The Rat Island Saga

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen – 29 March 2021

RAT ISLAND, as it used to be known when it was overrun by rats, is a tiny speck way out in the west end of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands – which extend from the southwestern point of mainland Alaska and head out south and west towards the coast of Siberian Russia.

It is a little bit of rock sticking up out the Pacific Ocean to the south of the Bering Strait.  [ This Rat Island is not to be confused with the Rat Island in the Easter Group of the Houtman Abrolhos archipelago 78 km west of Geraldton, Western Australia.]

[ Note: This essay is a long ramble through the history of Rat Island and the efforts of well-intentioned environmentalist intervention there.  Read it when you’ve settled in for the evening with a cup of hot cocoa. ]

Recent science news outlets carried stories like this:  Island Overrun With Rats Completely Recovers in Only 11 Years After Ecosystem Had Been Decimated, based on this recently published study:  Indirect effects of invasive rat removal result in recovery of island rocky intertidal community structure.  In Australia, 9News covered the story here.

“An Alaskan archipelago once dubbed the “Rat Islands” have provided a stunning example of ecological recovery, a new study has said.  The group of islands are on the western edge of the Aleutian archipelago and had been overrun with rats since shipwrecks dating back to the 18th century . . .

The rats, not native to the local system, quickly drove it to the edge of destruction, preying on shore birds and their nests.

However, in 2008, a group of researchers led a conservation effort which removed the rats from one isle [Rat Island] – now renamed Hawadax – in 2008.

Merely 11 years later, the researchers said, the island ecosystem had made a great recovery.

“You don’t often get the opportunity to return to a remote location and collect data after the fact,” study lead author Associate Professor Carolyn Kurle said.  “Sometimes it’s hard to say that a conservation action had any sort of impact, but in this particular case we took a conservation action that was expensive and difficult, and we actually demonstrated that it worked. But we didn’t expect it to be so fast.”

All the reports based on the University of California San Diego Press Release are a Fairy Tale version of actuality.  I hope no one is surprised by that – University Press releases are designed primarily to boost the prestige of the University and thus help to attract further research grants.  In my experience, these press releases do more to distort actual study results than do stories that appear in the mass media. Almost everything in the University Press Release is – ermmm – not exactly true as presented and leaves out a great deal of important information.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tells this story:

“…Rat Island is a remote island in the Aleutian chain about 1,300 miles west of Anchorage, invasive Norway rats arrived via a 1780’s shipwreck preying on native birds and altering the native vegetation during the ensuing 220 years. The Rat Island restoration is the most recent project in a long campaign to restore otherwise healthy seabird habitat in the Aleutians.”  and  “With the rats gone, restoration partners and the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association agree that an Aleut (Unangan), name was a fitting tribute to the restored island. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, at its May 10, 2012 meeting, approved the 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. The word ‘Hawadax’ roughly translates to “those two over there” as in “the island over there with two knolls”, referring to two modest hills on the island.” [ source ]

Isn’t it a lovely story?  Our good and brave United States Fish and Wildlife Service, along with a couple of partner NGOs wades into battle against those nasty rats, killing them by the thousands by bombing the island with poisoned bait  [nobody likes those rats anyway] and saving the day for Endangered Birds®. 

Everyone claims credit for getting rid of the filthy rats and “saving the island”…9News says “a group of researchers”,  UCSD says “a coordinated conservation effort”,  each of the  NGO partners claim to have led the effort “Together with Island Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy led a campaign to restore seabird populations.” says The Nature Conservancy.  “The restoration of the 10-square-mile island was led by Island Conservation,” says Island Conservation.

A better description of what took place is this:

“In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with Island Conservation and The Nature Conservancy, saturated Rat Island with brodifacoum-laced bait.” [ source

Basically, they bombed the island with poisoned grain from an airplane.

