Possible First Naturalistic Photo of a Rare Sanibel Rice Rat

20151202_111336The Sanibel rice rat (Oryzomys palustris sanibeli) is a semi-aquatic and imperiled species of rodent that is protected by the state of Florida. This very rare mammal is endemic to Sanibel Island (only known from Sanibel). It is often confused with the native cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) and the exotic black rat or “palm rat” (Rattus rattus) that are very common on the island. Sanibel rice rats primarily live in Spartina marshes and do not go near people or their homes. Besides long term monitoring by SCCF and the Refuge, there is a large study occurring on Sanibel rice rats on the island currently by the University of Florida with funding from an FWC grant. Here is a very rare look at a Sanibel rice rat that was photographed on the SCCF Center Tract in November 2015, by SCCF, staff during biannual monitoring for this species.

This is possibly the first naturalistic photo of a Sanibel rice rat in the wild – all previous photos are in captivity or being held during health checks.

The main reason for their scarcity on the island is the reduction of habitat due to succession from open wetlands to hardwood hammocks. Prescribed fire directly affects this species because fire is the best tool, and most natural way, to maintain their habitat