Predation of yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) chicks may be reduced by removing stock around penguin breeding sites because long grass may reduce lagomorph abundance and hence small mammal predators. This study tests this hypothesis in the South Island, New Zealand. The abundance of lagomorph faeces (mainly rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, but some European hare Lepus europaeus) was used as an index of relative abundance of lagomorphs at 16 penguin breeding sites in winter 1991 and 37 sites in 1992/93.
Faecal pellet counts are commonly used as indices of lagomorph abundance but uncertainty over variation in decay rates among sites has led to most researchers recommending the use of pellet accumulation rates in previously cleared plots rather than the simpler and quicker method of counting uncleared plots. We use data from cleared and uncleared 0.1-m2 brown hare pellet plots at six sites in the central North Island of New Zealand to test the reliability of the two methods.