“Brodifacoum is a highly lethal … anticoagulant poison. … It is typically used as a rodenticide, but is also used to control larger pests such as possum.  It has one of the highest risks of secondary poisoning to both mammals and birds.”   [ source ]

More on the consequences of indiscriminately saturation-bombing an island with poison later.  In the meantime….all these stories leave out a whole century-long episode of the Rat Island Saga.

The Century of the Fox

You see, in 1984, also in order to “save” the Aleutian Canada Goose,  “Foxes were eradicated from Hawadax Island in 1984” and then, 24 years later,  “rats were eradicated in 2008 using aerially broad-cast rodenticide (25-ppm brodifacoum32).”  [ source ]

“Arctic fox were introduced to most of the Aleutian Islands for the purpose of fur farming by the Russians at the turn of the century. [the turn from  1700s -> 1800s — kh]…. Fox introductions significantly disrupted a relatively simple ecosystem. The food derived from occasional dead marine mammals and a wealth of bird life allowed introduced arctic fox populations to soar, thereby suppressing many bird species and endangering the Aleutian Canada goose. According to Murrie  (1959) the importance of birds in the diet of arctic fox is  evident when one considers 57.8 percent of Aleutian fox prey  throughout the Aleutian Islands is provided by native bird life.  This includes islands with large concentrations of storm-petrels  and auklets such as Kasatochi, Kiska or Amukta islands and islands having smaller bird population such as Rat Island where the  foxes’ diet is 28.8 percent rat and about 40 percent amphipods or beach fleas. [ and 30 % birds and sea mammal carcasses– kh ] On many Aleutian islands including Rat Island, ground nesting species such as the endangered Aleutian Canada goose and several seabird species have been extirpated by the introduction of arctic fox.“  and  “To assure recovery of the endangered Aleutian Canada goose,  islands at various locations in the Aleutian Islands are being cleared of introduced foxes to allow natural pioneering by or transplanting of Aleutian geese.” [ source ]

In many parts of the world, Canada Geese are considered an Invasive Species – yet this smaller (and cuter) Aleutian Canada goose, a sub-species of the Canada Goose,  was one of the first of the birds identified under the Endangered Species Act in 1967.  What endangered the Aleutian Canada Goose?  Rats?  No, the foxes. 

“The principal cause of the decline of the Aleutian Canada goose was predation by arctic fox (Alopex  lagopus). Foxes were introduced to many North Pacific islands for fur farming, principally between 1915 and  1939, but dating back as early as the  1750’s. This introduced predator decimated populations of many species of native birds on the islands. Geese were particularly susceptible to predation not only during egg and chick stages, but also as molting adults became flightless. In addition, suitable wintering habitat is disappearing due to urbanization and changing agricultural practices, particularly in the Central Valley of  California. [ source = USFWS Aleutian Canada Goose Fact Sheet ]

Forbidding the building of cities in the rapidly changing Central Valley of California was an unlikely approach to the problem of the Aleutian Canada Goose in the late 1960s.  Just as unlikely was attempting to force agricultural-practice changes there – “It is California’s most productive agricultural region and one of the most productive in the world, providing more than half of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States.” [ source ]  So, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided to go after the Aleutian Island’s foxes with an eye to their total elimination.  But not all of them, most of the islands were just too big and the terrain too rough to make such an attempt likely to succeed – but Rat Island, at just over 10 square miles (~27 km²), looked doable.

There was a usable abandoned shack leftover from previous human visits and the smaller, semi-detached island (lower right of this aerial photograph) could be reached at low-tide.  The island had no permanent human population and might make a good location to attempt to introduce the Aleutian Canada goose, in hopes that they would form a breeding colony there.  Note that there was no evidence that the Aleutian Canada Goose had ever bred on the island.

The story of the Great Rat Island Fox Hunt (I admit, I am the only one that calls it that –kh) is contained in a document labeled by the Fish and Wildlife Service “Internal Document – Not for Publication”.  “INTRODUCED ARCTIC FOX ERADICATION AT RAT ISLAND, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA,  SUMMER — 1984” by Kim Hanson, Mike Goos, and Fredric G. Deines. 

