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Potential attractants for detecting and removing invading Gambian giant pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus)



BACKGROUND: Native to Africa, Gambian giant pouched rats (Gambian rats; Cricetomys gambianus Waterh.) are a threatening invasive species on a Florida island, Grassy Key. Gambian giant pouched rats shifted from a domestic pet to invading species after suspected release from a pet breeder. Because of the large size of Gambian rats (weighing up to 2.8 kg), they pose a serious threat to native species (particularly nesting species) and agricultural crops, especially if Gambian rats invade mainland Florida. Also, Gambian rats pose a threat from disease, as they were implicated in a monkeypox outbreak in the midwestern United States in 2003. The United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services has initiated eradication and detection efforts in the Florida Keys, but trapping the sparse population of Gambian rats has proven difficult.

RESULTS: Fifteen attractants that could be used in traps for capturing or detecting single or paired Gambian rats were tested. It was found that conspecific scents (i.e. feces and urine) from other Gambian rats were the best treatment for attracting single and paired Gambian rats. Single Gambian rats explored more attractant types than paired Gambian rats.

CONCLUSIONS: Effective attractants for use with Gambian rats have been identified, and multiple attractant types should be used to capture or detect the sparse population. It is recommended that mainly urine and feces from Gambian rats be used, but peanut butter, anise, ginger and fatty acid scent could also be useful for attracting the currently small population of Gambian rats on Grassy Key. Published in 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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