This close-up of possum fur is one of several new 'body covering' photos in the 'other clues' group on our Clues page, where clues such as an animal's smell, its sound, bite marks, characteristic eye shine and geographic distribution are also featured.
Body covering includes fur, feathers and, in the case of the plague skink, the scales that cover reptilian skin. These can be helpful identifiers, whether sighting the actual animal or finding traces of fur or feathers left behind.
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.