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Stoat scare on Great Barrier Island

5 December 2003 Media Statement

Stoat scare on Great Barrier Island

The Department of Conservation has mobilised a massive trapping effort in the Okiwi Basin on Great Barrier Island in response to signs a stoat or weasel may be in the area.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter said evidence of stoat or weasel presence was inconclusive but the department had pulled out all stops to respond to that possibility.

"At this stage all we know is that there have been a number of dead pateke (brown teal) that may have been killed by a stoat. These have gone to Massey University for analysis. An animal print in a tracking tunnel is thought by experts to be that of either a stoat or weasel."

Cats or rats, which were both present on the island, may have killed the birds but as a safeguard, a full contingency response had swung into place, said Mr Carter. The area was already subject to intensive cat trapping efforts.

"Right now we've increased the number of traps in the area to try and kill the predator, whatever it is. More tracking tunnels are in place and a stoat dog and handler are on their way to the island.

"If it turns out to be a stoat or weasel then we'll contain the threat within the Okiwi Basin and eradicate it."

Mr Carter said it was too early to speculate how a stoat could have arrived on the island but one possibility was as a stowaway aboard a bulk load on a barge.

The introduction of stoats or weasels to Great Barrier would be a conservation nightmare. Threatened native species such pateke, New Zealand dotterel, black petrel and Chevron skink would all be at risk from these cunning killing machines.

Introducing animal pests to any island in the Hauraki Gulf is an offence under the Biosecurity Act and carries a maximum penalty of $100,000 and five years imprisonment.

ENDS

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