Questions you ask us A LOT!

Department of Conservation —  21/12/2022 — Leave a comment

It’s no surprise that here at DOC the summer period is our busiest. So many more people are dusting off their seasonal gear and getting out-and-about exploring and engaging with nature.

During this period we get a lot, and I mean A LOT of people tagging us in posts, messaging us on our social channels and picking up the phone to ask us all sorts of interesting questions.

We thought we’d help you out ahead of time, giving you all the answers and some bonus top tips to your summer questions.

Hikers on the Mt Burns Tarns Track.
Strawsine, Merissa

1. I’ve found this interesting bird/plant/reptile, what should I do with it and can you help me identify this?

This question, or a similar question like this gets asked of us on social media at least twice a week, but during the summer months that increases to about 10 per week on average! And that’s just through social media alone, never mind the same/similar enquires that come through the DOC call centre or directly to local office staff!

So what is the answer? Well, if you have any inkling it is a native, protected species and it doesn’t look distressed or injured, it’s best to call your local DOC office. Depending on the situation and circumstances, our local teams will be able to give you some advice to help ensure the native species is safe and protected. If you’re lucky enough, you might even have a local ranger pitch in, to provide some hands-on support!

Westland green gecko.
Loh, Graeme

TOP TIP: Bookmark your local DOC office, or the local offices in the places you might visit, in your web browser OR screen shot them on your phone. That way, if you need to contact any of them directly you have their details at the ready! You can find a list of our local offices by name here

Something to keep in mind though is that our local DOC offices are only open during normal hours, some of them might even have different Christmas/ New Year break hours too! So, its best to call our 0800 DOC HOTline, if something like this happens outside of normal office hours. – Usually, our DOC HOTline staff will provide some advice over the phone, but if required they have the ability to contact a ranger on duty to attend to the species that you might need help with.

Oh, and if you were thinking you could keep it as a pet. You can’t. – Anyone wanting to hold protected wildlife must apply to DOC for a permit. All wildlife is protected unless it is specified in Schedules 1-5 of the Wildlife Act.

To report illegal activity, a conservation emergency or report sick, injured or dead wildlife Call the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) find out more here.

Ok, so you happen to be out on an adventure and come across an interesting species, you pull out your phone, take a photo but don’t quite know what it is, so you think it would be best to ask DOC experts if they can identify it, right?!

Well, we don’t actually offer a species identification service, instead we suggest you use iNaturalist – you simply upload your photo findings to the platform and the community of scientists, naturalists and experts will be able to identify the species for you. They might even provide some weird funky facts as some bonus information.

2. I’m out at this amazing spot and I’ve found feathers/shells or other native/natural material, do I need to get permission to collect these and take them home with me?

Firstly, the most important this to do before collecting anything is to check whose land you want to collect it from and seek the landowner’s permission.

For land administered by us (Public Conservation Land) the rules applying to the taking or collecting of feathers, shells and other native/natural materials (don’t forget plants and minerals) vary, depending on whether the relevant land is a national park, a reserve, or a conservation area – which will involve differing considerations and requirements.

The safest thing to do is to seek permission from the relevant DOC office.

For feathers or other parts of the bodies of absolutely or partially protected wildlife (defined under the Wildlife Act), and their eggs, it is illegal anywhere in New Zealand to collect them without prior written approval from us.

All species of red coral and black coral are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act.

For shells, no permission is needed unless they are taken from a category of land with a special status e.g. a national park.

Shell Collection.
Dixon, Benhi

3. Can I keep a possum as a pet? – but this one looks so cute!

Some of you might be laughing at this one, thinking it’s a joke but we really do get this question A LOT!

The simple answer is no!

Possums have a significant impact on many of New Zealand’s natural ecosystems -eating buds, flowers , leaves, fruit/berries and nectar, competing with native birds and reptiles. – Not only that, they are opportunistic omnivores and have been filmed eating eggs and chicks of kōkako and kereru!

Possum scavengers an egg at a New Zealand pigeon/ kereru nest.

They, (even if you think they are cute) are defined as a pest under most regional pest management plans in New Zealand.

It’s an offence to breed, knowingly communicate, exhibit, multiply, propagate, release, or sell a pest except under certain circumstances (see section 52 and section 53 of the Biosecurity Act 1993). 

People are not allowed to keep them! Remember, possums are pests, not pets.

4. I have a drone, why can’t I fly it wherever I want?

Santa may be getting you a new drone for Christmas, and even though you might think it’s a harmless toy that you can take on your summer adventures, there are some risks and things you need to be aware of before you do so.

Drone.
📷: Andrew Xu

Firstly, to operate a drone on conservation land, both recreationally and commercially, you will need a permit.

Permits vary from place to place but in short they are there to help ensure that the drone operator uses their drone responsibly, making sure that they’re not disturbing wildlife, that they’re considerate of other people’s privacy, that they respect Māori cultural values by involving hapū and iwi, they follow Civil Aviation Authority rules and that they follow relevant polices and plans.

