Distribution

The location of field sign can help to narrow down your suspects.

  • Distribution: some pest animals occur in only limited areas of New Zealand.
  • Habitat: animals usually occupy preferred habitats.
  • Location in the field: siting of animal sign is indicative and often linked to typical behaviour. e.g. mustelids (stoats, weasels, ferrets) like to run along fence lines.

More information on each species' origins, behaviour and habitat can also be found in the Culprits section.

Plague (rainbow) skink

There are established populations of plague skinks throughout much of the North Island including in Auckland, Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel, Wanganui, Palmerston North and the Manawatu.

Can be confused with:

Plague skinks may be confused with a number of native skink species that are found in the same locations within New Zealand.  See body covering clue for details of the main distinguishing feature, the head scale.

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Mouse

Found on North Island and South Island and on many offshore islands. They live from the coast to high altitudes, and have been found at more than 1,300 m above sea level. Areas with high Norway rat numbers tend to have low mouse numbers. Mice are very difficult to eradicate and can re-invade quickly on the mainland. The have been successfully eradicated from several offshore islands.

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Kiore

Though once more widespread, kiore are now only found in parts of Fiordland, Southland and South Westland on the mainland and on several islands, including Stewart Island.

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Ship Rat

 In New Zealand, ship rats are found in all habitats except alpine tussock grasslands. They can be found in close proximity to humans and also in wild areas. Ship rats often climb and nest in trees but, apparently, few or none live there entirely.

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Norway rat

Norway rats are patchily distributed on both the North Island and South Island. They are found on many offshore islands but have been eradicated from others.

Norway rats tend to be found around waterways and in close proximity to humans. Large populations are found in close proximity to humans in cities, towns and around farms. Isolated populations are scattered throughout the country but there is little information available on their overall distribution. They are apparently rare in mainland forests.

Can be confused with:
Norway rats could be confused with ship rats. Both species occur in towns and around farmhouses and waterways, but ship rats are much more widespread in forests and shrubland.

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Possum

North and South Island, Stewart Island, Chatham Island, Kawau Island, Ruapuke Island, Native Island and Bravo Island (in Paterson Inlet). Possums occur in a wide range of habitats from open country to deep in the forest, from rain forest to arid areas but tend to be rare at high altitudes (mountain tops).

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Rabbit (European)

Rabbits live throughout New Zealand from the coast up to about 1,000 m above sea level in the South Island and 1,200 m in the North Island, with the exception of Ruapehu where they can occur as high as 1,800 m above sea level. They are most common in dry areas which more closely resemble the Mediterranean habitat they originated from. Densities are low to moderate where rainfall is high.  Densities are also lower in urban areas, where land is being developed or scrub cleared, and where the grassland comprises tall dense swards (e.g. tussocklands).  Recently they have started to become highly problematic in areas that have been developed for small lifestyle blocks in Central Otago. Highest densities occur in parts of central Otago, McKenzie Basin, North Canterbury and Marlborough.  Rabbits have been eradicated from 18 offshore islands and have died out on a further 10 but are still present on another 25 islands.

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Dama wallaby

The largest – and still expanding – population of dama wallabies in New Zealand is around the Rotorua lakes. They occupy most of the land area east of Rotorua west of Kawerau. They have spread north to Pongakawa and south the Paeroa Range. They occurwest of Rotorua on Mt Ngongotaha into the Mamaku Range.  Dama wallaby are also found on Kawau Island. The only other species of wallaby to occur on mainland New Zealand, is the much larger Bennett’s wallaby (M. rufogriseus) which can be found inland from Timaru in the South Island.

Can be confused with:

Dama wallabies could be confused with other introduced wallaby species where their distributions overlap (i.e. on Kawau Island).

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Bennett's (red-necked) wallaby

In New Zealand, Bennett’s wallaby is found widely in South Canterbury, north of the Waitaki River, south of the Rangitata River and east of the Tekapo River. It is most numerous in the Hunter Hills but is found widely to the west and north of there in the Grampian Mountains, Dalgety Range, Two Thumb Range, Kirkliston Range, north to Fairlie, Kakahu Forest, Pareora gorge, Opihi gorge and Cave area.

Small populations have been found outside this area in North Otago, where animals have crossed over the Aviemore Dam, and in Ashley Forest north of Christchurch after being transported there illegally. Individuals have also been confirmed in Banks Peninsula, the Rakaia River and near Lake Hawea, indicating that this species is extending its distribution naturally and through illegal liberations. Any sightings outside of their core distribution should be reported to your regional council or the Ministry for Primary Industries Pests and Diseases Hotline 0800 80 99 66

Only two species of wallaby occur on mainland New Zealand; Bennett’s wallaby as described above and dama wallaby around Rotorua on the North Island.

