You can help stop stoats

Signs stoats are present
Methods of control

Signs stoats are present

Stoats, like weasels, have a vivid green ‘eye-shine’ when caught in a spotlight.

The stoat moves with a bounding gallop and leaves groups of small footprints with large gaps in between. Footprints measure approx 20mm long and 22mm wide (front) and 42mm by 25mm (rear feet), though full foot prints only show in softer ground. Often, only the semi-circle arrangement of 5 pads show on harder surfaces (eg tracking tunnels).

Stoat prints.

The bounding gait of a stoat:

The bounding run of a stoat.

Scats are black, long and thin (40-80mm), and usually full of bones, feathers or fur. Scats are often deposited as a 'marker' in prominent positions such as on top of logs or stones along travelling routes. Scats of stoats can be confused with those of ferret and weasel, (variable only in relative size) and can at times be confused visually with blackish bird droppings, but constituents of droppings should make them identifiable.

Animals preyed upon by stoats are not readily distinguishable from the prey of other mustelids. Egg shells are roughly opened with no regular pattern of consumption. The gap between canines is c. 14mm and this sometimes can be discernible in paired puncture marks on eggshells or on prey remains.

Prey is usually bloody and bitten around rear neck and back of skull (this can assist in distinguishing between mustelid and rodent prey). Smashed eggs and chewed bird bodies are more likely to be the work of rats. Mustelids will often feed on the warm blood of prey before actually consuming the prey. Stoats will often cache prey by dragging it under cover, so often no prey remains are visible.

Methods of control


DOC uses the DOC150, DOC200 and DOC250 which are powerful and effective kill traps.

To be safely set, however, traps need to be placed inside a tunnel-like trap-box to ensure that birds, children or pets cannot get access to it. The box also orients the stoat in the right direction to be caught in the trap, disguises the trap, and protects it from the weather. Surprisingly, tunnels also seem to draw a stoat's interest.

Stoat with radio collar. Photo: Rod Hay.
Stoat with radio collar

A simple wooden tunnel can easily be built at home.

Top box design instructions can be downloaded here:

DOC series 150 predator trap (PDF, 188K)
DOC series 200 predator trap (PDF, 187K)
DOC series 250 predator trap (PDF, 150K)

The tunnel should be placed along a natural runway so that approaching animals must either pass over the trap or turn back. Suitable sites are along fences, hedges or the banks of a stream, in bush among tree roots, beside fallen logs or in dry culverts. The entrance must be cleared of leaves and weeds.

It is preferable to bait traps, though a well-placed trap can still catch stoats without bait. Fishy cat food or freshly killed rabbit or chicken is excellent but does not keep well. A longer-lasting alternative is an egg which can be left whole or broken. Alternatively two eggs can be used. Make a small hole in one egg to provide a scent and leave the second egg whole to provide a long-lasting visual lure.

Setting the trap can be a little tricky, so make sure you follow the manufacturer's instructions and take care with fingers.

Stoats are very difficult to catch so don't expect instant results. Three or four captures per trap in a year is a very good result. If stoats are avoiding your traps, try leaving the tunnel empty for a time. Even the wariest old adults will get used to running through the tunnel and will be caught when the traps are next set. You can also try cutting a section out of the base of the tunnel, so that the traps are set level with the ground. Or try laying scent trails by taking a piece of fish or meat bait for a walk on a string from the tunnel out in various directions.

Predator-proof fence

Will exclude other pests as well.


If you are planning a pest control operation enrol for the Animal Pest Control Methods field based course.

The course provides an overview of animal pests, their impacts and control methods (including the principles these are based on, and the task specifications DOC has developed).

The course covers all the legal requirements for animal welfare and handling toxins. Working within the law is vital to allow pest control agencies and community groups continued access to the full suite of animal pest control methods.

In particular, it describes the control methods most commonly used in DOC, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Monitoring your control

Tracking tunnels

A technique for monitoring mustelid activity using 'run-through' tunnels containing tracking paper and a tracking pad (ink or food colouring).

Further information

Useful reference books:

C.M. King (Ed.), 2005: The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals, Second Edition. Oxford University Press.

Native Forest Restoration: A Practical Guide for Landowners by Tim Porteous (Queen Elizabeth the Second National Trust, 1993).

back to top


Find out more


C.M. King (Ed.), 2005: The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals, Second Edition. Oxford University Press.

Learn more
Information about humane kill traps.

Northland Regional Council website
Information about mustelid control.