Archives For stoat

DOC Threatened Species Ambassador Nicola Toki tells us about her threatened species work in Australia, helping scientists catch platypus and learning about maremma sheepdogs.

Continue Reading...

The bush wren, laughing owl, and native thrush are all extinct.

Stoats are thought to have caused their demise—as well as the decline of many of New Zealand’s other indigenous bird species. They also feed heavily on our native reptiles and invertebrates.

The images below show the devastation that a stoat can wreck on our native species—in this case New Zealand’s smallest bird, the rifleman/titipounamu.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DOC ranger, Anja McDonald, sent through these heartbreaking images.

They were taken at Tennyson Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds. She explains:

The male bird was in the nest when the stoat came and we don’t see any pictures of him coming out again. The rifleman mother then returns to her nest. The things in her beak are likely to be the remains of either her husband or her chicks.

When we climbed the tree later, to bring the camera in, there was only a female around, which suggests the stoat possibly ate both the adult male and the chicks.

A very sad end for these small birds, but a important reminder of the pest control work that needs to be done to protect our native species.

By Chrissy Wickes, Biodiversity Ranger, Te Anau

I recently spent seven days on the Fiordland coast, along with other DOC staff and a group of passionate volunteers, undertaking trapping work on Resolution Island, an offshore reserve for our native species.

A photo of the Dusky Sound area at dusk. Photo by Chrissy Wickes.

On dusk in the soft rain, classically Fiordland!

Resolution is a 21,000 hectare island with over 2300 traps, and 230 kilometres of tracks. It is named after Captain James Cook’s ship Resolution which landed in Dusky Sound during Cook’s Second Voyage in March 1773.

The week was spent checking stoat traps on various parts of the island.

One volunteer, Martin Sliva, recounts his experience:

Every day had its own highlights: On Wednesday after sunset I saw fernbirds in the tussock. On Thursday evening I saw the Southern Lights, with beams of light shining over the sky. Friday offered me coastal views. Saturday morning I spent checking traps and nailing heavy steel plates on the trap boxes to protect kea, while being watched by a falcon. Suddenly a robin flew by and the falcon tried to chase it without success. Then, a second robin arrived to argue with the first one over their territory. They did not care that above them sat the falcon, who was watching them quietly.

Of course the most important highlight for me was that, despite checking hundreds of traps, I didn’t catch any stoats. The absence of this public enemy number one for New Zealand birds is no doubt one of the reasons for the astounding bird life on the island.

Stoat trap on Resolution Island. Photo by Bruce Murray.

Stoat trap in the snow on Resolution Island

Bruce Murray and his daughter Lyndsay also volunteered to check some of the stoat traps for the week. They were situated a bit higher up on Resolution Island and got some beautiful photos amongst the snow.

Checking traps up high on Resolution Island. Photo by Bruce Murray.

Checking traps up high on Resolution Island

All up only 11 stoats were found in the traps during the trip, a great result!

The view from up high on Resolution Island. Photo by Bruce Murray.

What a view!


Stoat trapping on Resolution Island

Read more about the recent trip to Resolution Island from Martin Sliva on the Fiordland Restoration website.

Volunteer with DOC

Being a volunteer is fun. You also get to work as part of a team, share your skills and learn new ones, and experience conservation in action. Visit the DOC website to volunteer with DOC.

Captain Whio on the computer.

Finger-clicking good, Captain Whio

Captain Whio (aka Biodiversity Ranger Tim Allerby) and his trusted side-duck, Duck Girl (Community Relations Ranger Moana Smith-Dunlop) have been tracking their arch-nemesis, Sinister Stoat, for some time. Thanks to their super powers, amazing whio tracking devices, and the sophisticated Stoat Proximity Alarm, the whiotastic superheroes have tailed the sneaky mustelid all the way from Fiordland, to Waikaremoana, Ohuka and eventually Ruakituri. They have the map with pins on to prove it!

Children at Waikaremoana, Ohuka and Ruakituri Schools first came to Captain Whio’s attention as passionate whio fans when they stunned the superhero judges with their entries for an art competition run in the Te Urewera Whirinaki Area as part of Whio Awareness Month. The competition, inspired by the Whio Forever project, a whiotastic partnership between DOC and Genesis Energy, showed such awesome awareness and creativity from the children in the three schools that the caped duo were keen to meet the artists themselves.

Captain Whio with Ruakituri students.

Ruakituri superheroes

The urgency of the superheroes’ mission meant there was no time to waste. The children watched shocking footage of Sinister Stoat stealing eggs from whio nests the length of Aotearoa.

Ranger-reporter Jane from DOC seized the moment (and a microphone) and, with the children’s help, interviewed the caped heroes.

Captain Whio and students tracking down the stoat.

How to track whio – at Ohuka School

Captain Whio was describing whio’s webbed umbrella feet, juju lips (beautifully demonstrated by Duck Girl) and prominent yellow eyes, when suddenly the Stoat Proximity Alarm on his Utility Belt went off.

Captain Whio and Duck Girl immediately hot-footed it outside. The fledgling superheroes swiftly followed their mentors to see where Sinister Stoat was lurking.

Captain Whio and students looking for Sinister Stoat.

Hot on Sinister Stoat’s trail at Ohuka School

Earlier, Captain Whio and Duck Girl had planted a couple of stoat traps in cunning places. The first trap was empty, but nearby was a perfectly formed stoat poo. Could it be from Sinister Stoat himself?

The children watched, aghast, as Duck Girl dipped her finger in the poo, sniffed it and stuck it in her mouth. After carefully savouring it, thanks to her specially modified taste-buds she identified the poo, and declared it as originating from…none other than…Sinister Stoat himself. (Gasp!)

Captain Whio and Duck Girl tasting the fake stoat poo.

