Development of aversions, or learned ‘bait-shyness’, in frequently poisoned possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) populations is becoming increasingly detrimental to the efficacy of pest-control operations in New Zealand. This experiment aimed to identify the effects of prefeeding, a common management procedure, on the subsequent development of aversions in possums. Wild possums (n = 96) were captured and acclimatised, then allocated to one of three treatments groups that for seven days received either (i) no prefeed, (ii) plain RS5 cereal baits, or (iii) green-dyed and cinnamon-lured RS5 cereal baits. The possums were then offered a standard green-dyed and cinnamon-lured RS5 bait that contained a sublethal dose (0.4 mg kg-1) of the toxin sodium monofluoroacetate (1080). The possums were tested for development of an aversion towards a toxic RS5 1080 bait, a prefeed bait, and a prefeed bait containing an alternative toxin, brodifacoum.
Most (96%) of the non-prefed possums became averse to the 1080 bait after two exposures, compared with only 55% and 9% of the two prefed groups. Similarly, 90% and 92% of the non-prefed possums were averse to prefeed and brodifacoum baits, respectively, compared with 8% and 14% of the prefed possums. This suggests that pest managers can reduce the risk of ‘bait shyness’ by prefeeding. A further advantage of prefeeding is that if poison shyness develops, use of an alternative toxin such as brodifacoum in the original bait base may still be successful.
|Author||Moss, Z. N., O'Connor, C. E. and Hickling, G. J.|
|Secondary title||Wildlife Research|