Pest Detective is an online tool to help people in New Zealand identify the presence of vertebrate pest animals.

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Pest animals are often nocturnal and hard to spot. They leave tell-tale clues that tell us they are in the area.


Browse by Clues

If you are not sure what animal pest you have, browse our photo library of animal signs and match to your examples.

Browse by Culprit

If you think you have identified a pest species, browse the visual examples of its field signs to check your identification and learn more about it.


What do we mean by 'pest animal?'

The animals featured in Pest Detective have all been introduced to New Zealand either by accident or intentionally. They are regarded as pests because they threaten the health of our native ecosystems and/or primary production sector, though special management is required where people value a species for such things as hunting, agriculture or as pets  > read more

Why are the Culprits not in alphabetical order?

The species on the culprits page are generally grouped with other species that have similar field sign. Grouping them together makes it easier to compare clues, especially the images in the Clues section. Each group of more closely related species (e.g. mustelids) are arranged by size from small to large. See more >


Clue corner

Ship rat kill 5 500x500Watch for signs of ship rat predation on bird eggs and chicks during this breeding season. Ship rats will invade nests to eat chicks and eggs, typically gnawing a hole through the top of eggs, and may leave tell-tale droppings. Their predation is linked to the decline or extinction of many native birds in New Zealand. > see more

Using Pest Detective in Field

Mobile Pest Detec usePest Detective can be used on mobile devices – no special app is required. 

It is not available offline although this is something we would investigate if there is enough demand. If you are out of internet range you can save content in PDF form to your mobile device or, of course, print onto paper > read more 


Culprit corner

Plague skink other 2Summertime warm weather attracts people and lizards out more, so there could be more lizard sightings. If you think you've seen a plague skink (an Unwanted Organism in New Zealand) look at the area between the eyes on the top of the animal's head. A plague skink has a single large triangular scale there whereas the native skinks have two smaller scales > read more

Junior Pest Detectives

Ferret 2 500x500This pest animal looks like it's wearing a face mask. Its name comes from Latin word 'fur', meaning 'thief'. This species was brought to New Zealand to help control rabbits. Can you guess what the animal is? Answer


Latest from 'On the case' pest detection news

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Rook Alert

23 November 2019

Regional councils are urging people around New Zealand to report sightings of rooks.

Report sightings but don’t do anything that might alarm the birds, such as shooting or disturbing nests. Rook groups will scatter if alarmed and that means they will be harder to find and potentially establish more breeding sites over a wider area. Rooks are very intelligent and wary of anything new or unusual. For instance, they have reportedly learnt to tell the difference between a gun and a stick and have been known to use a guard bird to test food before others in a flock will eat it.

Instead, note the location, try to take a photo if you can and report your observation to your local regional council as soon as possible. Prompt reporting will enable the council to follow up before the birds move on (perhaps to a new food source).

Read more