Home-range changes by brushtail possums in response to control

Common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) are intractable pests in New Zealand. The effectiveness of local control can be limited by immigration, some of which has been attributed to a ‘vacuum effect’ – directed movements induced by the control itself. To characterise the vacuum effect we examined changes in the home ranges of trapped possums following control in a 6-ha block at one end of a 13-ha forest patch on farmland near Dunedin, New Zealand. We also monitored a sample of possums by radio-telemetry. After control, the density was 3 ha–1 inside the removal area and 16 ha–1 outside. During the year after the removal, 29% of possums within 100 m of the boundary of the removal area (n = 38) shifted their range centre at least 50 m towards it. The effect diminished rapidly with distance: only 1 of 28 animals moved more than 200 m from the boundary. The size of the previous range was a significant predictor of movement among males, but this may be partly a sampling artifact. We measured a net flux of 69 possums km–1 across the boundary in the 12 months after control, and possums settled on average 44 6.9 m inside the boundary. The vacuum effect in brushtail possums appears largely confined to home-range adjustments by individuals with ranges overlapping the area of reduced density. This limits its potential role in population recovery.

Author Efford, M., Warburton, B. and Spencer, N.
Year 2000
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 27
Pages 117-127
Region NZ
Links https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WR99005.htm