Timing aerial baiting for rodent eradications on cool temperate islands: mice on Marion Island

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ISBN: 978-2-8317-1961-0
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.CH.2019.SSC-OP.62.en
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Timing aerial baiting for rodent eradications on cool temperate islands: mice on Marion Island

Aerial baiting from helicopters with a bait-sowing bucket and GPS to ensure coverage with anticoagulant toxins in cereal-based baits can reliably eradicate rodents on islands. Current best practice for temperate islands is to bait in winter when the rodents are not breeding, rodent numbers are lowest so competition for toxic baits is lowest, natural food is likely to be scarce, and many non-target species are absent from the island. However, short winter day lengths at high latitudes restrict the time helicopters can fly and poor weather in winter may increase risks of failure. This paper notes precedents from cool temperate islands where baiting was not conducted in winter and then uses the extensive data on mice on Marion Island to explore whether current recommendations for winter baiting based on breeding and natural food availability are important risk factors in determining time of year to bait. Marion Island mice do not breed between early May and late September, mouse densities reach a maximum in May and minimum in November, but the biomass of main natural food (invertebrates) does not fluctuate greatly over the year. This means the per capita food availability is least in autumn and increases through winter to most in spring and summer. The weight of the stomach contents of mice is also highest in winter. Based on this per capita food parameter, mice are likely to be most hungry between about March and May suggesting baiting would be more effective in this period (perhaps towards the end of it when breeding stops) than in the more traditional winter season.

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