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Smarter trapping for better results

Manaaki Whenua’s Dr Patrick Garvey and colleagues recently published new findings on the manipulation of stoat behaviour in work linked to the MBIE programme Eradicating the Last 5%.

“Pest management often focuses on the ‘average’ individual within a pest population,” says Dr Garvey, “neglecting individual behavioural traits or personalities of animals. If we focus on the ‘average’ pest, we fail to mitigate the damage done by rogue or recalcitrant individuals – the uncatchable stoat inside a fenced sanctuary, the domestic cat that targets a colony of birds, or the rat that refuses to enter a trap. These are the pests that cause most damage and are very expensive to remove.”

“Rogue or recalcitrant individual pests cause most damage and are very expensive to remove.”

Conservation managers have three main ways to manipulate a trap when managing pests: the attractiveness of the bait or lure, fear of the trap, and the background environment. Altering any of these can increase the likelihood that an animal will interact with a device. Using different types of lures (visual, odour, auditory) based on different pest motivations (mates, food, predators) will also target more individuals.

Management that incorporates principles of behavioural ecology should enable these ideas to be tested in the field to increase the effectiveness of predator control.

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