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Open Access Publications from the University of California

If at First You Don’t Eradicate: Remediating Rat Eradication Failure on Wake Atoll


Island rodent eradication operations have been remarkably successful at eliminating damages caused by these harmful vertebrate pests. As efforts increase in scale and complexity, so does risk of eradication failure. In this paper we present the example of a partially successful rodent eradication project to highlight how best practices and lessons learned are being integrated to reduce risk of failure during a second attempt. In 2012 the U.S. Air Force (USAF) commissioned an attempted eradication of two rat species from Wake Atoll in the Western Pacific. Asian house rats were successfully eradicated, but it was soon confirmed that some Polynesian rats survived; population numbers have since soared. A panel of outside experts was asked to review the project and identify factors that may have contributed to failure. The USAF and Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) have used this report as a road map for further studies addressing issues including bait delivery strategies, bait application rates, and alternate bait formulations. A subsequent data gap analysis conducted by USAF, NWRC, and Island Conservation documented technical advances in the intervening years that address risk factors identified in the original review, and highlighted remaining needs including development of a community outreach component and refinement of baiting strategies for inhabited areas and abandoned structures. This exchange of knowledge and expertise among cooperating organizations is helping to refine feasibility assessments and address lingering knowledge gaps. These efforts include a review of other failed rodent eradications that were redone successfully. Ongoing studies continue to resolve areas of uncertainty, and results are being integrated into operational planning for a subsequent eradication effort on Wake Atoll. This process highlights the importance of ongoing refinement of best practices, incorporation of lessons learned, and transfer of knowledge to the wider eradication community.

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