Cat dropping or not?

29 August 2019

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Rick Haddrell recently sent in this photo, taken on his Waitomo farm. He was unsure as to whether it was a cat or hedgehog dropping.

We think it is a cat dropping due to the size, the smooth, elongated shape with visible segments and the rounded cross section. Hedgehog droppings are smaller, tend to be blacker in colour and drier. Or, could it have been from a mustelid?

The length, pointed ends and trace of fur could indicate a larger mustelid (e.g. ferret or stoat) but mustelid droppings are much thinner and more curled and twisted in shape.

Rick is trying to get rid of a variety of pest animals from his 468-hectare property, which he says “has been eaten alive by possums and every other pest out there.” He sees possum and cat droppings everywhere and knows, from his trapping and poisoning programme, that stoats, ferrets, hedgehogs and rats are also present. In addition, some 540 goats have so far been culled.

So far, 2000 Feratox cyanide baits have been used to kill possums but there seems no end to them reinvading from nearby areas.

“There’s possum and cat poo everywhere and I’m wondering if the cats are actually benefitting from the possum control, as they scavenge the corpses. I’ve caught three cats so far but I’m sure there are more. The trouble is, they’re smart and wary of the traps – even when baited with bacon!”

Rick, a former bee keeper, bought the run down sheep and beef farm three years ago. Native bush covers about a third and most of the rest is steep hill country; marginal for farming.  Over the last two years, all but 70 hectares of the reverting pastureland has been planted in manuka, which will earn carbon credits and income from leasing out sites for bee hives. The Wakato Regional Council and DOC have provided assistance, as the property is in the headwaters of the Waipa River, where reforestation will help improve downstream water quality.

Rick started his extensive pest control programme partly to protect the young manuka plants from the ravages of possums and goats. But it’s also a personal choice to bring down pest numbers in general to protect the bush.

“The bush was almost birdless when we bought the place but they’re already starting to come back.”