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Title: Wild Life in New Zealand. Part I. Mammalia. - New Zealand Board of Science and Art. Manual No. 2.
Author: Thomson, George M.
Language: English
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NEW ZEALAND BOARD OF SCIENCE AND ART.

MANUAL No. 2.

WILD LIFE IN NEW ZEALAND.

PART I.--MAMMALIA.

BY

Hon. Geo. M. THOMSON, M.L.C., F.L.S., F.N.Z.Inst.

ILLUSTRATED.

[Illustration]

WELLINGTON, N.Z.

BY AUTHORITY: MARCUS F. MARKS, GOVERNMENT PRINTER.

1921.



OTHER WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR.


  THE FERNS AND FERN ALLIES OF NEW ZEALAND. Melbourne, 1882. Out of
  print.

  INTRODUCTORY CLASS-BOOK OF BOTANY. Wellington, 1891; second edition,
  Wellington, 1906.

  A NEW ZEALAND NATURALISTS’ CALENDAR. Dunedin, 1909.

  THE HISTORY OF THE PORTOBELLO MARINE FISH-HATCHERY. Board of Science
  and Art Bulletin No. 2. Wellington. Now in the press.

  THE NATURALIZATION OF ANIMALS AND PLANTS IN NEW ZEALAND. Cambridge
  University Press. Now in the press.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.


    Chapter    I.--INTRODUCTION.

    Chapter   II.--MARSUPIALIA: Wallabies and Opossums.

    Chapter  III.--UNGULATA: Wild Pigs.

    Chapter   IV.--UNGULATA: Deer.

    Chapter    V.--UNGULATA: Fallow, Red, and Sambur Deer.

    Chapter   VI.--UNGULATA: Wild Cattle, Sheep, and Goats.

    Chapter  VII.--CETACEA: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises.

    Chapter VIII.--CARNIVORA: Cats and Dogs.

    Chapter   IX.--CARNIVORA: Ferrets, Stoats, and Weasels.

    Chapter    X.--CARNIVORA: Seals.

    Chapter   XI.--CHIROPTERA: New Zealand Bats.

    Chapter  XII.--RODENTIA: Rats.

    Chapter XIII.--RODENTIA: Mice and Guinea-pigs.

    Chapter  XIV.--RODENTIA: Rabbits.

    Chapter   XV.--RODENTIA: Hares. INSECTIVORA: Hedgehogs.



[Illustration: FALLOW DEER.]



WILD LIFE IN NEW ZEALAND.

PART I.--MAMMALIA.



CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTION.


In a land which depends to a very large extent on agricultural and
pastoral pursuits and industries some knowledge of the animal and
vegetable life of the country should be taught in every school, and the
love of Nature in all her varied aspects should be inculcated in every
child. The best way of acquiring such knowledge is by observation,
and every child is more or less a naturalist from the start. It has
been said that man is a classificatory animal, and it is wonderful how
most children begin to collect such objects as interest them, and how,
unconsciously, they begin to classify them.

But, hand-in-hand with observational work, a certain amount of
instruction is very helpful, and if the one can work in harmoniously
with the other progress in the knowledge of Nature is greatly
facilitated. Books conveying instruction in botany are common enough,
but those dealing with the rudiments of zoological work in a form
sufficiently attractive to the uninformed reader are by no means
numerous. I do not know of any work dealing with the animals which are
frequently met with in New Zealand, and in the hope of partly supplying
this want I propose to write a few sketches of the wild life of the
country, in which I shall attempt to give some account of those which
are most common. The late Professor Hutton and Mr. James Drummond,
of Christchurch, published some years ago a valuable work entitled
“Animals of New Zealand,” which should be in every school library.
This, besides being rather expensive for most private readers, is a
more or less technical work, and deals only with the higher vertebrate
fauna indigenous to these Islands. Excellent little articles appear
from time to time in the _School Journal_, but these are not readily
procurable.

In all centres of settlement the animal life is almost as much due to
foreign immigration as the people are; but observers cannot tell this
fact without some assistance, and one of the difficulties with which
all embryo naturalists are met is to know which plants and animals are
native and which are introduced. Let me illustrate this.

Living as I do in a suburb of Dunedin, just outside the Town Belt,
I observe in my walks that in this neighbourhood certain species of
birds are very common. They are house-sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes,
starlings, and hedge-sparrows. These are all forms which have been
introduced from Great Britain. Almost as abundant, but more erratic
in their occurrence, are wax-eyes (or twinkies) and goldfinches--the
former a somewhat recent immigrant, apparently from Australia, and
the latter introduced from Britain. Less abundant in varying degree
are grey warblers, tomtits, fan-tailed flycatchers, chaffinches,
greenfinches, an occasional yellowhammer, and a little brown owl. The
first three are natives, the rest are introduced. The native bell-bird
(or korimako) visits the gardens from time to time, especially when
the trees are in flower; while occasionally in the outlying districts
one hears or sees a tui or a morepork: these are all natives. In the
more open country introduced skylarks are common, as are the native
ground-larks, or pipits. On the seashore are numerous species of birds,
but these are all indigenous species. On still nights one often hears
the black swans flying overhead in their migrations from one sheet of
water to another: these were introduced from Western Australia.

