Routine Pest Audit Finds Dead Weasel in Trap
Today our solid sanctuary biosecurity systems were put to the test, with a weasel discovered dead in a trap within Zealandia's fence. Many of the rare taonga species that call Zealandia home haven't adapted to deal with introduced predators like weasels, so this is an important discovery.
The good news is that our well-honed systems are working and the weasel was trapped and killed. Coincidentally, we’re in the middle of one of our routine pest audits and haven’t had any sign of predation, nor do we have any signs that other introduced mammals remain.
In conservation we never leave things to chance, so now our focus now is on doing further investigation to make sure that it was the only weasel in the sanctuary. This includes putting bait in even more traps, doing further fence checks, and next month a conservation dog that specialises in detecting species like weasels will do a search of the sanctuary.
CE Dr Danielle Shanahan says "It’s very important to keep mammalian predators out of our fence to protect the native species in our care. This is our bread and butter, and our conservation experts are well prepared to deal with this situation. Fortunately, predators infiltrating our fence are a rare occurrence."
Responding to events like this is expensive, and we are thankful to all the staff and volunteers who make it happen. Right now, we could do with your support through donations on our website. The Zealandia fence is very effective at keeping species like weasels out, but very occasionally they get in and we need to respond.
We will be updating this page if we find out more, so please check back for updates.
What has happened?
As part of a routine pest audit, a weasel was found dead in a trap set within the Zealandia sanctuary. This is one of our many DOC200 traps that is always set as part of our standard biosecurity measures.
Why is that bad?
Weasels were introduced to New Zealand. Our native species aren’t well adapted to live with these very impressive predators. The Zealandia fence is very effective at keeping species like weasels out, but very occasionally they get in and we need to respond.
Has this happened before?
Yes, but it is very rare. The last record was 2019.
How did the weasel get in? Where was the likely point of entry?
We aren’t sure yet. Weasels can get through a tiny hole the diameter of your thumb. Our team are out checking the fence right now to make sure there are no further risks.
Would the weasel have been caught if you weren’t doing a routine audit?
The DOC200 trap that caught the weasel is always set as part of our standard biosecurity measures. The pest audit is an additional measure of pest detection that we do twice a year to ensure we are predator free. This stuff is our bread and butter, and our conservation experts are well prepared to deal with this situation.
Are there likely to be more weasels?
We think this is unlikely, but we want to make sure. Our next steps include setting more traps, and continuing on with our pest audit which was already underway.
Are the birds in danger?
Weasels are good predators, but they aren’t nearly as voracious as stoats and ferrets. We have seen no sign of predation of birds by weasels in the sanctuary.
What is happening now?
First, we re-check the fence to make sure it is secure. Second, we pre-bait more traps. This just means we put bait in without setting them. This step is important as it ensures the introduced animals start to trust the trap. Within a week we will set these traps to catch any remaining animals. Another step we take is putting out special trail cameras to spot any animals moving around the sanctuary. In November we will have a mustelid dog come through the sanctuary to do a search which will hopefully confirm we are weasel-free.
How can people help?
Responding to events like this is expensive and can take months to be 100% sure the sanctuary is safe. Right now, we could do with your support through donations on our website.