Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 12, pp 3039–3055 | Cite as

Managing an invasive predator pre-adapted to a pulsed resource: a model of stoat (Mustela erminea) irruptions in New Zealand beech forests

  • Carolyn M. King
  • Roger A. Powell
Original Paper


The stoat (Mustela erminea) is a specialist predator that evolved to exploit the unstable populations of northern voles and lemmings. It was introduced to New Zealand, where it is pre-adapted to respond with a population irruption to the resource pulses that follow a heavy seedfall of southern beech (Nothofagus spp.). Culling stoats during an irruption is necessary to reduce damaging predation on nesting endemic birds. Culling might not reduce the stoat population long term, however, if high natural mortality exceeds culling mortality in peak years. During other phases of the beech-mast cycle, culling might have a greater effect on a smaller stoat population, whether or not damage prevention is critical. We developed a 4-matrix model to predict the effects of culling on λ, the annual rate of change in the size of the stoat population, through the four annual phases of an average masting cycle, explicitly distinguishing between apparent and real culling. In the Post-seedfall phase of the cycle, large numbers of stoats are killed, but little of this extra mortality is additive; in other phases, culling removes larger proportions of smaller total numbers of stoats that would otherwise have lived. Culling throughout all phases is most effective at reducing stoat populations, but is also the most expensive option. Culling in Post-seedfall plus Seed or Crash years is somewhat less effective but better than culling in one phase only. Culling has different short-term effects on stoat age distribution depending on the phase of the cycle when culling begins.


Nothofagus Mustela erminea Pulsed resources Population matrices Predator control New Zealand 



Special thanks are due to the field staff who collected the stoats in the five study areas, and to J. E. Moody, H. Robertson, G. Asher, M. Flux, M. G. Efford, and J. G. Innes, who helped in their various ways to get the material analysed. Finance for field and most laboratory work was provided at various times by the former Department of Scientific and Industrial Reasearch, National Parks Authority and New Zealand Forest Service and the present Department of Conservation, administered by A. Thorpe, A. Cragg, and A. Leigh. Tooth sectioning of the Fiordland and Craigieburn specimens was done by H. Grue, funded by North Carolina Agricultural Research Service; tooth sectioning of the Pureora and Mount Cook specimens was done by Matson’s Laboratory, Milltown, Montana USA, funded by the University of Waikato; funding for the analyses and writing up was provided by the department of Zoology, North Carolina State University and the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato. Study area estimates were calculated by R. Martin. Earlier and unrecognisably different versions of the MS benefitted from the constructive criticism of K. Pollock, B. M. Fitzgerald, B. Sittler, N.C. Stenseth, S. Boutin, C. Frampton, T. Dennis and the late G. Caughley. All field collections were made using the most humane traps available at the time, but pre-dated the introduction of formal Animal Ethics Committee regulations.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesWaikato UniversityHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of BiologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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