Possum surfs past Kapiti Island
A possum riding a log past Kapiti Island has given weight to a theory stoats found on the once predator-free island could have hitched such a ride.
A group of fishermen spotted and photographed a possum riding on a floating log about 60 metres out from West Point, at the south-western side of Kapiti Island on July 8.
Mike Mabey said he couldn't believe it when his son in law told him he could see a possum floating on a log.
He said it was about 400 metres off the island heading south when they first saw it in the early afternoon, and about an hour and a quarter later it was drifting back on the incoming tide, about 200m off the island.
"We got right beside it, took a video of it and some photos.
"It looked cold, so I'd say it had been out there a while.
"You could see it was shivering ... it couldn't get its tail out of the water. We went pretty close to it and didn't even lift its head, it was like in a ball.'' Mr Mabey said he had doubted theories that stoats found on the island in 2011 had arrived by log. "I thought I've fished on the Coast for 35 years and I've never seen it and I've seen a lot of logs out there [but this] just proves that it can happen." Mr Mabey, of Paraparaumu, was fishing from a boat with his son-in-laws Alan Wood, of Paraparaumu, and Phil Morgan, of New Plymouth with his son Josh, at the time of the sighting.
He said he was asked why he didn't kill it, but did not want to with his six-year-old grandson on board. "I was pretty confident it wasn't going to land on the island so I just left it.'' He doubted the log could have reached the island because of the tides in that area and believed it would have headed south.
He said there was a lot of logs floating around at the time and believed they had come from the Manawatu River which was in flood, while the Otaki and Waikanae were not.
Colin Giddy, Department of Conservation biodiversity threats manager, said DOC staff had heard rumours of the sighting and by July 27 had tracked the fishermen down and conducted an interview.
DOC ranger Dave Wrightson had looked over the island for the "wish bone shaped log", which would have possum scratches, but it was not found.
Mr Giddy said possums are reluctant swimmers.
"There was about four hours between when they first saw it and saw again and obviously the thing wasn't actually that keen to jump off the log and swim to the island." DOC does not have possum dogs certified for island work, but was looking to train one up.
If the possum did make it to shore, it was hoped it was a male, non-pregnant female, or female with female joey.
"The worst case scenario is it washed on the shore and it is a female with a male joey inside it and after a couple of years, after the male possum had reached sexual maturity, then you've possibly got a breeding population on the island.'' He said possums did not breed as fast as rats or stoats, about one offspring per year, and were at the lower end of the biosecurity risk.
He had not heard of a sighting of a possum on a log before and said it was fantastic to have photographs of it. He said it showed there was possibility stoats had arrived on Kapiti on a log.
Iwi, landowners, and concessionaires have been informed of the possum sighting, he said, and said if the public see anything on the island they should notify DOC immediately.
Kapiti Island had been declared predator free until November 2010 when a stoat was spotted. DOC launched a trapping programme and despatched detection dogs. Three stoats were caught over the following year.