Duck Girl taste tests

Stealthily, Captain Whio, Duck Girl and their duckling entourage advanced on the next trap.  There was a stoat in it! Yes! Thwack! Could it be Sinister Stoat? Could Captain Whio finally rest from his travails?

Not just yet, Captain Whio.… After close inspection from Duck Girl, it was revealed that the lifeless body in the trap was one of Sinister Stoat’s henchmen and not the slippery egg-stealer himself. Sinister Stoat was still at large….

But, Sinister Stoat, if you are reading this, Captain Whio has a message for you:

“Be afraid, Stoaty, very afraid…. We superwhioheroes are not alone: we have the kids of Waikaremoana, Ohuka and Ruakituri, who are sworn whio fans, educated and dangerous … and they are out to protect whio from you!”

A whio swimming in a fast flowing river.

A whio safe from stoats.


Whio Forever

Check out the Whio Forever website to find out more about whio and the partnership between DOC and Genesis Energy to secure the future of the whio/blue duck, one of our most endangered birds ever

By Jane Dobson, Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy

Fresh to the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy, I heard about the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project in the Ruahines and an inspired volunteer team led by Janet Wilson. Needing to know more I contacted Janet and invited myself along on the January trap line check and rebait.

Oroua volunteers getting ready to head off.

Oroua volunteers with coordinator extraordinaire Janet Wilson: Jen James, Janet, myself, Henry Milne and Thierry Stokkermans

Janet arranged to meet us all at the Oroua River car park with equipment, advice and a refresh on DOC 200 traps. As beacons, maps, eggs and rabbit bait were split between packs, Janet told us about the previous weeks training where a man ‘just blanked’ and let his free hand slip and set off a trap. “That’s never happened before, he was lucky to get away with grazed knuckles. “Have fun and look after each other up there,” Janet looked at me. Apparently matching people with similar fitness levels is one of her many challenges.

Jen the Crossfit trainer, Henry the anaesthetist, and team leader/ mechanical engineer Thierry set off with me in tow. We planned to get to Iron Gate, split into teams to reach the Ngamoku Ridge tops and Triangle Hut, return to Iron Gate, then walk out the river line on Sunday. I reassured myself that I was fitter than I looked – for ‘a lady from the Wellington office.’ They’d been warned.

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops.

Jen and I headed up the ridge. The thought of an evening swim in the Oroua’s emerald pools propelled us from trap to trap. Before long we had an efficient leapfrog system. The beech trees, lime green crown ferns, glorious leatherwood and tussock covered tops made up for any squeamish moments with the stoat and rat carcasses. I even imagined rabbit ‘jerkey’ could be tempting if you were in a tight spot.

Thierry and Henry walked upriver spotting several trout AND a whio/blue duck perched on top of a DOC 200 trap in the river, with three young ducks nearby. Was this cheeky whio mocking the stoats from its macabre pedestal, or alerting Henry and Thierry to the missing trap.

The girls didn’t see any whio but were rewarded nonetheless with Guiness at dinner (fantastic leadership Thierry) and choice bombs on Sunday. The low river, blue sky and cool and clear  river made for a stunning walk out.

Total count: 13 stoats, 13 rats. 

January 2013, Team Oroua in action.

January 2013, Team Oroua in action

Meanwhile, Janet spent her Sunday checking the self-resetting traps up the Tunupo Stream, a tributary of the Oroua. In May 2012 volunteers helped install 37 of these new A24 traps made by NZ company Good Nature. They were bought with funding from the He Tini Trust and Horizons Regional Council. These traps don’t need to be checked as regularly as DOC 200’s, but need re-gassing every six months or so. A down side is there is no clear pest count – the dead critter tends to breakdown or disappear from under the trap.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats

Due to Janet’s nightly phone calls, training trips, constant advocacy and more, the project’s volunteer base is ‘committed and developing.’ Enthusiastic people are needed to prevent the situation the Manawatu Deerstalkers found themselves facing in 2011 with the same few people doing all the work. The coordination takes ‘AGES,’ Janet told me. ‘The Palmerston North tramping club is a great help, Manawatu Deerstalkers still help, the DOC newsletter Keep Tracking On advertises for volunteers. I also put notices in the huts with tear off numbers. We’ve got a committed but developing volunteer base. I’m investing in the training weekends, hoping it will pay off.’

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap.

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap

Janet won the 2012 Individual Manawatū Rangitīkei area Conservation Award, which recognised her on-going commitment to protecting wildlife through stoat control in the Te Potae o Awarua project, the Manawatu Gorge, and for rescuing the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project from folding in 2011.

You’re an inspiration Janet Wilson – volunteer coordinator extraordinaire.

Click here to find out how to get involved.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream

Stoat on a plate

Tessa Rain —  16/03/2011

The elusive Kapiti Island stoat has been caught. And it’s a… boy! While we can’t be sure this is the only stoat on the island yet, our man at the scene – DOC contractor Hamish Farrell – did do a dance of joy at the discovery.

Hamish Farrell with the dead stoat he found on Kapiti Island

The stoat had spent three months at large, and there were concerns that it would turn out to be a she – which, if pregnant, could have had even more dire implications for the wildlife on the magical island sanctuary. 

A most inventive method was used to lure the two-year-old stoat to its demise: bedding material from a female stoat was put in some of the 160 traps covering the island, sending a message of the possibility of luurve and resulting in the capture. 

DNA testing has confirmed its age and gender, and will hopefully soon tell us whether it’s the same varmint that left faeces behind for our stoat detection dogs to find last year. 

While we will continue monitoring and trapping work for some time yet, with $75,000 spent on the control programme to date, the discovery comes as a great relief to all who love the iconic nature reserve off our coast – and the endangered birds it protects. Stoats beware!