Here’s the description of the project from this official document:

”OBJECTIVE:  Remove the introduced arctic fox from the fauna of Rat Island to benefit the endangered Aleutian Canada goose.

METHOD OF STUDY:   Two biologists from the FWS ADC [Animal Damage Control] staff in Region 6 came to the Aleutian Islands for 65 days to remove all foxes from Rat Island. They used leg hold traps, M-44 coyote getters, predator calls, rifles and 12 gauge shotguns during their efforts.”

“For the first time, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge recruited Animal Damage Control (ADC) personnel stationed in the “Lower 48″ to independently conduct a fox removal effort. Kim Hanson of Colorado and Mike Goos of North Dakota – were selected to perform the task. The effort detailed in this report spanned the period 25 May to 29 July 1984.”

“During the 65 day eradication effort on Rat Island, a total of 175 fox were killed. Of this number, 163 were adults and 12 were pups. The number of pups killed was small because the lactating females were taken before the pups were weaned, therefore, most of the pups starved before they could emerge from the den. According to estimates from placental scars, approximately 450 pups were eliminated in this manner. A special effort was made to accomplish this and it was a key factor in the success of the Rat Island fox removal effort!” [ source ]

In short, Kim  and Mike, both very experienced professional  hunters and trappers specializing in predator control, were armed up, supplied, and dropped off on the island as soon as weather permitted in the spring, with scheduled re-supply by boat,  intending to eliminate all the foxes before the season’s pups emerged from their breeding dens.   And they did.

The whole saga of the hunt, which is well worth reading for those interested in outdoor hunting and adventure stories, is included as an appendix to the report I’ve been quoting above.  It is Kim Hanson’s hunt diary – very readable and absolutely free of today’s apologetic nonsense about the necessary killing of invasive predators.    Here’s a sample:

June 16 (Saturday) -Well, it started out to be a pretty normal day. We loaded the packs and headed for the north end of Sandy Beach to hunt and set traps to Krysi Point. We called [used sound-making devices that approximate various wildlife sounds] the first beach and nothing came so we started to set traps and three fox came around the corner. Mike got two but he only had 10 rounds of ammo left to start with, so I snuck up to where he was and shot the third one. The day went on like that. We called two on one beach and were going to set traps in the middle. I laid my pack and rifle down and Mike said “come here, there’s a sea lion carcass and a fox”. He said, “get your rifle and two bullets”! I stepped up to where he was looking and about 10 yards away, two fox had their heads stuck inside this sea lion carcass. One looked up so I shot and the other one was right behind him, so I got them both with one shot. A few minutes later another one was coming down the hill to the carcass and one was peeking over the top. So I shot the one on top and as he rolled down the hill, the other one ran back up and I shot him and he rolled down right by the first one. On another beach, Mike called three up to about 10 yards, one right after the other. One had been carrying a pup and she put him down and came in to the hurt pup call. We ended up with 25 fox today. Could have had two more but we both ran out of bullets. Got back to cabin about 11 PM. Real tired, knees sore, missed radio check too (I shot 18 fox today and Mike got 7 because I had more bullets).”

A note on ”calling”:  “Fox responded to any reasonable imitation of their bark. A pheasant call might make a good fox call. The most effective call was a Burnham Brothers close range fox call that imitated the yelp of an injured pup.”

At the end of Kim and Mike’s stay, it was assumed (and later confirmed) that Rat Island was now officially Fox Free.

Did the Aleutian Canada Goose return?  No.  Did lots of those bird species return?  Not so much, you see, because with the foxes gone. . . the rats took over (again?) as the apex predator on the island. 

The top half of this illustration is from the paper that prompted our interest in Rat Island and shows how the rats reduced the number of birds thus the birds ate fewer intertidal grazers (snails and such) thus there was less algal cover (seaweed).  The huge recovery being celebrated by Carolyn Kurle et al. is on the right-hand side:  Rats gone, more birds, fewer intertidal grazers, more seaweed.  It is uncertain what the situation of the intertidal zone was during the reign of the foxes – or if it matters in any way at all. 

