Want to know about invasive rats in Alaska? Riley Woodford, a writer for Alaska Fish and Wildlife News, says that across the state rats can be found in many communities, but so far the populations have not yet been established in the Southcentral region. There are two species of concern, the Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the Black Rat (Rattus rattus).
These two species have gone nearly everywhere that people have, with introduction primarily by way of boat and cargo ship. Just a couple of rats can wreak-havoc on Alaska’s ecosystems, decimating seabird populations that depend on rodent-free islands for nesting and raising chicks. Learn more about rat eradication from Hawadax Island in 2008 from the AK Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
While introduced rat numbers are not overwhelming in southcentral AK, the best way to keep them that way is constant vigilance. So, if a rat is sighted, what should you do? Firstly, be sure that what you see is not a rodent native to Alaska, as this state has many non-harmful native rodents such as the jumping mice, deer mice, voles, and lemming which are much smaller than the invasive rats. Another non-harmful Alaskan species that gets mistaken for rats is the Muskrat, which can be identified by having a much thicker tail and lives in ponds/wetlands.
Woodford educates that if you see a rat, be sure to document the exact location and precise size of the rat. If possible, it’s best to put the rat in a plastic bag, freeze it, and bring it into the local Fish and Game office. To learn more about this, check out Woodford’s article.