A hutia is a large rodent native to the Caribbean islands. Although over 26 species of hutia have been identified, most are classified as extinct. Many living hutia species are considered endangered or threatened, due to habitat destruction, deforestation, and predation. The Bahamas Hutia is one of the endangered groups.
The hutia is plump, brown, and the size of a rabbit or guinea pig. Hutias are unique to the West Indies. The average hutia weighs just over one and a half pounds. Hutias are nocturnal and are the only land mammal native to The Bahamas. Hutias are herbivores feeding on the leaves and twigs of a variety of succulent shrubs.
Once thought to be extinct in the Bahamas, a small population was discovered in 1966 on East Plana Cay. [In the past, however, they were found on at least 10 Bahamian islands.] Now, a reintroduction program has partially restored the Bahamas hutia on other islands, such as Little Wax Cay, Warderick Wells, and the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Subsequent visitors have confirmed that the hutias are thriving at Exuma Park and their population has increased. The hutia is protected under the Wild Animals Protection Act of 1968 (along with iguanas and the now extinct wild horses of Abaco).
Relatives of the Bahamian hutia are found in several islands of the Caribbean. They [the Hispaniolan hutias] are rare and difficult to find in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Three species in Cuba are listed as endangered, and the Jamaican population only exists in three isolated sections of the island. The hutias of Little Swan Island are believed to have become extinct recently due to the depredations of introduced cats and dogs. It is entirely probable that the Bahamas may have the world’s only wild hutia population by the end of this century if the conservation of this unique Bahamian mammal proves to be successful.