What is not being celebrated is the return of the Aleutian Canada Goose – which did not return because it was probably never there as far as anyone knows.  For 200 years, either the foxes or the rats (or both) have made Rat Island (now Hawadax Island) unsuitable for the goose and a bit dicey for many other shore birds.  In 1984, when the Great Fox Hunt was staged, there were not any large bird rookeries on Rat Island.  In fact, on a larger, nearby island, ”Amchitka Island was cleared of foxes by 1963, but attempts to reintroduce Aleutian Canada geese there at that time were unsuccessful, at least in part due to predation by a large bald eagle population…”  The focus of our attention today, Rat Island, also had Bald Eagles, which would have eaten the geese had they been there. 

Oh, did I mention the Bald Eagle disaster yet?   No, well then, here goes . . . .

“In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with Island Conservation and The Nature Conservancy, saturated Rat Island with brodifacoum-laced bait. A lot went wrong. Early snow covered and preserved the bait. Bald eagles, off their routine of feasting on distant salmon, ate the poisoned rats. Monitors recovered 422 bird carcasses, including 46 bald eagles and 320 glaucous-winged gulls. Opponents of rodent eradication call the project a “disaster.”

Advocates acknowledge the horrendous by-kill but cite ecological success. Today, the island, again called Hawadax, is rat free. Eagles are essentially recovered; gulls are more than recovered; and an entire ecosystem, including native plants and birds rarely (if ever) seen for 230 years, has been reborn. Surging back have been species including giant song sparrows (found only in the Aleutians), tufted puffins, black oystercatchers, rock sandpipers, Leach’s storm petrels, snow buntings, Pacific reed grass, longawn sedge, and crowberry.” [ source ]

Imagine the general public response if they had been told at the time that the US Fish and Wildlife Service had inadvertently killed 46 Bald Eagles (at least – this number is an after-the-fact body count, many others may have flown away to die at sea or on other nearby islands) in a single project at a single location.  Glaucous-winged gulls however are a very common, very abundant “sea gull” found over a very wide range; still, a pity to have killed 320 of them.

So, a great success – depending on your viewpoint.   This little 10 square mile (27 km2 ) island now has what is assumed to be a pre-rat/pre-fox ecosystem – apparently more desirable to environmentalists than the 200-year-old ecosystem that had developed there since the late 1700s.  The rat-and-fox version of Rat Island had been a haven and breeding area for Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons and, of course, foxes and rats.

There is no mention in Kurle et al. of Bald Eagles breeding now on the “New Improved Rat Island”  but there are more gulls and oystercatchers, both of which are plentiful on all the other nearby islands and are classified as Least Concern by the ICUN.  

However, Carolyn Kurle and her associates are thrilled that there is now more kelp in the intertidal zone:  

“…  we found a dramatic shift in invertebrate and algal cover dominating the rocky intertidal community on Hawadax Island after rat eradication. Specifically, 11 years post rat eradication, we found: 1) a significant increase in percent cover of fleshy algae, 2) significant decreases in grazers of fleshy algae (isopods, limpets, and snails), as well as four other invertebrate groups (anemones, mussels, seastars, and sponges), and 3) significant increases in the shorebird predators (Glaucous-winged Gulls and Black Oystercatchers) of these intertidal invertebrates both five and 11 years post-rat eradication. Isopods [link to drawings of isopods] were the only invertebrate that showed a statistically significant decrease in abundance five years post-rat eradication.”

This whole story is typical of the many instances of humans interfering with nature – even if it is to remove invasive rats (a good idea) and introduced foxes (it is a simply a choice – more birds?  more foxes?).

The decades-long justification for the fox and rat eradication was the restoration of the Aleutian Canada Goose.  That did not happen and is unlikely to happen, at least on Rat Island/Hawadax Island.  To successfully to do that, they’d have to eradicate the remaining Bald Eagles….

