Stoat diet dissected to protect vulnerable species
15 March 2021 | Research News
Lincoln University student Katie Coster’s research requires some intestinal fortitude.
As part of her Master of Natural Resources Management and Ecological Engineering degree, she is studying the stomach contents of stoats that were caught on Mount Taranaki, in Egmont National Park, to further her research into the introduced predators’ behaviour.
Katie is working alongside Department of Conservation (DOC) staff, as part of the Taranaki Mounga Project, to determine if the stoats’ diet – made up off birds, rats, mice and insects – varies from site to site.
She is also interested in determining whether a rise in altitude affects the frequency and number of stoats caught.
“I want to know such things as does their diet change if they are higher up the mountain,” she says.
"Or does the number of stoats caught reduce or increase the higher up you go, or is it affected by any features in the landscape?”
Her findings could have implications for baits used in traps, or where traps are set.
Across Egmont National Park, more than 5200 traps have been set to protect vulnerable species such as whio and kiwi. Volunteers, including local businesses, families and dedicated groups – such as the Kaitake Ranges Conservation Trust and Taranaki Kiwi Trust –check over 60 per cent of the traps.
DOC Biodiversity Ranger Joe Carson says the results of Katie’s research will be interesting.
“Stoats are described as public enemy number one for New Zealand birds. The more we know about their behaviour, the better. Anything that helps us further protect vulnerable species such as whio, toutowai and kiwi is worth looking into.”
Image: Katie Coster (right) and DOC Biodiversity Ranger Joe Carson dissect stoats as part of a research project. Image supplied by DOC.