- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

KEY LARGO, Fla. (AP) - Workers at a Key Largo wildlife refuge say feral cats have become a serious threat to the survival of an indigenous woodrat species.

Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge is working to ensure the survival of the Key Largo woodrat, The Miami Herald (https://hrld.us/1w3VrlO ) reported Sunday.

Motion-censored cameras have been placed around woodrat nests to monitor predators, refuge workers are tracking the nests and have captured and relocated some cats.

Efforts by the refuge helped upgrade the American Crocodile from endangered to threatened species status in 2007 and the refuge has worked to maintain other animal species crucial to the region’s biodiversity.

Jeremy Dixon, the refuge manager, and Ralph DeGayner, a longtime volunteer, are among those looking out for the woodrats.

The woodrat’s greatest threat used to be from encroaching development, now it is the feral cats, the men told the newspaper.

But some area residents say they are worried about the trapping of the unowned cats.

Resident Wayne Blevins said during a recent meeting to educate people about the woodrats that he is not happy about what is happening to the cats. He said he has been feeding cat colonies in Key Largo for more than a decade.

Others attending the meeting said they supported Dixon he refuge’s mission to protect the rodents from extinction.

Experts said the woodrats benefit the ecosystem by eating distributing berries, leaves, nuts and seeds, as well as serving as food for native birds and snakes.

Thus far, early 700 nests have been tagged for monitoring in a 1,200-acre area of the refuge.

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Information from: The Miami Herald, https://www.herald.com

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