Search on for rodent on Bering Sea island

JUNEAU (AP) — Wildlife officials are working to capture a rogue rodent sighted on a rat-free island off the coast of southwest Alaska.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local authorities have set up a camera and traps on St. Paul Island after a rat was spotted late last month, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported. The Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea have maintained a rat prevention program, helping to keep the islands rat free for more than two decades.

“They maintain year-round, 365-day-a-year traps in strategic locations near the docks at St. Paul, so if a rat comes off a boat hopefully it will be captured right away,” said Steve Delehanty, manager of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

Six rats have been killed since the program began, but the rat was seen could have been the first to sneak past traps near the docks, Delehanty said. Authorities are hoping to quickly find the rat before it breeds.

“If there’s more than one rat there and they are breeding, then they’re already having babies,” Delehanty said. “We want to get at it when there are two rats on the island, or six or eight rats, not when there’s 56 rats or a 1,000 rats.”

Invasive rats on the islands could pose serious harm to the environment, Delehanty said.

“They damage people’s property. They damage food storage. They damage ship and boat electronics. They damage wildlife,” Delehanty said. “They eat birds, they eat bird eggs, they eat chicks. They can also transmit diseases.”