New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2008) 32(1): 41- 45

Diet of stoats at Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, South Westland, New Zealand

Research Article
Elaine Murphy 1*
Fraser Maddigan 1
Brad Edwards 2
Kay Clapperton 3
  1. Department of Conservation, PO Box 13 049, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, PO Box 370, Greymouth, New Zealand
  3. 49 Margaret Ave, Havelock North, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

The diet of 871 stoats (Mustela erminea) caught within the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary, South Westland, New Zealand, between 2001 and 2004 was studied by assessment of gut contents. Stoat and ship rat (Rattus rattus) captures were used as a measure of relative abundance over time, and rat and mouse (Mus musculus) abundance was indexed using tracking tunnels between spring 2002 and winter 2004. There were major increases in rat captures in spring of 2002 and again in spring of 2003. Stoat captures peaked in the following summers, as rat captures declined. Rats and invertebrates were major components of stoat diet, occurring in 41% and 52% of guts respectively; birds were found in 19%. Changes in these percentages with time indicated that stoats shifted their diet from rats to birds and invertebrates as rat abundance (as indexed by tracking tunnels) decreased. The greatest impact on native species is therefore likely to be when rat abundance is declining after major irruptions, as the increased consumption of birds and invertebrates overlaps with the periods of highest stoat abundance.