The Puerto Rican hutia was a vital food source for the Amerindians for many years. With being hunted by Arawak Indians, they continued to survive until the arrival of early European explorers. Christopher Columbus and his crew are believed to have eaten the species upon their arrival. The species declined following European colonization of the West Indies. It is unclear whether it survived after facing threats from the early introduction of black rats (Rattus rattus) by the first European settlers around 1500, although it may have been finally wiped out by introduced mongooses in the nineteenth or early 20th century. Although commonly regarded as extinct, some researchers hold out hopes that the species still survives in undisturbed refuges.