seabird sanctuary.