# # # # #

Author’s Comment:

Humans have transported a lot of life forms from one place to another on the planet over the millennia.  Some of them intentionally and some unintentionally.  Once that takes place, what we call Nature takes over and what happens, happens.  Some of what happens we view as “good” and some we view as “bad” and a lot of it we don’t even notice.

Invasive species have the greatest effects on islands, as you probably already know.  Particularly rats, cats, dogs, pigs, goats, wild sheep and weirdly, the brown tree snake.   Add to those a lot of destructive insects and diseases….   A .pdf booklet of the 100 Worst Invasive species is available here (English)  and here (español).

Human attempts to rectify these intentional and unintentional transplantations almost never succeed in the way they were intended. 

Personally, I think that the two experiments on Rat Island, elimination of the foxes and then the rats are interesting and maybe scientifically important.  I am not surprised that the experiments did not achieve the stated goal: restoration of the Aleutian Canada Goose. 

Address your comments to “Kip…” if speaking to me.

Thanks for reading.

# # # # #

5 20 votes
Article Rating
89 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
March 29, 2021 6:51 am

Next ecological restoration project … Manhattan Island. Followed by the District of Columbia wetlands …

Historically, much of the original land in the District was a wetland that supported a rich biodiversity of plants and wildlife. Water formed natural boundaries on three sides of the original city including: the Potomac River on the south, Rock Creek to the west, and the Anacostia River on the east. L’Enfant’s plan for the District centered on three high and dry knolls that overlooked the Potomac estuary and wetlands:

https://doee.dc.gov/service/history-wetlands-district

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 11:55 am

Careful, the last guy who went down there with that in mind caught a lot of flack.

Jon R
March 29, 2021 6:52 am

Another day on infested Commie/Nitwit Island Earth.

John Garrett
March 29, 2021 6:53 am

Kip !!

I love it. Always count on the operation of The Law Of Unintended Consequences (see section IV, second paragraph, line c of Murphy’s Law).

lee
Reply to  John Garrett
March 30, 2021 2:34 am

“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

March 29, 2021 6:54 am

The lesson is to not play god?

Can’t resist to pitch my idea, as these islands are located in a relevant spot:

http://phzoe.com/2019/12/09/why-we-should-move-the-prime-meridian/

Who’s with me?

Vuk
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 8:27 am

I lived for 7 years on the (near) zero meridian (SE London – Kent border, I think it was something like 0.00.12W ) and never noticed any difference. The Equator must be a bit more interesting.

rhoda klapp
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 30, 2021 2:00 am

You can’t do it, because there’s a brass plate at Greenwich. And at least one more at Louth, Lincolnshire. They fix the line. They just do.

March 29, 2021 7:19 am

Simple question of ecology to learn at school.
Kill the hunter the prey number increases – here the rats.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 7:51 am

Prey and hunter may end in an oscillating state.

There may be other reasons geese don’t like to live there, “we” can’t force animals to live at incoveniant places.

Phil.
Reply to  Krishna Gans
March 29, 2021 10:16 am

Indeed they can, like the Isle Royale Wolf/Moose dynamic, where they had to recently introduce some more wolves. One of the most successful reintroductions was wolves to Yellowstone where the population balance is in the process of returning to normal. The hunting to extinction of wolves in the 20’s led to an overpopulation of Elk which changed the environment significantly.

Phil.
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 30, 2021 6:23 am

Yes indeed, the elimination of the wolves in the twenties was a huge mistake. We were a bit late in restoring the wolves but there has been a substantial return to the natural habitat.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 8:46 am

In the old days they could have sent in a couple of troops of Boy Scouts with their single-shot .22s! Make it a Jamboree for a couple of years and then any life forms left could start repopulating!

