house mouse

In winter 2016, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) eradicated mice (Mus musculus) from the Antipodes Islands located at 49°S 178°E, 760 km south-east of New Zealand’s South Island. Mice were the only mammalian pest species present. They have extensively impacted the abundance and survival of invertebrates, with likely secondary impacts on endemic terrestrial birds and nesting seabird fauna. Public-private partnerships with DOC instigated the project and provided essential financial support.

Seabirds are notoriously sensitive to introduced mammalian predators and eradication programs have benefitted seabird populations and their habitats on numerous islands throughout the world. However, less evidence is available from the tropics as to the benefits of rat eradication. Here, we report the seabird recovery and vegetation dynamics on a small coralline island of the tropical western Indian Ocean, eight years after Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) eradication.

House mice are significant invasive pests, particularly on islands without native mammalian predators. As part of a multi-institutional project aimed at suppressing invasive mouse populations on islands, we aim to create heavily male-biased sex ratios with the goal of causing the populations to crash. Effective implementation of this approach will depend on engineered F1 wild-lab males being effective secondary invaders that can mate successfully.

The impacts of house mice (Mus musculus), one of four invasive rodent species in New Zealand, are only clearly revealed on islands and fenced sanctuaries without rats and other invasive predators which suppress mouse populations, influence their behaviour, and confound their impacts. When the sole invasive mammal on islands, mice can reach high densities and influence ecosystems in similar ways to rats.

Bense and Little Bense Islands (144 ha total area) have, for over a century, supported populations of three introduced pest mammals: Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), house mouse (Mus musculus), and European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). An operation to eradicate these mammals simultaneously was undertaken in winter 2016. Cereal pellets laced with brodifacoum (25 ppm) were hand-broadcast on both islands in two applications with 3,900 kg of bait applied in total. Baiting transects were spaced at 20 m intervals and bait-throwing positions located every 20 m along each transect.

Anticoagulant rodenticides are an important tool for managing rodents by increasing the chances of success and lowering the resources required. This guide was developed to assist non-specialists in gaining a better understanding of the risks, costs, and benefits of using anticoagulant rodenticides. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that rodenticides are used responsibly and that the risk of negative impacts to people and the environment is minimised. Failure to do so could result in the loss of support for the use of these useful tools.

Aerial baiting from helicopters with a bait-sowing bucket and GPS to ensure coverage with anticoagulant toxins in cereal-based baits can reliably eradicate rodents on islands. Current best practice for temperate islands is to bait in winter when the rodents are not breeding, rodent numbers are lowest so competition for toxic baits is lowest, natural food is likely to be scarce, and many non-target species are absent from the island. However, short winter day lengths at high latitudes restrict the time helicopters can fly and poor weather in winter may increase risks of failure.

The control of invasive species would be enhanced through the addition of novel, more effective and sustainable pest management methods. One control option yet to be trialled in the field is to deploy transgene-based ‘Gene Drives’: technologies which force the inheritance of a genetic construct through the gene pool of a wild population, suppressing it or replacing it with a less harmful form. There is considerable interest in applying gene drives to currently intractable invasives across a broad taxonomic range.

Invasive rodents have significant negative impacts on island biodiversity. All but the smallest of rodent eradications currently rely on island-wide rodenticide applications. Although significant advances have been made in mitigating unintended impacts, rodent eradication on inhabited islands remains extremely challenging. Current tools restrict eradication efforts to fewer than 15% of islands with critically endangered or endangered species threatened by invasive rodents.