New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2022) 46(3): 3484

The hunting-assisted demise of Campbell Island cattle

Research Article
Derek A. Brown 1
Finlay S. Cox 2*
  1. 102 Cullensville Road RD1 Picton 7281, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, PO Box 743, Invercargill 9840, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Cattle (Bos taurus) were introduced to 11 268 ha Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku in 1902 as part of a short-lived farming venture that was abandoned by 1931. The cattle were left to fend for themselves and a small feral population of 10–20 animals persisted for 53 years. The population was largely limited to a small area (c. 440 ha) of the island noted for its limestone geology. Ecological damage was pronounced with churning of the soil, damage to vegetation and probable impact on seabird nesting. Eradication was proposed for 1984 as a precursor to the fencing subdivision of the island for subsequent sheep eradication. Three cattle were shot in January 1984 and although 1–2 animals were known to have survived the cull, for unknown reasons these survivors died out shortly after, and no cattle were seen after winter 1984. Extreme weather events, poor recruitment, and competition with an increasing sheep population may have been partly responsible for the decline to local extinction. The ecological response has been significant but cannot be fully differentiated from the response to subsequent sheep and rat removal.