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Keywords:

  • monitoring;
  • mustelid;
  • predator control;
  • site occupancy modelling

Summary  Exotic predators are considered pests to wildlife and agriculture, requiring predator-control programs. Effective monitoring of predator-control operations is essential to justify their considerable cost, but often impossible in practice. The difficulties are especially severe if the target species is small and wide-ranging, and the area to be protected is inaccessible and/or extensive. A convenient model predator of this type, the feral Ferret (Mustela furo), is subject to control on farmland in New Zealand. We monitored the distribution of Ferrets over 2400 ha in the central North Island, before and throughout a standard control operation by professional trappers. We used 24 units of a new automated monitoring device, the Scentinel, set in a grid at 1 per 100 ha. Over 11 weeks (11 February to 29 April 2005, 1718 trap nights), we recorded 1559 visits by small mammals, including 198 by Ferrets. By the end of the 4th week, Ferrets had been detected at 17 of 24 sites. Removal of Ferrets from the study area by contractors began during the 5th week, and was reflected in significant declines in the number of Ferret visits recorded per day (P = 0.008) and the number of sites visited (P = 0.021). Analysis of our extensive repeat-survey data by site-occupancy methods confirmed these trends in greater detail, while also allowing for variation in detectability.