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Rat Island (now Hawadax!)
Millions of seabirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl nest on the Aleutian island archipelago

Rat Island is located about 1300 miles west of Anchorage in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. The 6,861 acre island is uninhabited by humans. Steep coastal cliffs, a small central mountain range (with a maximum elevation of about 950 ft), and broad, rolling plateaus of maritime tundra define this treeless island. There are also about 90 lakes and slow trickling streams, providing a source of fresh water. Driftwood commonly washes up along the sandy and rocky beaches that surround the island, creating refuge for birds.

Rat Island became part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in 1913. A shipwreck in the early 1780’s left the island with invasive Norway Rats. These non-native rats are a threat to ground-nesting birds that lack natural defenses against predators

 

Learn more about the island post-recovery hereand here

 

Island Conservation’s Role:

 

In early October 2008, after several years of planning, Island Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service successfully implemented the first phase in the restoration of Rat Island by removing rats. In May 2009 and June 2010, Island Conservation and the Coastal Conservation Action Lab at the Univeristy of California, Santa Cruz returned to the island to confirm the absence of rats and monitor native species for recovery. The team found no sign of invasive rats that have decimated native bird populations for more than 200 years.

Additionally, 
several bird species, including the Rock Sandpiper, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Eider, Red-faced Cormorant and Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, are successfully nesting on the island, as did other birds that were once highly susceptible to rat predation. Black Oystercatchers and Glaucous-winged Gulls produced chicks and both species were more abundant in 2010 than they had been in previous years. The Song Sparrow appeared for the first time in 2010, potentially indicating a return of this species to Rat Island. 

 


Measuring Ecosystem Recovery:
In 2007 and 2008, prior to the rat removal operation, Island Conservation and the Coastal Conservation Action Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz conducted baseline surveys of selected native species on Rat Island. Surveys were again conducted in 2009 and 2010 following removal. The surveys covered native bird abundance and the composition of intertidal and plant communities. 
Following rat removal in 2008, all direct impacts (such as predation and competition with resources) from rats ceased. Because responses among native species are more likely to be observed three to five years - or even longer - after removal, Island Conservation is planning two more summer surveys by 2013 to continue monitoring the ecosystem's recovery
In May 2012, The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved a proposal to change the name of Rat Island to Hawadax Island in the Aleutians. Hawadax (pronounced “how AH thaa”) is a return to the original Aleut name, in acknowledgement of the absence of rats—a return the island’s previous ecological state prior to European/Japanese contact. Read more about the name change here.
 

Learn more about the Rat Island Restoration Project by downloading our Fact Sheet or visiting our project website www.seabirdrestoration.org

 

Tufted Puffins, one of the many seabirds that relies on a predator-free Rat Island, AK. Photo courtesy of USFWS


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