A pleasing consequence of Norway rat eradication: two shrew species recover


Correspondence: Michel Pascal, Équipe Gestion des Populations Invasives, INRA, Station SCRIBE, Campus de Beaulieu, F 35 042 Rennes Cedex France. Tel.: (33) (0)2 23 48 53 79; Fax.: (33) (0)2 23 48 50 20; E-mail: pascal@beaulieu.rennes.inra.fr


Four to 10 years after the successful eradication of the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) from three islands of the Sept–Îles Archipelago and one in the Molène Archipelago (Brittany, France), the abundance index of the lesser white-toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens) increased by factors of 7–25, depending on the island and the year. Moreover, in the same region, the abundance index of the greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula) on Tomé Island increased by factors of 9 and 17, one and two years after the Norway rat eradication, respectively.

 The maximum variation of the abundance index for the lesser white-toothed shrew during seven years on the rat-free island of Béniguet in the same region was a factor of only 2.5. Moreover, the distribution of the lesser white-toothed shrew on Bono island, restricted before the eradication to two steep areas with few rats, increased and encompassed virtually the entire island four years after rats disappeared.

 These results suggest strong detrimental interactions between the introduced Norway rat and the two Crocidura shrew species on temperate oceanic islands. However, our data do not indicate the ecological mechanisms at work in these interactions.

 The main reason this shrew recovery was detected after rat eradication was the inclusion in the eradication protocol of the evaluation of impacts on the local biota of eliminating alien species. The rigor of the sampling procedure was also crucial to this discovery. This example demonstrates that an eradication operation can be extremely useful for both scientists and managers if it is planned as a research project.