The annual population cycle of forest rodents is one half of a predator prey cycle between rats and stoats that catches native wildlife in the crossfire.
The most common rodent in New Zealand forests in the black rat, also called the ship rat, house rat or roof rat. Despite its name, it is often grey in colour and is identified by its tail being as long, or longer than its body. In contrast, the brown, or Norway rat has a tail that is shorter than its body.
In forests, ship rat populations cycle in numbers throughout the year. They breed rapidly during the warm days of summer before numbers decline through the cold weather of winter due to natural mortality and predation by stoats.
What's in a Name?
The familiar saying "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" warns about the risks that come with trying to achieve more by challenging the status quo.