Rabbits ravage seabird populations on Destruction Island
Source: The Seattle Times/Craig Welch
Peter Hodum crouched high above the crashing surf and jammed his arm into a tunnel of dirt.
An infrared camera was strapped to his face, and his right hand held the cordlike lens, which he snaked through a long earthen bunker that had been dug by a bird.
The biologist and his colleague, scientist Scott Pearson, had come to this steep uninhabited pile of rocks to catalog the decline of the rhinoceros auklet, a gray seabird that nests deep in hollowed-out hillside burrows. But instead of spying one of the white-eyebrowed creatures, Hodum came eye to eye with the most likely cause of its decline.
"Oh, there's a rabbit in here!" Hodum whispered. "Wow, look at that. I see you!"
Even here, in one of the Northwest's most remote places an out-of-the-way island so wild and ecologically sensitive it is now largely off-limits to people humans have managed to upend the natural system.
And we did it the way we have on more than 800 islands around the world: We brought bunnies.
From the Channel Islands in California to our own San Juans to islands off Chile, North Africa and New Zealand, invasive European rabbits wreak such havoc on plants and seabirds that governments the world over have spent a century trying to eradicate the furry beasts. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making plans to try its luck here, on a 30-acre sea-swept outcropping off the Washington coast, 17 miles southwest of LaPush.
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