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Abolition Man
March 29, 2021 12:01 pm

A couple years? Dude, try a couple weeks! You sorely underestimate the enthusiasm Boy Scouts can generate for a task like this.

dk_
March 29, 2021 7:37 am

You might look at the San Clemente and Catalina Island goat eradications, too. A volunteer organization saved some animals in the first case, at about the same time as the fox killing, but 6 years later, the state and Fed paid hunters to shoot the goats on Catalina, rejecting the conservationists request to save the goats there. All the while, licensed hunters in California were controlling populations of feral hogs and several species of deer safely, while providing income to the state through license and tag fees.
Wonder what’d happened if they’d just trapped the foxes for fur, or offered a bounty? In the other case, Catalina could have employed several games officers and generated income for guided hunts.

dk_
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 9:34 am

Aleutian arctic foxes are not rare, but have valuable pelts. With a bounty or the cash from sale of the fur, I’d bet that you could get a couple permit hunters per year, and pull in some government dosh, or at least cost less than rat poison or hired hunters from helicopters. Although it was very difficult, neither the Japanese nor U.S. Army found it impossible to land on few of those islands by boat.
The Russian and Nordic subspecies of arctic fox are becoming rare. and are protected. Too bad there isn’t a hardy natural and excess population from which those could be repopulated.
Either way, the zero-sum, zero-thinking evident in these sort of cases is the cause of extreme waste, and has the opposite effect of the intent.

Last edited 6 months ago by dk_
Chuck no longer in Houston
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 30, 2021 1:01 pm

Kip, on the destroyer in the 70s & 80s we occasionally fired our 5″ guns at San Clemente Island. Training exercises. I believe it’s still in use for that purpose. I don’t recall that we ever hit any goats but we were a good distance away. Who knows, the gunnery officer may have seen some.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  dk_
March 29, 2021 9:36 am

These feral goats have starred on TV news programmes on slow news days during UK lockdowns

Abolition Man
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 10:09 am

Kip,
You can get a valuable product if there are any knitters in your area; and there’s always burritos! I like to kid my sister-in-law and nieces who raise Pygmy goats; ‘Ah, birria!’

Abolition Man
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 2:04 pm

So THAT’S what that Travis Tritt song is about!?

Taphonomic
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
March 29, 2021 4:44 pm

Llandudno is a lovely place. It is renowned for its links to Alice in Wonderland; as the original Alice and her family vacationed there when she was a young girl. Several statues were built to commemorate the story. A White Rabbit statue, which is more than 6ft tall, is now under the watchful eye of CCTV cameras. It was previously protected in a steel dome cage after the statue previously had its ears ripped off.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  dk_
March 29, 2021 10:21 pm

Catalina Island:

Jit
March 29, 2021 7:45 am

Kip, there are many instances where removing rats has enabled native wildlife to stage a recovery. This example from Ailsa Craig is a good one:

https://www.ayrshire-birding.org.uk/2001/01/ailsa_craig_before_and_after_the_eradication_of_rats_in_1991/

I would not characterise such moves as playing god, but as trying to undo the mistakes of the past. Generally removing introduced species is good.

Last edited 6 months ago by Jit
Abolition Man
March 29, 2021 8:24 am

Kip,
A great story that, sadly, will not penetrate the adamantine skulls of most Greens and Climastrologists! Perhaps it would if it was presented as a musical comedy or a cartoon!
While I dislike the underestimated kills of birds; I am happy to see the island rat- and fox-free!

Now if we could just do something about the giant whirling dervishes of the wacko CAGW cult and stop slaughtering Golden Eagles! Just as important would be to remove the feral Marxists from the DemoKKKrat Party; but that would take a lot more than a couple of hunters; it would take an informed electorate and an opposition party with morals and intelligence! Both are almost extinct in the swamps of DC!

Abolition Man
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 3:27 pm

Kip,
Don’t you think it’s swampy enough already!? I think you had it right in the first place; finish draining the swamp. Hopefully all the poisonous snakes and alligators will head for sunnier climes as well!

Steve Case
March 29, 2021 8:25 am

Somewhere towards the end of the 3,400 words I recalled that earth worms are an invasive species. Here’s a link about that. If you take the time to read it [780 words] you will find the predictable Climate Change spin.

