Date of this Version
Kappes PJ, Siers SR (2021) Relative acceptance of brodifacoum pellets and soft bait sachets by Polynesian rats (Rattus exulans) on Wake Atoll. Management of Biological Invasions 12(3): 685–699, https://doi.org/10.3391/mbi.2021.12.3.11
Removing invasive rats from island ecosystems using rodenticides has proven conservation benefits and is an important management tool for conserving and restoring island ecosystems. However, rodenticide-based eradications can fail if not all rats consume enough bait to result in lethal toxicosis. A recent post-operational review of a failed attempt to eradicate rats from Wake Atoll suggested that some individuals may not have ingested a lethal dose of rodenticide due to potential dietary and/or sensory preferences developed via regular access to anthropogenic food sources. These food sources may be higher in fats and oils, possessing different sensory properties (e.g., softer, chewier, etc.) than the harder pellet formulation of the rodenticide Brodifacoum 25W Conservation (B-25W) used in the eradication attempt. To test this theory, we captured rats from two areas on Wake Island where they may have regular access to human food sources, as well as an uninhabited part of island where rats presumably have less access to human-based food sources and therefore are less likely to be preconditioned for these food types. We subjected them to a head-to-head two-choice bait selection trial between a “soft” sachet formulation of a brodifacoum-based bait, FINAL Soft Bait with Lumitrack® (FINAL), versus the harder pellet formulation of B-25W. Regardless of which habitat rats were captured in, rats overwhelmingly preferred the pellet formulation. No rats in the head-to-head trail consumed any of the FINAL bait, and 100% of the rats that consumed B-25W died. Of the rats in a separate no-choice trail of just FINAL bait, 5 failed to eat any bait; of the rats that did consume some of the FINAL bait, 80% died. Our results demonstrate that Polynesian rats on Wake Atoll do not prefer this soft formulation of brodifacoum-based rodenticide bait. Our results suggest that baiting strategies in the inhabited regions of the atoll, for a proposed eradication attempt, should continue to focus on utilizing traditional pellet formulations. While these results are unequivocal in our test case, we suggest caution in making inference to other situations where dietary preferences of local rodent populations may differ, and local environmental conditions may make other baiting choices more appropriate and efficacious.
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