This mammal looks so handsome with reddish-brown fur on its back and a white or cream coloured underbelly. It’s a vicious killer though, and devastating to birdlife. Unfortunately it’s common at Waikawa Beach — one Strathnaver resident has trapped nearly a dozen over the last few years. Others have lost hens or quail to this killer. He aha tērā? What is that?
Photo by Miraz Jordan. Used with permission.
Answer: it’s a stoat:
Stoats are ‘public enemy number one’ for New Zealand birds.
Stoats (Mustela erminea) are members of the mustelid family. Weasels and ferrets are also mustelids. All three species were introduced to New Zealand as early as 1879 to control rabbits that were destroying sheep pasture. From very early on, stoats have had a devastating effect on New Zealand’s unique birdlife.
A stoat has reddish-brown fur on its back, a white or cream coloured underbelly, and has a long tail relative to weasels, with a distinctive and obvious bushy black tip. An adult male can measure 390 mm from nose to tip of tail.