After two weeks of intensive searching, attempts to confirm the sighting of two stoats on Aotea / Great Barrier Island are to be scaled back.
The search began after a resident of the island reported seeing a pair of what was believed to be stoats crossing the road at Medlands Beach.
The sighting was taken seriously and a multi-agency response team involving Auckland Council’s biosecurity team and the Department of Conservation (DOC) swung into action.
Biosecurity dogs hunt for stoats
Two biosecurity dogs were dispatched to the island early in the search but have not been able to confirm the stoats' presence.
Auckland Council’s Incident Controller, Jonathan Miles, says, “While this is good news and a relief, it’s a stark reminder to locals and visitors to the island of the importance of checking gear and goods on their boats and in their cars for stowaways before heading into the gulf.
“Aotea / Great Barrier Island has never had the same pests as the mainland – that is, possums, stoats, Norway rats and hedgehogs. As a result, the island's unique local flora and fauna have flourished and survived whereas it has has disappeared from the mainland.
“Stoats are a serious threat and any incursion, while always a possibility, would be devastating to the island’s native bird life. Vigilance is key to keeping our islands pest free.”
Traps set, cameras installed
In the hope of sighting the unwanted invader, the search has covered around 300 hectares of farmland, wetland and native bush.
Thirty-four baited traps have been set, three cameras installed, and 11 tracking tunnels laid in the sighting area to capture the suspected intruders.
To date around $9000 excluding staff time has been spent on the hunt; if a presence were to be found the cost to eradicate would be much higher.
Contact Auckland Council if you spot a stoat
Residents and visitors are urged to contact Auckland Council’s biosecurity team on 09 301 0101 if they genuinely believe they have seen a stoat.
Tracking will continue for the next three weeks and if no stoats are detected a review of the operation will be made to determine whether to continue.