After close coordination and engagement with the public and other partners, the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex on Jan. 28 released its Final Integrated Pest Management Plan, which includes trapping feral cats and other "exotics.
In keeping with its mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin actively controlling and removing certain exotic animals from public lands within these refuges, including Crocodile Lake NWR, National Key Deer Refuge, Great White Heron NWR, and Key West NWR.
Exotic species pose threats for many of the refuges' threatened and endangered species by preying on them, competing for their food or habitat, or altering their habitats. Species such as Key Largo woodrat and the Lower Keys marsh rabbit are particularly susceptible to predation by exotic species. The removal of exotic species to protect native species and habitat is a widespread practice essential for wildlife in human-altered ecosystems. Strategies for controlling these exotic animals will be consistent with standard humane protocols adopted by local, state, and federal agencies involved in wildlife management throughout Florida.
"The management and control of invasive exotic plants and animals is essential to providing a healthy ecosystem for native, migratory, and endangered wildlife throughout the nation," said Sylvia Pelizza, Refuge Supervisor. "This is true for the Keys Refuge Complex as well. The Integrated Pest Management Plan that was developed for the Keys Complex will assist the staff conserving wildlife on the refuge."
The plan addresses the substantial issues of protecting the Keys' treasured wildlife from a host of challenges. It details the various methods to be used to address each threat from controlling large invasive snakes to iguanas and feral cats. This process is not simple and will need the understanding and support of the public to help save the native wildlife of the Keys. While there was overwhelming support of the Predator Management Plan from natural resource agencies, zoos, veterinarians, environmental advocacy groups, and wildlife advocacy groups, the Service engaged and received comments from six animal welfare groups opposed to removing predators from the refuges.
"We appreciate and thank the many people, agencies and organizations that have helped us create this plan," said Phillip Hughes, biologist for the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex. "We ask our neighbors and visitors to help us address these exotic threats by keeping their cats indoors, reporting when they see exotic species, and containing trash in wildlife-proof containers."
Copies of the refuge's Integrated Pest Management Plan and supporting documents can be obtained through a number of venues. A copy of the plan, Executive Summary, and Frequently Asked Questions are available for download at http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/
. Printed copies of these documents will be available at the National Key Deer Refuge Visitor Center (179 Key Deer Blvd, Big Pine Key, Florida, 33043). For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact Phillip Hughes at 305-872-2239 x 227.
Nick Wiley, Executive Director, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
"We appreciate the work the Service is doing to protect the native wildlife and habitat through the implementation of this management plan," said Nick Wiley, Executive Director, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "The Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex is a treasured resource and this plan will help ensure the long-term health of this unique ecosystem."
Alison Higgins Chair, Florida Keys Invasive Exotics Task Force
"We support the proposed action to remove cats found on refuge lands, as well as any feral cat colonies and feeding stations found," said Alison Higgins Chair, Florida Keys Invasive Exotics Task Force. "We support the Predator Management plan as a whole and look forward to working with you as part of the One Animal Family effort."
Julie Wraithmell, Director of Wildlife Conservation for Audubon Florida
"Audubon supports this important management prescription to safeguard the rare and declining wildlife of the Florida Keys from invasive exotic species," said Julie Wraithmell, Director of Wildlife Conservation for Audubon Florida. "These refuges were established to preserve our remarkable natural heritage, and it would not be possible to accomplish this goal without the reasonable and necessary recommendations outlined in the USFWS management plan. So much of the wildlife and habitat of this region has been lost. What remains is vitally important and worthy of conservation. White-crowned Pigeons, listed as threatened by the state, forage here; Piping Plovers, federally listed as threatened, winter here; and myriad neotropical migratory songbirds depend upon Keys habitats to sustain them before and after long, overwater migrations. This management plan helps ensure a future for these species in the Florida Keys."
Michael Roberts, CEP; PWS, Monroe County Biologist, Department of Planning & Environmental Resources
"The Environmental Resources office has long recognized the threat that free roaming pets and other exotic species pose to native wildlife, and I applaud the proactive approach presented in the IPMP to reduce and ultimately control these threats," said Michael Roberts, CEP; PWS, Monroe County Biologist, Department of Planning & Environmental Resources. "I look forward to our continued collaboration to protect native wildlife populations, and hopefully remove the threats to threatened and endangered species in a safe and humane way."
Douglas Mader, MS, DVM, Diplomate, ABVP (Canine/Feline), Diplomate, ABVP (Reptile/Amphibian), Fellow, Royal Society of Medicine
"A thorough and enforceable Integrated Pest Management Plan is crucial to the near term and long term survival of the delicate ecosystem here in the Florida Keys," said Douglas Mader, MS, DVM. "A single feral cat or wild constrictor snake can have devastating consequences to the small mammals and birds. It is everyone's responsibility to make an effort to control these invasive species if there is to be any hope for a sustainable native population."
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