New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2014) 38(2): 322- 327

Impacts of invasive house mice on post-release survival of translocated lizards

Research Article
Grant Norbury 1,*
Michiel van den Munckhof 1,4
Sophie Neitzel 1,4
Andy Hutcheon 2,5
James Reardon 3
Karin Ludwig 2
  1. Landcare Research, PO Box 282, Alexandra 9340, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation PO Box 5244, Dunedin 9058, New Zealand
  3. Department of Conservation, PO Box 29, Te Anau 9640, New Zealand
  4. Present address: HAS Hogeschool University of Applied Sciences, PO Box 90108, 's Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
  5. Current address: Brighton, Dunedin, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Invasive house mice (Mus musculus) have detrimental effects on biodiversity, but their impacts can be difficult to detect and are often unquantified. We measured their effects on survival of a translocated population of an endangered lizard in New Zealand. Twelve captive-reared Otago skinks (Oligosoma otagense) were translocated to a 0.3-ha area of grassland/shrubland cleared of invasive mammals and surrounded by a mammal-resistant fence. Sixteen more skinks were released 2 years later but this was followed by an incursion of mice for c. 160 days. Peak mouse density was at least 63 per hectare, and they were seen attacking adult skinks (> 25 cm in length), which is previously undocumented for this lizard species. Using photo/re-sight methods and Program MARK, we estimated skink survival (phi) and detectability (p) in the presence of mice (second cohort: phi = 0.15 per annum, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.01 – 0.48; p = 0.28, 0.20 – 0.38) and in their absence (first cohort: phi = 0.44 p.a., 95% CI 0.03 – 0.82; p = 0.29, 0.22 – 0.39). Survival of skinks from the first cohort during the mouse incursion was unaffected, presumably because they were already established and had access to familiar or more optimal refugia. Their survival over the entire 3 years of monitoring (0.83, 95% CI 0.60 – 0.93) compared favourably with published estimates for viable populations in the wild, protected from all invasive mammals. This suggests it may be feasible to re-establish captive-reared lizards in the wild, but mice should be considered a limiting factor, at least during the initial translocation phase.