Selection of alpine grasslands over beech forest by stoats (Mustela erminea) in montane southern New Zealand
Smith, Des; Wilson, Deborah; Moller, Henrik; Murphy, Elaine
Predation by introduced stoats is now considered a major threat to the population viability of several New Zealand endemic bird species. Historically stoat research and management has focused on beech forests and little is known about the ecology of stoats in the alpine grasslands occurring above the natural altitudinal limit of beech forest. Several stoat control operations in beech forest valley floors in southern New Zealand assume that adjacent montane areas act as a barrier to stoat immigration. Stoats were live-trapped and radio-tracked in alpine grasslands above the Borland Burn, Fiordland National Park, during the summer and autumn of 2003 and 2004. Seventeen stoats were radio-collared and home ranges were estimated for 11 of them. These home ranges were used in a compositional analysis which showed that these stoats spent significantly more time in alpine grassland than in adjacent beech forest. Range cores calculated for six of these stoats were located high up in alpine grassland and contained very little beech forest. This means that montane areas that contain alpine grasslands are unlikely to be barriers to stoat immigration; rather they may be a source of dispersing stoats that reinvade control areas. Also, endemic animal species that inhabit alpine grasslands could be at risk from stoat predation.
Publisher: New Zealand Journal of Ecology
Rights Statement: Copyright in this material is owned by the New Zealand Ecological Society Inc (NZES). The material with an original publication date greater than three years old may be reproduced free of charge in any format or media without requiring specific permission.
Keywords: home range; Chionochloa; habitat use
Research Type: Journal Article