Stoats were first introduced in an effort to control rabbits which, by the 1870s, were eating so much of the grass on sheep farms it was affecting the economy. Farmers put pressure on the government to introduce natural enemies of the rabbit. Despite protests from ornithologists, stoats were imported and released in 1884. They quickly spread to forests and other areas where there were no rabbits, and feasted on poorly flighted birds and their eggs.
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Department of Conservation
Photograph by Dave Wills
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