July 22, 2001 – The public has until Friday, July 27, to respond to a National Park Service draft plan to deal with excessive populations of rats, cats and mongooses in the V.I. National Park.
Park Supt. John H. King extended the deadline for review and comments, which initially had been July 15, "to ensure the public has has sufficient time to review this complex document," a National Park Service release stated.
The document is a draft environmental assessment of a proposed "sustained reduction" of the three non-native species of animals so as to minimize their impact within the park. The purpose of the assessment is "to evaluate impacts from rats, cats and mongooses" within the park, "describe control alternatives, and propose actions to reduce their populations."
And the objective of reducing the animal populations is to reduce "their impacts to visitors, residents and both natural and cultural resources."
According to Rafe Boulon, V.I. National Park chief of resources management, "The management goal in the draft plan is to keep rat, cat and mongoose populations from reaching levels where they could damage park resources or threaten visitor and employee safety." It is intended to become a "sustained reduction," so that once the populations are reduced to acceptable levels, they are kept at or below those levels.
Collectively, rat, cat and mongoose populations "pose a significant threat to the native natural resources, long-term resource management programs of the park, and visitor health and safety," a Park Service summary of the draft assessment states.
Wild animals which establish breeding populations after being introduced by humans into an environment are termed "exotic." Meantime, domestic animals which establish breeding populations in the wild are called "feral" animals. Exotics are generally fearful of humans, while feral animals can be very friendly to people. Both types of animals "disrupt complex native ecological communities, jeopardize endangered and native plants and animals, and degrade native habitats," the summary states.
One of the National Park Service mandates is to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife" within the parks so as to "leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Human actions resulting in "the continuous and unabated invasion of exotic and feral species" conflict with that mandate, and the Park Service is further mandated to destroy animals determined to be injurious to native flora and fauna.
As there is no way to keep small mammals from entering the V.I. National Park from adjacent lands, the feasible alternative is to focus on "regular efforts to reduce the population size" and impact, the summary states. "The key is to manage populations in an integrated approach that includes regular inspections and monitoring, upgraded sanitation, retrofitting trash receptacles and rat-proofing of structures."
The draft environmental assessment describes a three-phase approach:
Phase I involves planning, education and consensus building to reduce food and habitat availability, monitor food and trash handling and keep animals out of places where food and food waste are stored. It also involves "mechanical rodent-proofing techniques."
Phase II is "large-scale direct reduction efforts to reduce rat, cat and mongoose populations rapidly and substantially until acceptable population limits are achieved."
And Phase III consists of monitoring the sustained reduction of the populations via inspections, record keeping and educational outreach to residents and park visitors.
Park Service officials will consider comments received during the public review of the draft environmental assessment in preparing the final document. Comments should be in writing and must be postmarked no later than Friday. They should be sent to: Superintendent, National Park Service, V.I. National Park, PO Box 710 Cruz Bay, St. John VI 00831.
Copies of the draft environmental assessment are available for review at public libraries and the park Visitor Contact Station in Cruz Bay. The document may be downloaded from the Friends of the V.I. National Park web site at www.friendsvinp.org. For further information, contact Boulon by calling 693-8950, ext. 224, or by e-mailing to [email protected].


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