Clyde Spencer
March 29, 2021 8:30 am

Kip
It is interesting how easy it is to lure Arctic Fox with a predator call. While supervising a closure survey on an ice tunnel just outside Camp Tuto, in Greenland, I was taking a break out in the sun on the construction pad that had a generator shack. I spied a fox at the base of the pad, maybe 50 yards away. I improvised a predator call by cupping my hand over my pursed lips and sucked in. The sound doesn’t resemble any animal I’m familiar with. However, it was sufficiently interesting to the fox that it immediately ran up the slope to the pad where I was squatting and watching. I quit calling when it got near the top. It ran around for a bit trying to find what had been making the noise, getting to within perhaps 10 yards of me. I stood up and announced, “I have to get back to work!” It took off like a bolt, and clambered up the face of the shear moraine and out onto the glacier itself. It was obviously scared of humans, but naive about being ‘hunted’ in such a manner.

Is Kim Hansen related to you?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 10:12 am

A great Dane, no doubt! 🙂

We got a number of Danish pilots and stewardesses visiting the tunnel while we were working. They were there on junkets out of Thule AB to collect clean ice from the tunnel for cocktails for their parties (of two or more). They were excited about the way that the trapped air would cause the ice to effervesce when in their drinks.

DHR
March 29, 2021 8:57 am

Kip, It seems that the Aleutian Canada Goose population was restored. Zero before, zero after.

Steve Z
March 29, 2021 9:45 am

A great example of what happens when foxes are guarding the goose house (or the rat house). And everybody knows that rats will flee a sinking ship, and multiply wildly if they find land.

As for what happened to the Aleutian Canada Goose, if Hawadax Island has been overrun by rats since the late 1700’s, the geese who survived probably were afraid of the rats, and nested on other islands in order to escape the rats, and over many generations of geese leaned to avoid Hawadax Island.

“Thanks” to the intervention of “conservationists” who fed Canada geese near lakes and ponds in New England for decades, the shores thereof have been turned into massive goose latrines, with no room for a human foot to tread unsoiled. The geese live there all year round, with the gander sometimes attacking people who may unwittingly approach their nest, and sometimes peck relentlessly at metal car bumpers where they see their reflections. They should be named “New England Pond Pets”, since most of them have never been to Canada in their lifetimes. These ponds might make good hunting grounds for foxes!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Steve Z
March 29, 2021 10:02 am

“New England Pond Pets”

I think you misspelled that. Shouldn’t it be Pests?”

Abolition Man
Reply to  Steve Z
March 29, 2021 3:41 pm

Lake Tahoe is being polluted by Canada geese! The lake’s well known water clarity is diminishing by about a foot a year, and some areas have to two inches of goose droppings covering the bottom! Easy solution: roast goose; they’re fat and happy with little fear of humans after all these years of being protected!
It’s Commifornia, so it’ll never happen; but my sister thinks I’m crazy to suggest harvesting them. Of course, her dog got lightly whacked by a bear recently; where I live bears are smart enough to stay away from humans unless they really want to be a rug!

Phil.
Reply to  Abolition Man
March 30, 2021 3:01 pm

What they’ve done in NJ when the goose population got too big was to find the nests and pierce the eggs. See a lot fewer broods around when they’ve done that.

Phil.
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 31, 2021 9:19 am

The same law applies in NJ, nothing to stop similar procedures in NY.
Because Canada geese are federally protected as a migratory species, one must register online with the USFWS between January 1 and June 30 prior to employing egg treatments. Registration is free and must be renewed annually. Participants are required to submit a report documenting the number of nests treated by October 31 of the same nesting year. There are no additional state permits required in New Jersey.”

Phil.
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 31, 2021 6:44 pm
E. J. Mohr
March 29, 2021 9:57 am

Kip

Thanks for a great article. Your essay came hot on the heels of me reading an interesting article about the great Australian mouse population explosion that may, or may not be the result of the great Australian feral cat poisoning campaign. In the meantime what is not disputed is how the Ascension Island Sooty Tern was expected to make a glorious comeback after the feral cat eradication effort there. In an odd turn(sic) of events the rat population made a huge comeback. You can read the familiar story of unintended consequences here:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/12/03/rat-explosion-threatens-sooty-terns-ascension-island-cat-cull/

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  E. J. Mohr
March 29, 2021 12:30 pm

Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help you….

