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Social acceptability of stoats and stoat control methods. A survey of the New Zealand public


, : Social acceptability of stoats and stoat control methods. A survey of the New Zealand public. Science for Conservation (Wellington): 253: 1-40

The Department of Conservation's stoat research programme has included studies to determine New Zealanders' perceptions of stoats (Mustela erminea) and attitudes to current and potential stoat control methods. Following on from earlier qualitative research in 2001, a telephone survey of a representative random sample of 1002 members of the public was conducted between March and June 2002 to assess attitudes to conservation, stoats, current stoat control methods, and possible biological control methods. The survey found that there is widespread support for controlling stoats. There is also widespread support for improving stoat control methods. In practice, this support extends only to researching and developing trapping, with an emphasis on fatal forms of trapping. The public is clearly uncomfortable with using poisons to control stoats. In terms of biological control methods, the public does not support the use of diseases that could affect other animals, and there is clear opposition to the use of a virulent strain of the canine distemper virus. New forms of control designed to reduce the stoat's fertility are only marginally acceptable. The public is less supportive of the practical use of genetic engineering of organisms to develop and / or deliver fertility control. The level of public support for existing and new forms of stoat control is likely to be determined by the specificity, humaneness, and effectiveness of the control, with cost a relatively minor consideration. The New Zealand public, at this time, is unlikely to support the development of biological control methods for stoats, including methods that make use of genetic engineering. This study indicates that the most socially acceptable option for researchers and decision-makers would be to focus stoat control development on trapping.

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