You can find all of our detailed guidance in drone operations on conservation land and how to attain a permit here

TOP TIP: If you know where you’re going and when you’re planning on using your drone, save yourself the heartbreak and apply for a permit well ahead of time. As you can imagine, over the summer period our permitting team gets really busy processing the influx of permit requests, so beat the rush and get your permit application in early to avoid missing out on that perfect drone shot!

5. Help! I found a snake, what do I do?

We know what you’re thinking – What kind of question is that?! We’re not Australia, we don’t have snakes here!

From time-to-time we get sent videos and images of creatures that kind of look like snakes, slithering across tracks in the bush, but they always turn out to be something else – an eel relocating homes or even an unearthed worm.

However, over the last few summers we’ve noticed an increase in reports from people saying they found a snake/s at the beach. This might come as a bit of a shock but these reports usually checks out!

Sea snakes and kraits are occasional visitors to New Zealand’s waters, arriving here naturally on ocean currents. They are highly venomous but are very docile creatures and there is no record of anyone in New Zealand being bitten. The teeth of a sea krait are at the very back of the mouth and the mouth is small, so it is difficult for them to bite a person – but not unheard of overseas. This is why we advise the public not to touch them.

Yellow-bellied sea snake.
📷: Luis Correa

They are considered a native species under the Wildlife Act 1953 and therefore it is illegal to kill or harass a sea snake, or possess one or any part of one without a permit.

If you find a sea snake or krait keep well away and call 0800 DOC HOT to report it – especially if it is injured.

6. I made a booking online but I need to modify/change it, how do I do it?

Hut on the West Coast
📷: Luke Sutton

We get SO MANY questions around bookings for our Great Walks and our huts, campsites and lodges, but this one is the main question we get a lot! Especially over Summer!

If you’ve made a booking online that means that at some point in the past you have registered and created an account with us. You’ll need to log into your account, select your bookings, click on modify for the booking you wish to change and confirm. That’s basically it!

Now, there are two booking systems, one is for our Great Walks and the other is for our Huts, Campsites and Lodges – meaning that there are some slight differences on each system for making changes to your booking.

Here are the detailed step-by-step instructions to modify bookings on our Great Walks and our Huts, Campsites and Lodges.

To change date or number of people on your Huts and Campsites booking

  • Log into your Account at https://bookings.doc.govt.nz/web/
  • Select Your Account drop down in the green bar near top of page
  • Select Your Bookings
  • Click Modify against the booking you wish to change
  • Change to date/s  or number of people you want
  • Click OK
  • Accept Terms and Conditions
  • Go to Checkout

To change date or number of people on your Great Walks booking

  • Log into your Account at https://bookings.doc.govt.nz/Saturn/
  • Select Your Account drop down in the black bar near top of page
  • Select Purchases
  • All Bookings
  • To change dates – Click Modify against the booking you wish to change and change to date/s you want. Dates must be consecutive.
  • To change number of people – Click Modify Occupants and change click on X against those occupants you need to remove.
  • Click OK
  • Accept Terms and Conditions
  • Go to Checkout

TOP TIP: If you head over the the Bookings links above and scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find a link to our bookings FAQ’s. There are some handy questions and answers that can provide a quick solution for you and your needs. If that doesn’t work, you can always click on the Contact Us link, fill in a form and send your questions in directly to one of our bookings support staff members.

If you are wanting to modify/ change a booking at a DOC facility that isn’t on our online bookings systems then you will need to contact the local visitor centre or the local DOC office and change your booking with the team there.

7. I’m really interested in trapping in my area, how can I start and who can I talk to?

Ka pai hoki koe! Good on you if you’re thinking about starting trapping in your area! After all, the only way Aotearoa can achieve the goal of a predator free New Zealand by 2050 is if we all chip in and do our part to help.

Summer is a great time to start!
Most trees flower and produce seeds during Summer and when seeds become abundant so too do pests and predators, causing a nasty knock-on effect that ultimately devastates to our native species.

Introduced predators like possums, rats and stoats damage and threaten our nation’s taonga, our economy and primary sectors. Predator Free 2050 brings together communities, iwi, experts, businesses, government and non-government organisations, and individuals who envision a flourishing Aotearoa with abundant native wildlife and forests.

Our website has an amazing set of resources to help you on your trapping journey. You can find out how to monitor pest in your backyard, build trapping tunnels for you and your whānau, find inspiration in local stories and even talk to a Predator Free Ranger.

We also have a handy trapping guide to help you identify predators, their habitats and behaviours, and find the right trapping solution for your specific need.


A group of Whenua Iti students work together for native taonga in their community.
📷: Whenua Iti Outdoors

TOP TIP: Starting something new can be quite challenging to do by yourself, or even with whānau and friends. Predator Free NZ have an awesome tool to help you get involved by finding a local trapping group in your area. You just type in your address, see what groups are near you and contact them directly to join in! It’s a great way to start, learn and meet like-minded people.


Hopefully, these questions we’ve answered will help while you’re out-and-about enjoying your summer adventures. Keep tagging us in posts, keep messaging us and keep asking us all of your interesting questions.

If you see us on your adventures over Summer stop and say hi. Be mindful of wildlife, take your rubbish with you, be kind to one another and most importantly have a fun, safe and enjoyable Christmas and New Year!

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