A potential sighting of a stoat on Aotea/Great Barrier Island has set off alarm bells and sparked an immediate incursion response.
Auckland Council and the Department of Conservation have rallied their teams to hunt down what could be a devastating invader.
Until now, Great Barrier Island has been considered free of New Zealand’s number one predator pest and has significant populations of endangered birds which would be easy prey for them.
A predator detection dog from the Conservation Dogs programme was called in as soon as the potential sighting was notified.
DOC Operations Manager George Taylor said the report warranted an immediate response.
“With the speed stoats can cover the ground, it is vital to get on their trail as early as possible.
“Getting a positive indication of stoat presence from the dog is the fastest way for us to know we have a problem and to start planning how to deal with it,” says Mr Taylor.
The joint Auckland Council/DOC effort has now established a network of trail cameras, tracking tunnels and traps which, along with the dogs, will try to confirm and hopefully eradicate any stoats that have made their way onto Great Barrier Island.
Auckland Council incident controller Jonathan Miles said the effort that is being invested is a reminder of why it is so important for visitors to our Hauraki Gulf and other offshore islands to undertake effective biosecurity inspections.
“Stoats, ferrets, weasels, plague skinks and even Argentine ants rely on people to transport them to our islands, so it’s up to people to make sure they are not unwittingly introducing these devastating pests by thoroughly checking their gear and vessels before they leave the mainland,” says Mr Miles.