Invasive rat space use on tropical islands: Implications for bait broadcast
Invasive rats on oceanic islands impact a large number of native species. Control programmes, and in many cases complete eradication, are used to alleviate these impacts. Basic data on rodent biology facilitate the design of control or eradication programmes, and is particularly required for programmes on tropical islands where such data are missing. Here we test for interactive effects of habitat and season that may alter black rat (Rattus rattus) space use dynamics and inform rodent management on two tropical islands. Five years of summer and winter trapping data were analysed using spatially explicit capture–recapture to calculate rat space-use and overlap, coupled with spool and line experiments ground-truthing microhabitat use. Variation in individual rat space use is primarily driven by sex and bottom-up trophic effects of seasonal rainfall on food resources, but is altered by island-specific contexts. In the absence of other introduced mammals, rats tend to have stable range overlap throughout the year but home range sizes fluctuate seasonally with rat density. The presence of other introduced mammals causes predictable greater seasonal fluctuations in rat space-use, putatively a behavioural adjustment to feral cats (Felis catus) diet-switching to rats from seasonal influxes of their alternative seabird prey.We identify winter as the recommended treatment period on both islands and discuss bait broadcast strategies.