Track backyard introduced predators
IntroductionWhat's really out there?
You might be surprised to know what creatures really live in your garden. These introduced mammals threaten our native flora and fauna, preying on lizards, bird eggs and plant seedlings.
We challenge you to learn what’s going on in your own backyard! Make a simple tracking tunnel to reveal the footprints of creatures that scamper through it.
Did you know?
- New Zealand split from the supercontinent Gondwana 85 million years ago – well before mammals got to reach it, so our only native mammals are those that could fly (bats) or swim (seals).
- DOC rangers use tracking tunnels and chew cards to see what introduced predators exist in an area.
What you will need
- 2 large plastic milk bottles, cleaned
- A craft knife or scissors
- A piece of wood, no wider than the milk bottles
- Polythene wrap (or a dark rubbish bag)
- Electrical tape
- Food colouring, preferably red or blue
- A sponge
- A small plastic tray (you can use the base of the milk bottle)
- A lure: peanut butter to attract rodents or raw meat to attract mustelids
- Sheets of white paper
- Optional: wire
Cut off both ends of the milk bottles to create a tube. Slide the end of one of the milk bottles into the other so your two containers are overlapping. This is your tunnel.
Wrap the outside of the tunnel with the dark plastic. This should keep the tunnel nice and dark, which is important because most of your backyard critters prefer dark spaces.
Slide in the piece of wood to act as the base. Cut the white paper to fit the bottom of the tunnel and place it inside.
Tracking tunnel with prints
Image: Public domain
Nestle your sponge into the plastic tray and dampen the sponge completely with food colouring. Using a lid from one of the milk bottles, put your lure into the lid and put it in the middle of the dye-soaked sponge. Slide the dye tray with the lure on top into the middle of the tunnel.
Look for a good spot in your backyard for your tunnel. When you find somewhere suitable, you can hold it in place by bending a piece of wire into a “U” shape and pinning the tunnel to the ground.
Now play the waiting game! Check the paper each morning for marks. In less than a week, you should have a good idea of what’s roaming around. You may need to top up the bait or the food colouring.
Now you know who’s in your backyard, you can contribute to the revival of our native animals in many ways. For example, try creating habitat for native wildlife to stay safe, you could set up a humane trap that targets the animal you know is there.
Become a Kiwi Guardian!
Tell us about what’s living in your backyard and earn a medal as part of our Toyota Kiwi Guardians activity programme.