Denis Rogerson, from the FOTBR committee, reports on the monitoring and maintenance of approximately 100 bait stations and 25 traps in the Tawa reserves. These are used to control possums, rats, mustelids and hedgehogs and are important for the health and vitality of native flora and fauna
Although possum numbers are well down, historically speaking, ongoing bait station maintenance is needed to ensure this remains like this. Today, it is primarily rats and mustelids that are the main pests targeted. Denis reports that: around 2-3 stoats and weasels are caught annually in the Tawa area.
Recent stoat capture in Tawa
A stoat was trapped in the Willowbank Reserve in December 2020. They are ferocious predators and the number one killer of many of New Zealand’s endangered native species. They live in any habitat where they can find prey and tolerate extreme weather conditions.
Stoats are also efficient breeders and juvenile females are usually pregnant before they become independent and have a litter size of 8-10. They disperse up to 65 km and can swim 1.5 km plus, therefore putting predator-free islands at risk.
Hunt for an island-hopping stoat cost $86,000 On 16 January 2021, the Dominion Post reported that a seven-month hunt to trap an island-hopping stoat in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf cost Auckland Council and DOC $86,000. Eventually trapped on Rangitoto Island in September 2020, the stoat had killed kererū, kākāriki and pūkeko on neighbouring islands, and the pest had reached these by swimming.
Documented damage caused by stoats
Stoats were introduced into NZ in 1879 to control rabbits that were destroying sheep pasture. Stoats are implicated in the extinction of South Island bush wren and the laughing owl. Even a 3kg takahe or 2kg kakapo can be killed by a stoat. They also have a strategy of killing everything in sight and storing the surplus for later consumption. It is not surprising when Denis says: We are very happy when we trap a stoat.