Scientists now call this kind of event a “rat spill.”
August 14, 2019 11:08 AM   Subscribe

The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is made up of 2,400 islands and reefs that stretch across the Bering Sea, and is home to 40 million seabirds. A dozen of the islands have rat infestations which have devastated the seabird populations in those environments. On Saint Paul Island, the largest in the Pribilof chain, a solitary rat is being hunted by a local Paul Melovidov, a member of the Unangan nation (colonial label: Aleut people) and ecosystems coordinator for the island.


RattedOut which turned out to successfully make the southern island of South Georgia rat-free after centuries of rodent devastation
posted by zenon (12 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
god invasive species are such a fucking nightmare.

hakai had a short piece earlier this year about a very interesting job, the leader of a rat-hunting terrier pack; one of the situations there also involved a single ruiner rat.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

From poffin boffin's link:

Finally, Moss found a rat burrow and a stash of bird bodies. We’d discovered what had decimated the population. It was just one rat,

Fuck that rat in particular.
posted by emjaybee at 11:35 AM on August 14, 2019 [12 favorites]

They need to rent some farmer's rat terrier for a summer. Those things are relentless.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:29 PM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Doesn't it seem kinda... hypocritical for human beings to be so insulting toward rats? I mean seeing as we are also omnivorous invasive mammals with a tendency to devastate wildlife populations... and that most places rats go, we bring them.
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:11 PM on August 14, 2019 [12 favorites]

I do not believe that undoing mistakes counts as hypocritical.
posted by bouvin at 2:19 PM on August 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

Further reading: the book Rat Island has more information and case studies on de-invasifying islands, with some amazing recoveries of migratory birds and other critters in amazingly short timeframes. Rats are hella destructive.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 2:41 PM on August 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Thank you Ivan Ivanych samovar for another great book to add to my pile!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:28 PM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

The book was mentioned in the article but NOT PROMINENTLY ENOUGH.

Like, to clear out one island (at great expense) involved evacuating every predator they could catch so that they wouldn't be poisoned by rat carcasses (the poison decayed over a few weeks, but not fast enough to not kill an owl). Every story in there is amazing, and most are nuts.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 5:15 PM on August 14, 2019

Australia has many stories that mirror this. It's ongoing. Violating the biosecurity act can send you to prison!

Just in recent memory:

Johnny Depp brought his dogs here, and they didn't go through customs. Some blow hard MP threatened to have them put down, and it was a bit of a joke. But in reality, we don't have rabies here. It would only take one infected animal.

There is a type of parasite or fungus that infects bananas. The only place it hasn't spread to is Australia, which may be the Banana Ark as all other domesticated species are wiped out. Again, it would take one careless banana peel to get here, meaning bananas as they exist today would become history.

There was a post here on mefi about prickly pears, and I felt I had to point out that if you see them here and you don't report it, that's a crime.

As for rats, we have a number of islands that have the only remaining populations of very rare animals that only survive because there are no rats. I'd be surprised if they aren't mentioned here.
posted by adept256 at 10:54 PM on August 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

and it's a pretty much unmitigated good as far as I'm concerned, the stricter we are on real threats, the harder we push back on invasive species, the better. It's not about hatred for any particular species, it's about respecting the flora and fauna that exist already and undoing the mistakes already made.

They need to rent some farmer's rat terrier for a summer. Those things are relentless.
Speaking of mistakes, "the little old lady who swallowed a fly" approach has also been tried vefore and it turns out the tale has some real value at it's core. You really want to think bringing in something else through properly before you try it.
posted by Acid Communist at 8:45 AM on August 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


"We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes.
They'll wipe out the lizards.
But aren't the snakes even worse?
Yes, but we're prepared for that.
We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Then we're stuck with gorillas! No, that's the beautiful part.
When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death."
posted by aspersioncast at 11:59 AM on August 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Related: The rat is the king of history. He always wins (Quote from, and link to FanFare discussion of, new episode of Lodge 49).

And like many kings, the rat wins by making others lose. The bigger his wins, the greater the losses of others.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:35 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

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