Plague skinks have been discovered in Marlborough in the South Island. Although they have been spreading in the North Island for some time, this is the first time they've been observed in the South Island.
It is likely that plague skinks are being spread to new locations by accident, when they are inadvertantly transported in goods - especially potted plants.
So, be alert to signs of the species. If you live in an area where plague skinks are known to occur, including the latest area in Marlborough, or travelling through these areas, take care to check that you are not being a carrier.
What to look out for?
A confusing series of animal tracks in sand near nesting sites of the vulnerable northern New Zealand dotterel recently had local wardens puzzled.
One of the wardens, Lisa Kierny, send photographs to Pest Detective of the mystery tracks found at Simpsons Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. Tracks in sand can be difficult to identify because footprints can be blurred due to the sand settling and wind smoothing off edges. However, there was enough information in the photos for three different pest animals to be identified.
The discovery of weasel footprints on 1st October put staff on full alert at Zealandia, Wellington’s urban wildlife sanctuary.
If a weasel had somehow got into the sanctuary, it was potential bad news for the vulnerable wildlife living there. Zealandia is surrounded by an 8.6-kilometre predator fence, designed to exclude predators like weasels but, nevertheless, constant surveillance is needed in case of incursions.
It was backyard detective work that spurred Mimi Olds-Spence, of Auckland, to get active in conservation some months ago.
She noticed that her beloved silk tree was being decimated. Something was eating the flowers and leaves, strewing the ground with fragments and breaking branches – all typical signs of possum browse. Droppings confirmed the culprit. There were other signs too.
We've added several photos from Matt Downer, who has applied his pest detective skills while out walking in the reserves behind Nelson.
On one occasion, when up in Grampian Reserve behind the city, he noticed the possum pellets pictured here. They were easily distinguished by their size, characteristic 'jellybean' shape and greenish tinge.
Just 10 metres away was another very different single larger dropping.
‘Shining a Light on Innovation’ is this year’s theme for the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute’s annual awareness week.
Pest animal detection is one aspect of biosecurity that has seen innovation in recent years. After all, it’s important to know what species are present, where they are and how numerous they are to understand the extent of threat and the success (or not) of pest control.
Our Pest Detective website is one such innovation. It filled a former gap in information and was designed as a search and information tool to help people recognise, through observation, the typical signs pest animals leave in the field and understand each species' typical behaviour.
Did you know that Pest Detective is usable on mobile devices, including phones? No special app is required.
However, Haydn Butler pointed out that he often goes out of cell phone range. He wondered if there is a printed field guide with the same clue information that could be used for people doing pest work in remote areas.
New Zealand’s native wētā droppings can be similar in size and texture to rat droppings but there can be distinguishing features.
As illustrated in this photo recently supplied by Peter Sweetapple, wildlife researcher at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, wētā droppings have blunt ends and often have longitudinal ridging. The ridging can be darker in colour on fresh droppings, resulting in a striped appearance, which fades with time.
Here is compelling evidence of plague skink predation.
The moth is of Family Noctuidae and is probably Graphania mutans (New Zealand cutworm also known as grey-brown cutworm) which is one New Zealand's larger native moth species. A second photograph in our plague skink kill sign section shows the moth remains.
John Stanford, who photographed this animal on the deck at his home in Muriwai, said there are a lot of plague skinks in the area.