mus musculus

The eradication of the seven remaining animal pest species remaining on Rangitoto and Motutapu was announced by the Prime Minister and Minister of Conservation in June 2006. With stoats, cats, hedgehogs, rabbits, mice and two species of rats spread across an area of 3842ha, the proposed project is the most challenging and complex island pest eradication the Department of Conservation (DOC) has ever attempted.

The UK has sovereignty over 16 Overseas Territories, which hold some of the world's great seabird colonies and collectively support more endemic and globally threatened bird species than the whole of mainland Europe. Invasive alien mammalian predators have spread throughout most of the Territories, primarily since European expansion in the 16th century. Here we review and synthesize the scale of their impacts, historical and current, actions to reduce and reverse these impacts, and priorities for conservation.

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.

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.

Sand Island, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (MANWR), is home to 21% of all nesting black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) and 47% of all nesting Laysan albatross (P. immutabilis) worldwide. During the 2015–2016 nesting season predation and disturbance by non-native house mice (Mus musculus), here documented for the first time, resulted in 70 abandoned nests, 42 adult birds killed and 480 wounded. In the following nesting season the affected area increased, resulting in 242 dead adults, 1,218 injured birds and 994 abandoned nests.

House mice (Mus musculus) were introduced to South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island, the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands, by sealers in the early 19th century. Over the last two centuries they have greatly reduced the abundance of native invertebrates. Domestic cats (Felis catus) taken to the island in 1948 to control mice at the South African weather station soon turned feral, killing large numbers of breeding seabirds. An eradication programme finally removed cats from the island by 1991, in what is still the largest island area cleared of cats at 290 km2.

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.

Once an island vertebrate eradication is deemed successful, it is typically assumed that ecosystem recovery will follow. To date, most post-eradication monitoring focuses on the recovery of key threatened or charismatic species, such as seabirds. Little attention has been given to monitoring and quantifying the response of invertebrate communities. Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), house mice (Mus musculus), and ship rats (Rattus rattus) impacted sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island for over 140 years, with wide ranging ecosystem impacts.

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.