Eglinton Valley where Elaine has worked on predation by stoats

Image: Herb Christophers | DOC


Elaine Murphy works for DOC in Christchurch but spends a lot of time at Lincoln University studying the ecology of stoats, rats and possums and ways to control them.

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Elaine Murphy.
Elaine Murphy at microscope
Image: Tom Agnew 

Elaine is helping to develop new lures, deterrents and monitoring devices for stoats, rats and possums. Right now, stoats are in her sights as one of the biggest threats to New Zealand’s birds and reptiles.

Stoats are fierce hunters, often killing prey larger than themselves. They are excellent climbers and strong swimmers, and are found in most habitats. Stoats can move quickly over large areas. Even when numbers are extremely low, they kill a lot of native wildlife including kiwi, kākā and whio.

At Lincoln University Elaine is helping to develop humane toxins, long-life lures and resetting delivery systems to combat stoats.

A cheap, long-lasting lure for resetting delivery systems will help to knock stoat numbers down and hold them down.

Elaine is thinking laterally.

"In situations where rats are plentiful for stoats, food lures aren't so effective. Non-food lures like stoat bedding are very attractive to stoats", says Elaine. She is working with Plant and Food Research to try and identify the attractive compounds in the bedding with the aim of producing a cheap, long-lasting liquid lure.

“At a landscape scale, aerial 1080 is an effective control method for stoats when rodents are at high densities, because stoats die from eating poisoned rats and mice. However, we desperately need new control methods to target stoats directly when there are few rodents present. This is leading to the further development of a toxin called PAPP for control of stoats over large areas."

Elaine is also involved with the development of self-resetting ‘Spitfire’ devices with Connovation Ltd. These stoat and rat killers work by firing a gel toxin on to the belly of a pest. When the pests lick the gel from their fur, they ingest the toxin. A recently completed trial in the Blue Mountains, using PAPP as the toxin in the Spitfire, significantly reduced stoat numbers. 

Tracking the outcomes from pest control operations is often labour intensive and time consuming.

Elaine has also been involved with a trial of movement-sensitive remote cameras to monitor both pests and birds before and after a 1080 pest control operation.

There is still a long way to go but expect Elaine to be there to see pragmatic results.

View videos of Elaine's work with stoat lures

Elaine and Tom at enclosure trial.
Elaine and Tom at enclosure trial
Image: Tim Sjoberg 

Ear tagging a stoat.
Ear tagging a stoat
Image: Tom Agnew 

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