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Invasive Rats Resurface on Haida Gwaii

After a successful eradication effort in 2016, invasive rats resurface on islands in the Haida Gwaii Archipelago, but conservationists are not giving up.

In British Columbia, Canada two Gwaii Haanas islands have been invaded by rats after an initially successful effort to remove invasive rodents in 2016. In 2016, a conservation effort between Haida Nation, the Government of Canada, Island Conservation, Coastal Conservation, NOAA via the Shipwreck Jacob Lukenbach funds, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Conservacion de Islas announced the completion and success of a project to rid the islands of invasive Black Rats.

The Haida Gwaii Archipelago provides vital habitat for 1.5 million nesting birds, but invasive rats have plagued these islands for years and decimated seabird populations. The islands are home to nesting habitat for the Ancient Murrelet, which is listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and the Cassin’s Auklet which has been identified for listing as well. After the initial eradication effort, monitoring efforts detected a six percent increase in Ancient Murrelet calls in the two years after eradication (2014/2015).

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Ancient Murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus). Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Ian Jones

After implementation of the project, efforts to protect the island from invasive rats have continued with monitoring and biosecurity measures. In September 2017, camera traps detected invasive Norway Rats on Murchison and Faraday islands. Norway Rats were not the species of rats removed from the islands in 2016 and conservationists are working to find out how the rats arrived to the islands. Additional equipment has been installed on the islands to support this effort.

Conservationists are working together to determine the best course of action to protect native wildlife. Despite the reintroduction of invasive rats, conservationists are hopeful that with biosecurity measures, the Haida Gwaii Archipelago will continue to see the recovery of native birds, and once again join more than 900 islands around the world from which invasive species have been eradicated.

Featured Photo: Aerial view of Murchison and Faraday islands. Photo: David Will/Island Conservation

About Island Conservation

Island Conservation prevents extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. To date, we have successfully restored 60 islands worldwide, benefiting 1090 populations of 399 species and subspecies. Working together with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations, we select islands that have the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.

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