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Identifying mammalian predators from bite marks: a tool for focusing wildlife protection


and present address: Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2. E-mail:


Dead Sooty Shearwater, Puffinus griseus, chicks and adults were collected from seven colonies on South Island, New Zealand in the 1993–96 breeding seasons. An estimated 97% of 118 deaths were from predation. Thirty-four definite predator bite pairs were identified on 27 carcasses. Twenty-one (78%) of the carcasses had bite pairs with intercanine distances < 9.5 mm which suggests that Stoats (Mustela erminea) were the principal predators. One chick was killed by a feral House Cat (Felis catus), and it is likely that feral Ferrets (M. furo) were responsible for a proportion of the deaths. Nearly three quarters of definite Stoat bite pairs were identified in the head region. The analyses of bite marks offers cheap and statistically reliable identification of predators provided carcasses are collected fresh and flesh is removed to examine tooth punctures in bone.