Animal Pests

Animal pests threaten our region’s native ecosystems, such as forests and wetlands, including the plants, birds, insects and other wildlife that live in them. Many of our native species cannot survive long-term without ongoing pest control. Animal pest control is vital for your forest remnant restoration project to be successful. Browsing animals can quickly undo a lot of hard work! Find out more about animal pests in Southland and what you can do to minimise their impact.

Impact of animal pests

The impact of animal pests on forest fragments can be huge.

  • Possums mostly feed on leaves, but also eat young native birds and eggs, fungi and invertebrates such as insects.
  • Rabbits and hares are most common on open pasture, but will graze seedlings in small fragments and forest margins if the vegetation is not too dense.
  • In larger fragments, especially near large areas of forest, goats and deer can cause considerable damage. These animals eat seedlings, saplings, and the bark of trees within the ‘browsing zone’ (0.25 to 2 m above the forest floor).
  • Rats and mice feed on seeds falling to the forest floor. Rats can eat surprisingly large amounts of seedling and shrub foliage as well as bird eggs and invertebrates.
  • Stoats, ferrets, weasels, ship rats, possums, and wild (and domestic) cats kill many native animals in forest fragments.

Note that complete eradication of animal pests at your place is not an attainable goal. Pest animals often have large territories and many are prolific breeders. Instead, a realistic option is to reduce their populations to a level which minimises their impacts.

Animal pests in Southland

There are many animal pests that cause damage to forest remnants in Southland. The most common are:

  • Possums – browse trees and regenerating plants, will also prey upon the eggs and chicks of native birds.
  • Mustelids (weasels, stoats and ferrets) – will kill almost anything! They are extremely agile and are a threat to all of our native birds and other fauna.
  • Rabbits – pose a two-fold threat to your fragment. Will eat native seedlings and support large numbers of predators, such as mustelids.
  • Rats – reduce forest health through eating flowers, fruit, seed, seedlings, native, insects, lizards, bats, birds and their eggs, causing population decline or even extinction.

Other pest animals in Southland include:

  • Chamois
  • Feral cats
  • Feral deer
  • Feral goats
  • Feral pigs
  • Feral sika
  • Hares
  • Hedgehogs
  • Magpies
  • Thar
  • Wallaby

Many of the large animal pests, such as deer, won’t be a problem in small, isolated fragments. However, if your patch is near a large area of bush you may get ‘visitors’ to your area from time to time. Fencing to exclude large animals may be an option.

Check out Environment Southland’s information about these and other animal pests in Southland. Here you’ll find descriptions of each animal, why they are a pest and best methods for control.

Tips for effective pest control

  • Carry out pest control at regular intervals.
  • Extend control to surrounding farmland to create a buffer zone of low pest numbers and reduce the chance of them coming back into the fragment.
  • You can control animal pests with traps and poisons. However, make sure these methods don’t harm native animals in the fragment.
  • Talk to the Department of Conservation and Environment Southland for advice on appropriate control methods.

Find out more

Check out the following for more information about animal pests: