Population biology and monitoring of the Cuban hutia at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Gary W. Witmer 1 , 1  and Martin Lowney 2 , 2
  • 1 USDA National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521-2154, USA
  • 2 USDA Wildlife Services, P.O. Box 130, 21425 Hull Street Road, Moseley, VA 23120, USA

Abstract

The Cuban hutia (Capromys pilorides) is the largest native mammal occurring in Cuba. Endemic to the West Indies, most species of hutia are rare or extinct because of over-harvesting, exotic species introductions, and habitat modifications by humans. An exception is Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the Cuban hutia is very common and is responsible for a variety of damage and conflicts, including damage to landscaping, gnawing through cables, damage to vehicles, the accumulation of large amounts of feces in residential areas, and damage to native vegetation, with little subsequent regeneration of many plant species. Current management focuses on population reduction by shooting and some trapping, followed by euthanasia or relocation to remote areas. There is little published information on the Cuban hutia. We present information on the biology of the hutia, along with population monitoring results from field studies at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2001–2003. We found that the hutia is quite prolific and well adapted to exploit most habitats and plant foods. It appears that population sizes are greater in remote areas than in developed areas, but are nonetheless widespread and sizeable in all areas, despite several years of population control. However, even in areas of intense population control, hutia densities of 1–5 /ha are common. Management implications are discussed and several areas of additional data or research needs are identified.

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Mammalia is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the inventory, analysis and interpretation of Mammalian diversity. It publishes original results on all aspects of systematics (comparative, functional and evolutionary morphology; morphometrics; phylogeny; biogeography; taxonomy and nomenclature), biology, ecology and conservation of mammals.

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