The Hutia were introduced to Warderick Wells as an experiment.

The impact of the Hutia to the flora of Warderick Wells has been devastating based on the personal observations of many cruisers over several years. The denuding of the upper branches of many types of scrub trees was first evident on the S tip of Warderick Wells Cay. In this area, the vegetation cover of the cay took on a noticeable gray color relative to the vibrant green of the areas to the N.

Over the period from ~2009 to 2013, the denuding has progressed in stages year by year until it has affected the entire cay.

Hutia skat (droppings) look like brown pellets. In some places, the rocky ground is so densely covered it looks like they have been spread as mulch. The dropping do not appear to have any beneficial effect as fertilizer or mulch.

Park residents express some concern of enhanced fire danger due to large amount of dead scrub wood.

Background on Hutia

In 1990 the Bahamas National Trust solicited help from the Florida Museum of Natural History to assess damage to native vegetation caused by herbivorous Bahamian hutias (Geocapromys ingrahami) at Little Wax and Waderick Wells cays in the northern Exuma Islands, Bahamas. This rodent was widespread on the Great Bahama, Little Bahama, and Crooked-Acklins banks during the Pleistocene, but its range contracted during the Holocene, possibly due to human intervention (Morgan, 1989). Within modern times, the hutias became restricted to East Plana Cay in the eastern Bahamas. Fearing its extinction from disease or catastrophe, Garrett C. Clough transported rodents from East Plana Cay to the two release sites in the Exumas in 1973 and 1981, respectively (Clough, 1974, 1985; Jordan, 1989).

The initial expedition by the Florida Museum of Natural History was made to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) in August 1990. One of us (RF) sampled amphibians and reptiles to compare the herpetofaunal composition of hutia-free islands with those on which hutias were introduced. Work in 1990 centered on Bush Hill, Halls Pond, Hawksbill, Little Wax, O’Brien, and Waderick Wells cays. In 1991 and 1992, surveys were extended to include many more islands within the ECLSP and other islands in the Exuma chain.
Hutia Research

Updated: 29 Mar 13