Can be confused with:

No other wallaby species is currently present in the same geographical area as Bennett’s wallaby.

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Goat

Feral goats are present on both the North and South Islands and have been present at various times on 34 offshore islands, but currently only occur on four (Arapawa, Forsyth, Great Barrier and Great Mercury Islands). They do not occur on Stewart Island. Their distribution is patchy but it is estimated they currently occupy 39,500 km2 of New Zealand.

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Chamois

Chamois are the second-most widespread wild ungulate in the South Island after red deer. They are present throughout the Southern Alps, from north of Fiordland National Park to the Inland Kaikoura Range. Although, they are most common in the alpine and subalpine zones, they can occur at lower elevations, particularly in native forest in South Westland.

Can be confused with:

Chamois could be confused with goats or tahr, where their distributions overlap.

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Himalayan Tahr (thar)

In New Zealand, tahr are confined to high altitudes sites covering approximately 9,600 km2 of the Southern Alps between the Rakaia and Whitcombe Rivers in the north and the Hunter and Haast Rivers in the south. Himalayan tahr are also present in the East Branch of the Matukituki, Wilkin, and Waiatoto Rivers and on Minaret Station, as a result of escapes or illegal releases. Other outlying populations are subject to search and destroy operations. Bull tahr are known to disperse widely but cannot establish new populations without nannies. Regular search and destroy operations have prevented nannies from re-colonising formerly occupied areas north of the area they are currently found.

Can be confused with:

Chamois and red deer occur over the area where tahr are found but tahr are more common than chamois at higher altitudes and red deer tend to be found on lower slopes with more vegetation cover.

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Fallow deer

Fallow deer are the second most widespread species of deer in New Zealand after red deer. They are found in most regions in the North and South Islands but their distribution is very patchy (they are only found at certain locations). In most areas there are large tracts of forest and suitable habitat where they do not occur. Their slow spread is partly because fallow deer are not big dispersers and prefer to live close to where they were born. Fallow are also found in petting zoos, as they are popular for aesthetic reasons.

The distribution map is a guide. New populations can be created when fallow deer escape from deer farms or when they are intentionally released for hunting.

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Sika deer

In New Zealand, sika deer are found in the central North Island in the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges, extending to southern Urewera, the Ruahine Range and the southern and western part of Tongariro National Park. There have also been illegal releases in Northland, Taranak and the Wellington regions.

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Brown hare

Hares seem to favour some habitats and not others but they occur in suitable habitat from sea level to 2,000 m altitude in the North Island and South Island except for most of Fiordland, parts of South Westland, and north of Auckland city between about Mangawhai Road and the Hokianga Harbour. They are found north of the Hokianga Harbour up to Cape Reinga. They do not occur on offshore islands. Their average density in New Zealand is estimated to be 0.1 hares per hectare. Highest densities are in the sub-alpine grasslands along the eastern side of the Southern Alps denisities can be as many as two or three hares per hectare (comparable to the maximum 3.4-per-hectare hare density recorded in Europe.

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Rusa (Javan) deer

In New Zealand, rusa deer are found in the North Island east and south-east of Rotorua and are slowly expanding into the forests of the Urewera ranges. In total, it is estimated that rusa deer occupy an area of 565km2.

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White-tailed deer

In New Zealand, white-tailed deer are found in two main locations: 1) Stewart Island; 2) a 350 km2 area at the head of Lake Wakatipu which includes the lower sections of the Rees River and Dart River valleys. White-tailed deer are also present in safari parks in the South Island. At least one park has had escapes, which resulted in a wild population establishing at Mt Hutt, although this eventually failed (either by natural death or by being shot).

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Sambar deer

In New Zealand, sambar deer only occur in the North Island, where there are two main herds, one in the Manawatu and one in the Bay of Plenty. The Manawatu population occurs along the coastal belt between Levin and Harakeke, and inland along the Turakina and Whangaehu Rivers. In the Bay of Plenty, they are found south-east of Rotorua around the Waiotapu area, north-east to Whakatane and along the western fringes of the Urewera Ranges.

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Red deer

Red deer are the most widespread large mammal species in New Zealand. They are found in both the North and South Islands and on Stewart Island. They are also found on several offshore islands near to the mainland as they are good swimmers.

