brushtail possums

Bird species diversity and abundance before and after eradication of possums and wallabies on Rangitoto Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

Five-minute bird counts were made on Rangitoto Island in 1998 and 1999, 8 and 9 years after the start, and 1 and 2 years after the completion of a 7-year programme that resulted in eradication of the introduced brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and brushtailed rock wallaby (Petrogale penicillata). These were compared with counts made in 1990 (immediately before the start of the programme), to assess whether bird species diversity and abundance had increased as a result of the eradications. The number of bird species detected in 1998/99 was similar to 1990.

Responses of kukupa (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) and other birds to mammal pest control at Motatau, Northland

The kukupa or New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) is gradually declining on the New Zealand mainland, due mostly to predation by introduced pest mammals including ship rats (Rattus rattus) and brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). We report on a co-operative project between Maori landowners, the Department of Conservation, and Manaaki Whenua–Landcare Research researchers to restore a Northland kukupa population and to examine kukupa nesting success in relation to pest abundance.

Diet and impacts of brushtail possum populations across an invasion front in South Westland, New Zealand

Impact of the irruptive fluctuation in abundance of brushtail possum populations since their initial colonisation was investigated in the forests of South Westland, New Zealand. Possum abundance, fecundity, and diet, the condition of common possum-palatable tree species, and the abundance of common forest birds were measured at three sites occupied by possums for c. 10, 20, and 30 years. Possum densities were highest at the site where possums had been present for c. 20 years.

Rapid recovery of kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile) following possum control

We document the rapid recovery of kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile) canopy cover following the control of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in Motatau Forest, Northland, New Zealand. Possum trapcatch rates were reduced from 25.6 ± 14.9% (mean ± SE) in 1997 (prior to control) to 2.7 ± 3.1% in 1999, but were little changed in Okaroro, an uncontrolled area nearby. Mean canopy cover scores for kohekohe in Motatau increased from 16.1 ± 4.5 % in 1997 to 52.6 ± 5.2% in 1999, but increased far less at Okaroro, from 42.3 ± 6.3% to 48.0 ± 7.75%.

Poisoning mammalian pests can have unintended consequences for future control: Two case studies

Vertebrate pest control operations using toxic baits can have unintended consequences for nontarget species. some of which may themselves be pests. Learned avoidance behaviour (termed 'aversion') can be induced by sublethal dosing, which can arise when species with high and low susceptibilities to a toxin co- exist in the same area. In such cases the less-susceptible species (e.g., possums Trichosurus vulpecula) may be sublethally poisoned by control work targeting the more- susceptible species (e.g., rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus).

Costs and benefits of aerial 1080 possum control operations using carrot baits to North Island robins (Petroica australis longipes), Pureora Forest Park

Large scale aerial poison operations with 1080-carrot baits are used extensively to control possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) populations in New Zealand forests for ecosystem conservation purposes and to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis. Although various procedures have been implemented to reduce the incidence of bird kills, dead birds continue to be found after poison operations.

Provenance variation in fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) in relation to palatability to possums

Fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) has been heavily browsed and often killed by brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in many New Zealand indigenous forests, but remains healthy at some sites despite long histories of possum occupation. To determine whether fuchsia varied genetically in its palatability to possums, material from six widely dispersed stands (provenances) was propagated, and leaf chemistry, leaf morphology, growth rate, and palatability to captive possums was compared.

Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) densities and impacts on Fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) in south Westland, New Zealand

To assess the effect of possum browse on plant growth, an index of the amount of foliage on about 50 trees of Fuchsia excorticata and the number of trees that died or were completely defoliated was measured at five sites in South Westland over 5 years. This index was compared to possum density indices taken at each site each year. At one site, possums were reduced from a high density about 6 months before the final measurement. The degree of defoliation of fuchsia was significantly related to the density of possums at each site.

Sign left by brushtail possums after feeding on bird eggs and chicks

Brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) were offered Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) eggs and day-old domestic chickens (Gallus gallus) during a captive feeding trial. Differences in feeding sign left by possums of differing sex, age class, and hunger were slight or absent. Possum feeding trial remains were also compared with remains of North Island robin (Petroica australis longipes) and North Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala toitoi) eggs and chicks preyed on by ship rats (Rattus rattus) at videoed nests.

Evaluation of non-toxic bait interference for indexing brushtail possum density

Percentage non-toxic bait interference is currently used by local authorities to monitor brushtail possum control operations but the validity of the method has not been established. Two models have been proposed to estimate an index of possum density (possums per bait) from a log-transformation of percentage bait interference. In two trials, percentage bait interference and the density index derived from percentage bait interference using the Bamford (1970) model usually increased from night to night.