Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
Map of the Southeast Region

Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge

Much of the rocky terrain is covered by a native forest adapted to a dry climate. Large gumbo limbo trees are common in interior valleys while a variety of cactus species, including the endangered higo chumbo (Harrisia portoricensis), form a part of the thorny scrub vegetation covering the steep coastal slopes.

Recent News

May 1, 2012: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Island Conservation today announced that operations in March and April to restore Desecheo Island’s native species and their habitat by removing non-native, invasive black rats from Desecheo Island have been completed safely and successfully. The removal of invasive rats will allow the native forest to recover and will promote the recolonization of the island by several seabird species that historically nested there. Continue reading...

Get the facts about the restoration efforts on Desecheo: In English (PDF) - En Espanol (PDF)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed Environmental Assessment, Rat Eradication to Promote Ecosystem Restoration on Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico. This Environmental Assessment analyzes possible consequences of five alternatives – a no-action alternative and four action alternatives – for restoring the island’s native habitat and species by eradicating non-native, invasive black rats from the Refuge. The proposed action will assist the native subtropical dry forest to recover and will promote the recolonization of the island by nesting seabirds.

Download the Final Environmental Assessment in English (8.5 MB PDF)
Download the Final Environmental Assessment in Spanish (8.8 MB PDF)

Refuge Facts

  • Established: 1976.
  • Acres: 360.
  • Location: the island is located 14 miles from the west coast of Puerto Rico.
  • Administered under Caribbean Islands NWR office.

Natural History

  • Desecheo island has seen many custodians over the years, including Spain, Puerto Rico, the U.S. military (bombing and survival training), N.I.H. (introduced rhesus monkeys for medical research), and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • At one time, the largest brown booby nesting colony in the world; today, no seabird nesting takes place on the island.
  • The native forest (which includes the endangered higo chumbo cactus) has been severely degraded by introduced rats, goats, and monkeys.

Refuge Objectives

  • To restore and protect historic seabird colonies and natural island ecosystems.

Management Tools

  • Law enforcement.
  • Feral animal control.
  • Bird and plant surveys.


Fact Sheet

Desecheo Fact Sheet

Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge Fact Sheet

Last updated: June 27, 2017
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