New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2017) 41(1): 139- 144

Investigating the influence of social dominance on survival during a pukeko cull

Short Communication
Jing Sheng Hing 1
Meghan R. Healey 1
Cody J. Dey 1,2
James S. Quinn 1*
  1. Department of Biology, McMaster University, Life Sciences Building, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4K1, Canada
  2. Present address: Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
*  Corresponding author

Lethal control of wildlife is commonly used by conservation practitioners for population control. In some areas of New Zealand, changes in land-use and management have led to large increases in pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus melanotus) range and numbers. This native rail is sometimes considered a pest species, as they are known to uproot vegetation including tree seedlings, grass and crops. Here, we provide the first data on mortality during a lethal control operation that aimed to reduce pukeko population size at Tawharanui Regional Park in the North Island of New Zealand. We combined mortality records with individual measurements and colour banding re-sighting data to determine whether sex or dominance influenced survival. We found that frontal shield size (a strong proxy for social dominance) did not significantly influence the probability of being culled. There was also no significant difference in the probability of being culled between sexes. Our study provides important insights into mortality in a native species during lethal control, which could influence population recovery and social dynamics.