There’s nothing like a lifetime’s field observation to learn how to read animal sign. We’ve added audio clips of long-time rabbiter, the late Jack Powell, describing some of the rabbit sign he would look for when out in the field.
Jack knew how to read the landscape for signs of pest animals and he understood their behaviour.
In the following audio clip he describes how he would gauge rabbit populations over large areas of rabbit-prone country in the South Island.
Listen to Jack Powell, courtesy New Zealand Biosecurity Institute.
Possums are the prime suspects behind the bark damage that has killed numerous fivefinger trees on a Coromandel property.
When Annette Steele and Ben Hunter returned home last spring after some months away they noticed the trees had been extensively ringbarked. Some were already dead. The others, already stressed by the damage, died during the dry summer that followed.
Annette referred to Pest Detective to help identify the bark munchers. The long, straight scrape marks with a darker line down the middle pointed to possums, rabbits or hares. All three species make such marks with their front incisor teeth.
However, rabbits and hares were ruled out because the damage was too high (extending up to more than a metre above ground). The shady forest interior was also not typical rabbit and hare habitat.
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.