Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Strategic technologies for managing pests

Mammal pests (possums, rats, stoats, and mice) are a major threat to NZ’s biodiversity, and possums also the major wildlife contributor to TB persistence. The cost of control tools for these species limits the extent and frequency that control can be applied, and consequently, much of NZ’s iconic biodiversity is still sliding towards local extinction.

High control costs impact in the same way on achieving TB freedom for New Zealand, which depends on maintaining possum densities at very low levels for 10 or more years. Furthermore, the on-going use of some control tools, especially 1080, is being increasingly challenged because of public concerns about risks of adverse impacts on non-target species and the environment, and on animal welfare grounds.

To address these needs our research is developing cost-effective tools and applications for multi-species pest control by:

  1. reducing costs,
  2. reducing adverse impacts, and
  3. increasing community engagement with pest control.

In the first aim we are re-engineering smart new delivery technologies for aerial delivery, and new approaches to ground control with an improved understanding of pest behaviour that together minimise pest survival over large areas.

The second aim will mitigate adverse impacts through

  • novel use of synergists to minimise welfare, residue, and economic costs,
  • repellents to minimise risks to non-target species, and
  • novel bait delivery systems to improved target specificity.

In the third research aim we are developing and testing ways to achieve positive public dialogue and participation in pest management decision-making, including the novel use of ecological games to help participants visualise the ecological, wildlife disease, and economic trade-offs in their decision-making.


  • Brown S, Warburton B, Fisher P, Bunt CR 2012. Optimising the palatability and longevity of stoat baits. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 39(3): 229-243.
  • Morriss GA, Warburton B, Cross ML, Nugent G 2012. Hoarding behavior by ship rats (Rattus rattus) in captivity and its relevance to the effectiveness of pest control operations. European Journal of Wildlife Research 58(2): 483-488. <Go to ISI>://WOS:000301780600010
  • Nugent G, Warburton B, Thomson C, Cross ML, Coleman MC 2012. Bait aggregation to reduce cost and toxin use in aerial 1080 baiting of small mammal pests in New Zealand. Pest management science 68(10): 1374-1379.
  • Warburton B, Tompkins DM, Choquenot D, Cowan P 2012. Minimising the number of individuals killed in long-term vertebrate pest management programmes, and the economic incentives to do so. Animal welfare 21(s1): 141-149.
  • Cowan P, Warburton B 2011. Animal welfare and ethical issues in island pest eradication. Occasional Papers of the IUCN Species Survival Commission 42: 418-421.
  • Fisher P, Nugent G, Morgan D, Warburton B, Cowan P, Duckworth J 2011. Possum Management Using Aerial 1080 – Not New, Definitely Improved. New Zealand Journal of Forestry 56(3): 5-8.
  • Nugent G, Morgan D, Clayton R, Warburton B 2011. Improving the efficacy of aerial poisoning of brushtail possums Trichosurus vulpecula through reduced fragmentation of bait. International journal of pest management 57(1): 51 - 59.
  • Nugent G, Warburton B, Thomson C, Sweetapple P, Ruscoe WA 2011. Effect of prefeeding, sowing rate and sowing pattern on efficacy of aerial 1080 poisoning of small-mammal pests in New Zealand. Wildlife Research 38(3): 249-259. <Go to ISI>://WOS:000292686300009
  • Nugent G, Turner T, Warburton B 2009. Sustained recall of bait acceptability in captive brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). New Zealand journal of zoology 36: 473-478.
  • Warburton B, Clayton R, Nugent G, Graham G, Forrester G 2009. Effect of prefeeding on foraging patterns of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) about prefeed transects. Wildlife research 36(8): 659-665.
  • Warburton B, Norton BG 2009. Towards a Knowledge-Based Ethic for Lethal Control of Nuisance Wildlife. Journal of Wildlife Management 73(1): 158-164.
  • Warburton B, Yockney I 2009. Comparison of two luring methods for trapping brushtail possums in non-forest habitats of New Zealand. New Zealand journal of zoology 39(4): 401-405.
  • Choquenot D, Warburton B 2006. Modelling the cost-effectiveness of wallaby control in New Zealand. Wildlife research 33(2): 77-.
  • Ball SJ, Ramsey D, Nugent G, Warburton B, Efford M 2005. A method for estimating wildlife detection probabilities in relation to home-range use: insights from a field study on the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Wildlife research 32: 217-227.
  • Efford MG, Warburton B, Coleman MC, Barker RJ 2005. A field test of two methods for density estimation. Wildlife Society bulletin 33(2): 731-738.
  • Forsyth DM, Link WA, Webster R, Nugent G, Warburton B 2005. Nonlinearity and seasonal bias in an index of brushtail possum abundance. Journal of wildlife management 69(3): 976-984.
  • Fraser KW, Overton JM, Warburton B, Rutledge DT 2004. Predicting spatial patterns of animal pest abundance : a case study of the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Science for conservation. 236. Wellington, Department of Conservation. -57 p.
  • Warburton B, Barker R, Coleman M 2004. Evaluation of two relative-abundance indices to monitor brushtail possums in New Zealand. Wildlife research 31(4): 397-401.
  • Warburton B, Thomson C 2002. Comparison of three methods for maintaining possums at low density. Science for conservation. 189. Wellington, Department of Conservation. -20 p.
  • Eason C, Warburton B, Henderson R 2000. Toxicants used for possum control. In: Montague TL ed. The brushtail possum : biology, impact and management of an introduced marsupial. Lincoln, Manaaki Whenua Press. Pp. 154-163.
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