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Friday, February 28, 2014

Hutias Too Hungry

huitia bahama wildlife warderick wells

Home of the hutia, Warderick Wells Cay in Exuma Cays
Land & Sea Park, is part of large nature preserve.
What the heck is a hutia?

Hutias (Geocapromys ingrahami) are cute rodents, akin to an oversized guinea pig.  While they’re charming Warderick Wells cruisers, unbeknownst to most cruisers, these happy herbivores are seriously devouring the island’s foliage like hordes of hairly locusts.

One of the few mammals native to the Bahamas, these Pleistocene era thrivers wandered widely once upon a time on Great Bahama, Little Bahama, and Crooked-Acklins banks until their only home became East Plana Cay in the eastern Bahamas.  In the ‘70s and 80s, concerns over their extinction prompted their transfer to Exuma’s Little Wax and Waderick Wells cays.

cruising destination wildlife in exumas land and sea park

Stuffed hutia display in Warderick Wells Exuma Land and
Sea Park Office.  It’s the only hutia I saw during the day.
In recent years, the result is the increasing denuding of many types of scrub trees on Waderick Wells.  Hutia scat also covers substantial portions of the trail in pesky little pellets.  The online Bahamas Cruising Guide, references Bahamas Trust sponsored Florida Museum of Natural History field research  on hutia habitation damage in the Exumas, and notes rangers expressed some concern of increased fired danger due to the large amount of dead scrub.

Why, as I hiked the heavily turded trails of Warderick Wells, was I not seeing these prolific pests?

Unexpectedly, the mystery was solved by the traditional Warderick Wells Saturday eve casual cruiser’s potluck.  As dusk decended, the hutias, apparently nocturnal creatures, invited themselves to the party.  Dana Pitchon of Corsair, successful professional photographer (click here to see Dana’s photography) and seasoned Bahamas cruiser, rewarded their visit with her home-made bread, brought specifically for that purpose.  The hutia chowed it down.


analogy comparing hutia to wall e losing ability to forage
Maybe this is what the Exuma Land and Sea Park rangers hope
happens to Warderick Wells hutias;  that like Wall e's characters,
that they lose their taste for wild food (Wall e image).
Maybe now I understand why the rangers, who also came to the party, did nothing to discourage their feeding.  Perhaps they’re hoping hutias can adopt a Walle World kind of existence, eventually eschewing nature’s bounty for processed foods, sparing at least a scrub brush or two.

Location Location
We're anchored off Georgetown, BAHAMAS as of yesterday, February 27, 2014.  Lat/Long updated in a future post.  This post covers our time in Warderick Wells.