Possums were introduced to New Zealand in 1837 in a deliberate attempt to establish a fur trade and ‘enrich’ New Zealand’s native biodiversity.
It took several attempts before self-sustaining populations established. About 1911 the government allowed farmers, orchardists and horticulturalists to hunt the animals because of the damage done to crops and orchards. However, they were still protected in native forest areas where their damage was considered negligible.
Conservationists began to complain about the impacts of possums throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and from 1922 official liberations were no longer permitted.
Not until the 1940s was the first scientific evidence of the impacts of possums on native forest collected. After this, the government’s policy changed dramatically and New Zealand has since then been fighting to control the possum. Illegal liberations into possum-free areas were reported up until the 1970s.
Possums destroy native trees and shrubs, and eat the berries needed by native birds. They eat New Zealand’s native land snail, lizards and insects, and chase birds off their nests to eat the chicks and eggs.
There are many techniques for killing possums, from poisons to traps to shooting. If you live in an area with wild kiwi, the method used must be safe for kiwi.
If you want advice on how to best control possums to protect kiwi, contact your nearest Department of Conservation office.