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Kauai Cave Species Draft Recovery Plan Released for Public Review

July 27, 2005

A draft recovery plan outlining the recovery strategies for the Kauai cave wolf spider and Kauai cave amphipod was released for public comment today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The two species are known to exist only in the lava tubes and cave-bearing rock in Kauai's Koloa Basin.

"This plan will lead the cooperative efforts of the Service, the State of Hawaii, and many other partners as they work to recover these two rare species," said Dave Allen, Pacific regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service. "With the known population of the Kauai cave spider - perhaps fewer than 30 individuals - all in a single cave, we need to take action quickly to ensure that the only eyeless wolf spider in the world continues to survive."

Six broad recovery tasks are discussed in the draft plan: protecting known cave systems where the Kauai cave wolf spider and amphipod exist; enhancing currently and recently occupied habitats; conducting research to gain additional knowledge of the species and their conservation needs; enhancing public knowledge of and support for protecting these species; validating recovery objectives; and developing a post-delisting monitoring plan.

The first priorities identified in the plan are to protect the cave systems where these species still exist from human-caused destruction or degradation and to enhance their existing habitat. The cave amphipod is regularly found in three caves, including one where the cave wolf spider is found.

To protect the cave systems, the draft recovery plan recommends controlling human entry, preventing the destruction of native plant communities above the cave systems, developing and implementing a fire control plan for surface habitats, preventing introduction of and controlling currently present nonnative predators and competitors, preventing the introduction of bio-control organisms or bio-pesticides, and preventing contamination by pollutants such as insecticides and herbicides.

To enhance their habitats, the draft plan recommends managing the habitat above the caves to encourage the growth of appropriate plants whose roots provide food and debris for the cave amphipod, and to increase the relative humidity in caves. These cave-swelling species (known as troglobites) appear to require high humidity, perhaps as much as 100% humidity.

These two species were first discovered in 1971 and much about their conservation needs remains unknown. Research recommended within the draft plan includes studies:

to determine local populations sizes and/or movement;

to determine the most beneficial plants to be used for habitat improvement;

to develop noninvasive ways to determine the status of populations;

to learn more about regulating the humidity of caves and its effect on these species and nonnative ones;

to look for additional occupied caves or restorable cave systems;

to continue monitoring activities; and

to determine the feasibility of moving wolf spiders into unoccupied cave systems.

Public education activities are encouraged to broaden knowledge of the Kauai cave species in the Koloa and Poipu area, and to engender public support for these unique creatures. Providing technical expertise and/or funding to implement land uses friendly to these species also is encouraged.

The Kauai cave wolf spider is a mid-size (0.50 to 0.75-inch) hunting spider that has completely lost its eyes as part of its adaptation to life in lava tubes. Instead of building webs, it chases and grabs its prey or may use sit-and wait ambush tactics. Unlike most wolf spiders that produce 100 to 300 spiderlings per clutch, the Kauai cave wolf spider is believed to produce fewer than 30 spiderlings per clutch. Newly hatched spiderlings are unusually large and are carried on the back of the female for only a few days.

The Kauai cave amphipod is a small (0.25 to 0.4-inch) pale landhopper that resembles a shrimp. Like the cave wolf spider, the Kauai cave amphipod has lost its eyes. It feeds on the decaying roots of surface vegetation that reach into the cave system, as well as rotting sticks, branches, and other plant materials. This amphipod is believed to be a food source for the Kauai cave wolf spider.

The Kauai cave wolf spider and cave amphipod were listed as endangered on January 14, 2000. On June 2, 2000, the U.S. District Court ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for these species. Critical habitat for the species was designated on April 9, 2003, in the Federal Register.

The availability of the draft recovery plan for a 60-day public comment period was announced in the Federal Register on February 9. Copies of the draft recovery plan are available through the Fish and Wildlife Service=s website at http://pacificislands.fws.gov or by calling the Fish and Wildlife Service=s Honolulu office at 808 792 9400. Written comments may be submitted to the Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-122, Box 50088, Honolulu, HI 96850.


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