About the house are occasionally a few mice, and in town brown rats
are common. These are not kept in check by the dogs and cats which
are common in many houses. During the nights hedgehogs roam about the
gardens, and are far more common than unobservant people have any
notion of. All these and the other mammals met with, such as horses and
cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and rabbits, were originally introduced,
mostly from Britain.

When I go to work in the garden I turn up numerous earthworms, nearly
all belonging to introduced species--unless I start to trench in new
ground, when I come on native species. The wood-lice are introduced; so
are the earwigs, which are so common in the north end of Dunedin; so
are all the slugs and snails. The bees and humble-bees are introduced,
as are the large drone-flies which visit so many of our flowers in
autumn and early winter. Nearly all the plants in our fields, orchards,
and gardens, cultivated ones and weeds alike, are of foreign origin; so
are the aphides and scale insects which infest them. The flies which
infest our houses and carry dirt and disease in all directions are
foreigners; so are the borers which destroy our houses and furniture;
and so also are bugs, fleas, and lice, which are harboured in dirty
surroundings.

The question might well be asked, Where do the native species come in?
The answer would have to be that wherever man goes certain species of
animals and plants follow him, and become established if the conditions
are suitable; while another section he either takes with him for their
utility or introduces afterwards for various reasons; and the native
species gradually get pushed out.

Let us consider these two kinds of introductions. The only mammals
in New Zealand which were introduced by man unconsciously are rats
and mice. These accompany man wherever he goes and settles, and
do so very much against his will. All the other forms--horses,
opossums, wallabies, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer, dogs, cats,
hares, rabbits, hedgehogs, and guinea-pigs--were introduced of set
purposes. All the introduced birds were also brought to this country
on purpose. So were the introduced fishes--salmon, trout, carp, perch,
tench, turbot, &c. So were the frogs. As we get lower down the scale
of the animal kingdom we find the self-introduced forms increasing
in proportion and number, and those brought in for definite reasons
becoming fewer.

No fewer than twenty-eight species of slugs and snails have been
introduced into the country. Of these, one--a water-snail (_Lymnaea
stagnalis_)--was brought here for the purpose of feeding imported
trout; all the rest were imported among some kind of agricultural
or horticultural produce. The case of the insects is especially
interesting. About 270 species have been introduced. Those kinds
which were first brought for some definite purpose were silkworms,
then honey-bees, and later humble-bees. An unsuccessful attempt
was also made to introduce the cochineal insect. The silkworms,
which are, of course, not wild animals in any sense of the term,
never became established, but they can still be obtained from a few
dealers. The humble-bees were brought here for the special purpose
of fertilizing red clover; and thus obtaining seed from the plants,
instead of having constantly to import seed from abroad. In more recent
years eleven species of insects--mostly ichneumons and ladybirds--have
been introduced by the Department of Agriculture to cope with other
insects which have become pests, the larvae of the former being
parasites in the bodies of their prey, the latter feeding directly
upon aphides. All the other introduced insects--that is, over 250
species--have been brought here unwittingly.

Nineteen species of earthworms have found their way into the country,
most probably among the earth and the roots of introduced plants.

It will thus be seen that wherever people are settled in New Zealand
the greatest number of animals to be met with are immigrants like
themselves. A popular account, therefore, of the wild life of the
country must deal with these introductions, as well as with those
native forms which are still to be met with commonly. This, then,
must be my apology for writing some sort of consecutive account of
the common animals which are now to be found near the haunts of
men, as well as of those which take some finding. Descriptions of
introduced animals are to be obtained only by reading books of natural
history dealing with other countries, or in isolated articles, such
as the useful leaflets issued from time to time by the Department of
Agriculture.

Nearly all children, and a majority of grown-up people as well, are
fond of natural history, and many who have lost the early taste find it
revive when they are brought in contact with it later. I should feel
rewarded if this little book should stimulate the love of nature in any
of its readers, and especially if it would cause a more general desire
for nature-study to spring up in our schools.

The first Europeans who landed in New Zealand and who came to know
something of the animals which were to be met with were those who came
with Captain Cook in his visit here in 1769. They found that the
birds and beasts were very different from those they had known in the
Homeland from which they had come. They also noticed that there were
very few animals or plants which were desirable for food, or which were
likely to furnish food to later arrivals; and Cook was sufficiently
far-seeing to recognize that before long many of his countrymen
would come to these Islands either to visit them or to stay. These
early European voyagers found that the Maoris, whom they met for the
first time, and who were far more numerous than they are now, had no
domestic animals except dogs, which they kept for food. They also found
that a rat was very common in many parts; but they met with no other
four-footed animals, except, probably, lizards.

