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Published: 2003-01-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is concentrating on reducing the number of ferrets and stoats damaging the environment over the summer months.

Ferrets, stoats and weasels are “mustelids” - a group of small to medium sized carnivores, with long thin bodies, short legs and sharp non-retractable claws. They are adapted to a wide range of habitats, and were introduced to New Zealand during the 1880s to control rabbits.

While they help control rabbits, they are also predators of native birds, lizards and insects, and carry bovine Tb, which can seriously damage New Zealand’s agricultural industry. They also carry parasites and toxoplasmosis, which cause abortions in sheep and illness in humans.

Environment Waikato says the full impact of mustelids in the Waikato is unknown as they are very mobile, have large home ranges and are difficult to trap.

Landowners and occupiers are responsible for control. In specific areas Environment Waikato carries out limited work, along with possum and goat control, and provides advice. No one can farm, breed or sell any mustelid unless authorised by the Department of Conservation.

Good trap sites for mustelids include wood piles, small animal tracks that pass under fences, piles of stones, rabbit burrows and small drain pipes. Other areas include the edges of ponds and streams and under trees where the vegetation is short.

Mustelids cannot resist tunnels and run through pipes, over logs and in and out of holes, so traps should be set on a run, inside a pipe or tunnel or down a rabbit burrow. Traps should be baited with rabbit meat, or the fresh entrails of poultry and eggs.