They mainly inhabit native forest or alpine areas. In the South Island they are widespread in the Southern Alps and in all national parks and significant areas of native forest. In the North Island, they are widespread on the volcanic plateau, Ureweras, Coromandel Peninsula and in the Tararua and Rimutaka Ranges. They have recently invaded Northland, Auckland, Taranaki and the King Country. However, they have been eradicated from Auckland.

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Wapiti

In New Zealand, the wapiti is mainly found in northern Fiordland with its northern limit marked by a line between Sutherland Sound and Worsley Arm of Lake Te Anau and its southern limit marked by a line connecting Charles Sound and the Doon Valley. It is officially known as the Wapiti Area. Wapiti periodically escape from farms and these animals can exist as feral individuals or groups unless recovered by the farmer or shot.

Can be confused with:

All wapiti in the wapiti area are wapiti–red deer hybrids. Many escapees are also hybrids. These animals will usually have characteristics (especially size and colouration) that are intermediate of red deer and wapiti.

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Pig

Pigs are widespread in both North Island and South Island, and currently occur on 13 offshore islands. They were eradicated from Stewart Island by 1965. 

They currently occupy approximately 93,000 km2 (34%) of New Zealand.

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Hedgehog

Hedgehogs occur on the three main islands (North Island, South Island and Stewart Island) and some offshore islands. They are abundant through the lowland and coastal districts, less numerous in hills, and scare in mountainous areas, although their presence in these areas may be increasing. They tend to be scarce or absent from areas that receive more than 250 frosty days per year and areas that receive more than 2500 mm of rain per year.

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Cat

Cats are widely distributed throughout New Zealand in a range of habitats and altitudes, but are most common in association with rabbit populations or near human settlements. They are present on all three main islands and occur, or have been on, at least 31 offshore islands.  They have died out or been eradicated from at least 14 of these islands.  Cats can only co-exist with stoats on islands of 750 ha or greater, perhaps because stoats are better hunters during periods of food shortage.  Some cats are fully feral, while others still visit humans for food and shelter. 

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Weasel

Weasels are much less common than stoats and ferrets in New Zealand. Trapping undertaken throughout New Zealand in the 1970s caught 40 weasels compared with >1600 stoats.

They are patchily distributed on North Island and South Island and are not present on Stewart Island. They are not known to occur on off-shore islands, although one was trapped on Maud Island in 2003. There are low numbers in most habitat types. Their range may still be increasing but is limited by the availability of small prey, competition from stoats and, probably, by predation from cats and harrier hawks.

 

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Stoat

North and South Island but stoats are not present on Stewart Island and many of the smaller off-shore islands.

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Ferret

Ferrets are widespread in both the North Island and South Island of New Zealand, but have only recently spread to some regions e.g. Golden Bay and Northland. Ferrets are not found on Stewart Island or other offshore islands. They are common in grassland and pastoral land but tend to be absent from large tracts of forest, although they may inhabit the forest periphery.

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Rainbow lorikeet

No viable wild populations are known in New Zealand, although small populations have previously established in the Auckland, Rotorua and Mount Manganui, areas and been eradicated.

Can be confused with:

Rainbow lorikeets are very distinctive and multi-coloured and unlikely to be confused with other free-flying birds. However, they could be confused with other brightly coloured parrot species kept as pets, if they were to escape from their cages.

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Australian magpie

In New Zealand, the Australian magpie is found throughout the North Island and in most parts of the South Island, although it is uncommon in Nelson and inland Marlborough and largely absent from Westland, except for the area between Harihari and Westport. White-backed forms are throughout the North Island and eastern South Island, while black-backed forms are found in the Hawke's Bay region.

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Rook

In New Zealand, rooks are common on the east coast of the North Island from Hawke’s Bay south. They were common on Banks Peninsula but pest control has severely reduced their numbers there, and they may be completely eliminated from there.  There are reports of scattered colonies or single birds throughout New Zealand and juvenile and adult birds can disperse widely.

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Canada goose

The Canada goose population is approximately 60,000, of which two thirds is in the South island and one third in the North Island. Birds mainly breed in the high country east of the Southern Alps and migrate to lowland lakes after breeding. They are generally found in the vicinity of lakes and lagoons where there are adjacent pastoral grasslands. The largest population is found on Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury, where 10,000-15,000 birds overwinter.

Can be confused with:

The other goose species present in New Zealand (Cape Barren geese and greylag/feral geese) can occur in the same areas as Canada geese but are easy to distinguish because they look different.

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