Drifting possum endangers Island bird sanctuary
By Alan Tristram
DoC says an adult possum found floating on a log only 60 metres from Kāpiti Island has posed a new — and major — threat to the predator-free sanctuary .
And to make matters worse, they believe that this could be how a stoat arrived on the predator-free island two years earlier.
The two cases mean there will probably have to be a major step up in efforts to keep the pristine island environment predator free.
Possums were eradicated from Kāpiti Island in the 1980’s and the sighting highlights the effort required to keep the off-shore island predator-free. The island is now home to some of the rarest wildlife in the country and one of NZ’s most important sites for bird recovery.
Discovery made by fishermen
The discovery of the possum was made by three fishermen — Alan Wood, Mike Maybe and Joshua Morgan (Alan’s nephew). They did not deal with the possum, but they told DoC recently; and supplied photos and a film.
The men were were fishing on July 8 when they spotted the possum floating on a log about 60 metres from the western side of Kapiti Island. They saw the possum twice, first at about 11.00am, heading south with the outgoing tide; and then again at 3.30pm heading north. Alan Wood took photographs and a film with his cell phone.
This is the first time DOC’s Kapiti Wellington Area has seen evidence of a possum floating on driftwood and they believe that this could be how a stoat arrived on the predator-free island in 2010.
Worst case scenario
Monitoring and trapping has continued since the presence of the stoat was confirmed two years ago.
DOC spokesperson Colin Giddy says the prospect of a stowaway possum does not pose the same level of threat to the island sanctuary (as a stoat). But the worst case scenario would be if the possum was a female with a male joey.
“In that instance there would be a breeding population after one to two years when the male reaches sexual maturity — possums generally have only one young per year,” says Mr Giddy.
However, Mr Giddy says, it’s unlikely that the possum seen by the fishermen washed up on the island. Staff have been scouring the beaches for the very distinctive wishbone-shaped log which will have a number of possum scratches and possibly possum bite marks, but it has not been located.
DOC urges the public to contact the DOCHOTline- 0800 36024068 immediately if they suspect animal pests on or approaching any of our offshore islands.
Further Information from DoC
DoC says that before visiting Wellington and Kāpiti conservation islands people should know:
(1) What to do if you find a pest in your gear before leaving
- Get rid of the pest and clean your gear again
(2) What to do if you find a pest on your boat or in your kayak:
- Make sure the pest has been destroyed before you land
- Don’t throw rats/mice overboard as they can swim
- Return to the mainland to deal with the pest if you need to
(3) What to do if you find a pest on a commercial boat
- Tell the crew what you have found and where it is
For more information please contact: Colin Giddy, firstname.lastname@example.org, 027 266 4079.