In the “Exploring nature with children booklet

Pests like rats, stoats, hedgehogs and mice chew seedlings, nibble seeds and eat insects. Some of them also eat lizards and birds and their eggs and they'll do all this in your backyard. In the bush, DOC rangers use tracking tunnels to record the presence of these animals. It helps them assess what sort of pest control they need to do.

  • Inside the tunnel is an ink pad with white paper or card at either end.
  • Bait such as peanut butter is placed on a leaf in the middle of the ink pad.
  • These particular pests like tunnels so they scamper in to get the bait and then leave their footprints on the paper as they pass through
  • By identifying the footprints you can find out what animals you have in your backyard and can start some targeted pest control. But be aware, all footprints might not be pests - insects may also try out the tunnel.

Your kids might be interested in making a tracking tunnel out of plastic milk bottles or some corflute. They'll have to experiment, but that's what technology and design is all about!

Earn a Kiwi Guardians medal for becoming a Pest Detective!

Tracking tunnel, before and after, showing prints. Photo: DOC/Adrienne Grant.
A simple tracking tunnel showing prints on the paper the next day

The above example shows a simple tracking tunnel made out of milk bottles and covered with black plastic. On a small plastic lid in the middle is a tissue with red food colouring and a teaspoon of peanut butter. The next day the bait has gone and the footprints of a hedgehog and insects have been left behind on the white paper either side of the tray.

Footprints and tracks of pests.

You can also see page 14 of the Investigating animal pests education resource to help identify who has been in your tracking tunnel.

Investigating animal pests (PDF, 4,000K)

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