Wild About NZ

Working together to turn the tide for New Zealand’s biodiversity.


Did you know?
The Maori name for the stoat is Toriura or Toata.

What do they

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look like?

• Stoats have long, thin bodies, smooth pointed heads, short round ears and round black eyes.
• They are smaller than ferrets.
• Males

are up to 40cm long and weigh 350g. Females are up to 33cm long and weigh 240g.
• Stoats are mostly dark brown in colour brown with creamy white underparts and a bushy black tipped tail.
• They shed and replace their fur in spring and autumn. Cold temperatures often cause the autumn hair to grow out white.

Did you know?
Stoats were first introduced to the South Island in 1884 to control rabbits. A number of further liberations in other areas of the country soon followed. Stoats spread quickly into the forests of Fiordland and other areas where there were no rabbits. They are now found from Northland to Bluff.

Where do they live?
• Stoats are widespread on the mainland but are absent from most offshore islands.
• Stoats live in any habitat with plenty of cover and available prey.
• They can be found anywhere from beaches to remote high country, in any kind of forest, native or exotic; in scrub, dunes, tussock grassland and farm pastures.
• In open country they keep to cover as much as possible, and are much more common in native forests than ferrets.

Did you know?
Mustelids like straight lines! This is why you sometimes see them running along fence lines or roads especially in the country.

What do they eat?
• Stoats are highly efficient predators.
• Their most frequently eaten prey includes birds, rodents, rabbits, possums and insects (mostly weta).

have also been known to eat lizards, freshwater crayfish or koura, roadside carrion, and human rubbish.
• Hunting mainly on the ground, they also climb trees and swim.

Did you know?
Stoats are strong swimmers in both salt and fresh water, and islands within 1.5km of the mainland are probably vulnerable to stoat invasion.
A male stoat once swam from the beach at Mount Maunganui through the waves to the offshore island of Motuotau or Rabbit Island where it killed around 100 nesting seabirds in one week.

What do they do to the New Zealand environment?
• The introduction of stoats is commonly regarded as one of the worst mistakes ever made in New Zealand due to their impacts on native animals especially birds.
• Predation has been a hugely significant factor in the historic decline of New Zealand’s fauna.
• Stoats are the most efficient of predators and their killing behaviour is often independent of hunger; if the opportunity presents itself, a stoat will kill any suitable prey it can, and cache the surplus for future use.
• Stoats have large home ranges (up to 100ha) and will roam over large distances to search for food (at least 75km) – one animal can have devastating effects over a large area.
• Of the three-mustelid species, stoats are widely regarded as the most serious conservation threat to many of our native bird species e.g.kiwi, parakeets, black stilts, takahe, fairy tern, yellowhead, yellow-eyed penguin and New Zealand dotterel.
• Because of their superior swimming ability islands within 1.5km of the mainland are vulnerable to stoat invasion.

Did you know?
Stoats are by far the most serious threat to kiwi survival. It is estimated that stoats kill 40 North Island brown kiwi chicks per day on average, which adds up to 15,000 per annum. This accounts for 60% of North Island brown kiwi born every year. Other predators including ferrets, dogs and cats kill another 35% of kiwi chicks. Only 5% of kiwi chicks born each year survive.

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