Stoats belong to the same mustelid family of animals as weasels and ferrets. They’re bigger than weasels and smaller than ferrets.
Stoats were introduced to New Zealand in 1884 to control rabbits and hares. Scientists and bird-lovers warned that they would be a danger to our native birds, but their warnings were ignored.
Their main prey are rats, mice, birds, rabbits, hares, possums and insects (particularly weta). Stoats will also eat lizards, freshwater crayfish, roadkill, hedgehogs and fish. If they get the chance, they’ll kill more than they need for food and hide the rest in their den to eat later. They can kill animals much bigger than themselves.
Stoats have very good eyesight, good hearing and a strong sense of smell. They move quickly and are good at climbing trees so they can eat baby birds and eggs in the nest. Stoats check every burrow and hollow they see and if they find a ground-nesting bird it has very little chance to escape.
About 40 North Island brown kiwi chicks are killed EVERY DAY by stoats. That’s 15,000 kiwi chicks killed every year. Six out of ten of all North Island brown kiwi chicks are killed by stoats.
Stoats can live just about anywhere in New Zealand – as long as they can find prey. The can live on beaches, farmland, dunes, tussock and in any kind of forest. They can even live above the treeline in remote high country. Stoats can travel long distances very quickly. One young stoat traveled 70 km in just 2 weeks. They are also strong swimmers and can swim 1 km or more to reach islands.Stoats are clever and careful. They are very suspicious of baits and traps and so it is difficult to kill them.
A big problem with stoats is the size of their families. A mother stoat can have up to 12 babies at a time, but usually has 4-6 babies. A female stoat can get pregnant when she is still a blind, deaf, toothless and naked baby – at only 2-3 weeks old. Even though she is pregnant, her babies won’t grow inside her until she is an adult. They will be born the following spring.
What can you do?
- Purchase a humane stoat trap.
- Use our trapping best practice to ensure you get the best results.
- Sign up to our newsletter to keep abreast of the latest research on how to trap stoats.