Juan Slayton
March 29, 2021 10:13 am

Hmm…..
Seems like there ought to be a ship’s cat somewhere in this story….

griff
March 29, 2021 10:41 am

an absolutely great success: what is the author carping about?

See also: South Georgia.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  griff
March 29, 2021 12:43 pm

The purpose of the effort was the resurrection of the Aleutian Canada Goose population on the island. As the objective was not achieved, you have an odd notion of “absolutely great success”.

Old Retired Guy
March 29, 2021 10:54 am

Another example for my maxim that most people, especially left leaning politicians, can’t see past the first iteration of a new policy. Trying to explain how business would react to a proposed change to the Democrats in DC was an experience in beating your head against the wall.

Climate believer
March 29, 2021 11:16 am

“At the point where rats were introduced, there seems to be a pretty clear and sudden drop in the number of bird families and species and individuals,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service archeologist Debbie Corbett. – from Nature.org

Not sure who was counting back then in 1780, but anyway if all the birds disappeared quite quickly, what sustained the rat population over the last 200 years? I’m sure being omnivores helped.

I do find it incredible that no one thought hundreds of poison filled dead rats lying about the place might pose a significant risk to other wildlife, I thought that was common knowledge.

March 29, 2021 12:03 pm

Thanks Kip – a splendid rip-roaring farce!
Reminds me of this:

https://youtu.be/v1dvAxA9ib0

H.R.
March 29, 2021 1:37 pm

Kip:

It was good reading and not all that long. I finished the story before I finished my 1st cup of hot cocoa. I had budgeted for two cups of cocoa.

I particularly enjoyed the section on the various groups’ “It was led by US and we had help from some other groups.”

philincalifornia
March 29, 2021 1:40 pm

Spot the pollution

I did a side route yesterday through Planet Libtardia and its very own Rat Island section (there are hundreds of the little cuddly big mice). Took a few photographs but I think one may be one too many. The inhabitants certainly do have a sense of humor though:

comment image

Well, did you spot the man-made pollution?

Yes/No …..?

It’s that blue stuff at the top. What you mean you don’t have Asperger’s ??

philincalifornia
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 4:01 pm

Yeah, I took the photo myself yesterday (Sunday) in Oakland, California. Wood Street to be specific.

….. and sorry, yes it was for people who have the misfortune to understand the other end of the alimentary canal of libtardism.

Want me to get some telephoto pics of the rats? I’m hoping you decline that invitation.

Last edited 6 months ago by philincalifornia
philincalifornia
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 29, 2021 4:27 pm

Yeah, if I did get out of my car and poked my telephoto lens through those middle windows, I could probably get a great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Reminds me of the Louis Armstrong song …….

“….. and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

ATheoK
March 30, 2021 7:22 am

Sounds like a typical bureaucrat debacle.

Decimate threatened birds, but tell everyone how they “restored” sea gulls.

Claim seaweed, algae and kelp are restored… Sounds like someone collected a little more post storm plant detritus.

Praise isopod restoration!. How odd, isopods tend to be secretive creatures and seasonally abundant. No mention whether they screened populations for boom/bust cycles?

In simple terms, their entire document is pure beatific press release writing where all of their deadly actions bring forth glory on this Earth.

They should be prosecuted.
There is noting in the Federal laws allowing murderous incompetents to wantonly kill Eagles and Peregrines.

Each researcher and all of their supervisors/managers involved in this travesty should be hit with full Federal fines for killing protected birds.

Frans R
March 31, 2021 8:44 am

A very pleasant novel on the same kind of story is: When the Killing’s done, by T.C. Boyle, set in the island of Anacapa, off the coast of California.

%d bloggers like this: