Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Effect of prefeeding, sowing rate and sowing pattern on efficacy of aerial 1080 poisoning of small-mammal pests in New Zealand

Graham Nugent A B , Bruce Warburton A , Caroline Thomson A , Peter Sweetapple A and Wendy A. Ruscoe A

A Landcare Research, PO Box 40, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand.

B Corresponding author. Email: nugentg@landcareresearch.co.nz

Wildlife Research 38(3) 249-259 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR10198
Submitted: 29 October 2010  Accepted: 26 April 2011   Published: 13 July 2011

Abstract

Context: Aerial poisoning using sodium fluoroacetate (1080) is an important but controversial technique used for large-scale control of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and other pests in New Zealand. The technique reliably produces near total kills of possums and rats, provided that many tens of baits (and therefore many tens of individually lethal doses) are sown for each target animal present.

Aim: The aim of this study was to further refine aerial 1080 poisoning by determining the effect of prefeeding, sowing rate, and sowing pattern on effectiveness.

Methods: Eighteen experimental treatments comprising all possible combinations of three sowing rates (1, 2, and 5 kg/ha of bait), three frequencies of non-toxic prefeed (0, 1, and 2) and two sowing patterns (parallel and cross-hatched) were applied to each of two forested areas. Treatment effectiveness was assessed from changes in the rate of interference recorded on baited cards for three species: possum, ship rat (Rattus rattus) and mouse (Mus musculus).

Key results: Outcomes were highly variable, ranging from increases in pest activity to near total reductions. Possum reductions were highest where one or two prefeeds were used, and at the higher sowing rates (2 or 5 kg/ha), but with some interactions between these factors. For rats, two prefeeds resulted in the highest reductions but sowing rate had no effect. For mice, post-poisoning indices were often high, indicating low effectiveness.

Conclusions: Some treatments were highly effective so poor kills were unlikely to have resulted from pests not encountering bait, or the bait being unpalatable. Rather they appeared to reflect sub-lethal poisoning either as a result of low acceptance (as a result of a lack of familiarity and/or satiation) or bait fragmentation. We infer that for possum and rats prefeeding helps reduce this risk of sub-lethal poisoning not only by increasing familiarity, but also (in conjunction with high sowing rates) by increasing the bait encounter rate, particularly for possums.

Implications: There is scope to further reduce the amount of toxic bait sown and the cost of poisoning, without compromising efficacy, by fine-tuning the balance between prefeeding and sowing rate based on which species are being targeted and, for possums, reducing bait fragmentation.

Additional keywords: bait fragmentation, brushtail possums, mice, Mus musculus,Rattus rattus, sodium fluoroacetate, ship rats, Trichosurus vulpecula.


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