Frequently Asked Questions
What was the Hawadax Island restoration project?
For over 200 years, Hawadax Island in the western Aleutian Islands was known as Rat Island due to the presence of invasive Norway Rats that dominated the island and destroyed virtually all seabird nesting on the island. In early October 2008, after several years of planning, Island Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service successfully implemented the restoration of Hawadax Island by removing invasive rats.
In May 2009 and June 2010, Island Conservation and the Coastal Conservation Action Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz returned to Hawadax Island to confirm the project a success and monitor native species recovery. Scientists recently returned to Hawadax in summer 2013 to monitor native species recovery five years later and discovered the island thriving with healthy seabirds, chicks, and eggs, some of which had never been recorded nesting on the island before.
How are the native species responding to a rat-free island?
Scientists documented remarkable species and ecosystem recovery just five years after the successful eradication of invasive rats. In a summer 2013 monitoring visit, tufted puffins were found breeding on Hawadax Island for the first time ever. Other birds, such as Leach's storm petrels, fork-tailed storm-petrels, rock sandpipers, black oystercatchers, snow buntings, and song sparrows were observed by monitoring crew during the trip -- and all are present in increased numbers.
Tell me more about Hawadax Island.
Hawadax Island is uninhabited and is located about 1,300 miles west of Anchorage in the Aleutian Islands. The 6,861-acre island became part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (formerly the Aleutian Islands National Wildlife Refuge) in 1913. The island is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Topography of the tree-less island is characterized by steep coastal cliffs, a small central mountain range and a broad, rolling plateau of maritime tundra.
Who are the project partners?
The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), The Nature Conservancy and Island Conservation, a science-based non-profit organization, worked together to restore Hawadax Island.
How was the island given a new name?
After the restoration, the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, an Alaska Native organization, successfully petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to officially change the island's name. The name was changed in 2012.
What does the name "Hawadax" mean?
Hawadax is an Unangan word meaning "those two over there," a name that quite accurately describes two knolls dominating the island's topography. The island is uninhabited, but it was traditionally used by the Unangas/Unangan (Aleut) people.
What impact did rats have on Hawadax Island?
Rats are voracious predators on birds, chicks, and eggs. Introduced non-native rats have been responsible for about half of all recorded bird extinctions globally. On Hawadax Island, rats had eliminated virtually all seabirds and many other birds. There are no native land mammals on Hawadax Island so the birds had no natural defenses against these aggressive predators.
While the 2008 rat eradication was effective in ridding the island of rats for the first time in more than 200 years, the eradication effort did cause some unexpected mortality of glaucous-winged gulls and bald eagles. This prompted a thorough review of the project, which the Ornithological Council published in 2010. The review is available here.