So Cook and those who followed him thought it would be a good thing
for the country, and for the Europeans who might come later to live in
it, if the best and most useful animals and plants which occurred in
Britain were brought to New Zealand. They were, then, the pioneers in
starting the introduction of European forms by giving the Natives pigs,
goats, fowls, and seeds of several plants. Other animals and plants
were brought here from time to time, and as white people increased
in number, and gradually occupied much of the land and brought it
into cultivation, these introduced forms in certain localities soon
displaced many of the native forms. All the thickly peopled and settled
parts of New Zealand are much more like parts of Europe as far as
animals and plants are concerned than they are like the New Zealand
which Cook knew. The reason is that wherever white men go to settle
they take with them certain animals and plants, which they keep and
cultivate. Besides, as already said, a great many things come into
the new country with the immigrants--things which are not wanted,
perhaps, but which follow white men wherever they go--and these things
frequently become very common. We call the plants “weeds” because they
grow where they are not wanted. But we have no name for the uninvited
animals--mostly small--which thus come into the country, until perhaps
they become very common, and then we just call them “pests”--nasty
hurtful things to be destroyed and got rid of.

Now, if we are going to study the natural history of the country--both
its native (or indigenous) and introduced animals and plants--we must
put away from our minds the idea of “weeds” and “pests,” and look at
and think of them as wonderful works of creation, full of beauty and
interest. All nature is full of beauty, and if one looks for this it
will be found everywhere. It will also be found that the study of the
book of nature is unending. It does not stop, like the story of a book,
but the more one learns and the more one comes to know the more one
will find fresh chapters opening. If you are a naturalist, a true lover
of Nature, and study her for half a century, you will find at the end
of that time that you are only beginning to learn a little about the
wonderful things which occur and exist in this wonderful world in which
we live.

In describing the more common animals of New Zealand I am going to
follow the regular order in which a naturalist would probably catalogue
them.

At this point a word is necessary as to the names to be used. Some
people profess to object very strongly to the use of technical names,
and say, “Give us English names that we can understand.” The objection
is absurd, and arises from ignorance and want of thought. How could a
naturalist give English names to the thousands of native and introduced
moths, beetles, and flies already known? To take a more special case
among the beetles alone, how could he distinguish among the twenty-five
species of native and the half-dozen or more introduced ladybirds? The
thing cannot be done. On the other hand, technical names are given on
a definite and simple plan, and are really not difficult to master. We
use them every day in speaking of garden-plants--_Anemone_, _Crocus_,
_Gladiolus_, _Chrysanthemum_, _Dahlia_, _Fuchsia_, _Veronica_, and so
on.

In regard to the animals we are to deal with in this book we hardly
need to use technical names, and will do so as sparingly as possible.

The first and highest group in the animal kingdom are the Mammalia.
These are vertebrate (or back-boned) animals which are fur-clad, and
the females have glands which secrete milk for the nourishment of
the young. These glands open to the surface of the body by teats, or
mammae, hence the name. Mammals are all warm-blooded animals. There
are many other distinctive features by which animals of this group are
characterized, both anatomical and physiological, but here we intend to
give only the most distinctive points.

Mammals are divided into several orders, and of these six are now
represented in the New Zealand fauna. As I do not wish to burden these
pages with technicalities, I shall give only the briefest accounts of
these orders, and mention the animals found here which belong to them.

1. The animals of the order Marsupialia are popularly known as pouched
animals. Their most distinctive character is that the mammae lie
within a pouch in which the young are placed while in an imperfect
condition. Two kinds of animals belonging to this order are wild in New
Zealand--namely, wallabies and so-called opossums.

2. The order Ungulata includes a large assemblage of herbivorous
animals of somewhat diverse character. They possess theoretically
five toes in each foot, but actually these are reduced to two, or, in
the case of the horse, to one toe. This reduction is accompanied by a
reduced condition of the ulna, which is fused with the radius, and the
fibula is fused with the tibia. The order includes horses, pigs, deer,
oxen, sheep, and goats, all of which are, or have been, wild in this
country.

3. The third order, Cetacea, forms an extraordinary group of
warm-blooded animals, which breathe air and suckle their young, but
live in the sea. It includes all the forms known as whales, and all are
indigenous to New Zealand.

4. The Carnivora are, as their name implies, flesh-eaters. Their teeth
have sharp cutting-edges, and the canines are well developed to enable
them to tear the flesh off their prey. The order includes cats, dogs,
stoats, ferrets, and weasels, all of which have been introduced; and
seals, which are indigenous.

5. The animals of the order Rodentia are only occasionally carnivorous.
All possess long incisors furnished with strong chisel-like edges, and
with these they are able to gnaw their food, from which circumstance
the name is derived. The canine teeth are quite absent. In New Zealand
are to be found rats, mice, rabbits, and hares.

6. The last order represented here is the Insectivora, a group, mostly
of small animals, which is very difficult to define. The only animal
belonging to the order in New Zealand is the hedgehog.



CHAPTER II.

MARSUPIALIA--WALLABIES AND OPOSSUMS.


Numerous attempts have been made to introduce various kinds of
marsupials into New Zealand, and several kinds of kangaroos, wallabies,
and opossums have been liberated in this country. At the present time
there are either three or four species found wild in different parts.


COMMON SCRUB WALLABY; BLACK-TAILED WALLABY (_Macropus ualabatus_).

Some fifty years ago the late Mr. Studholme got some wallabies either
direct from Tasmania or from the Canterbury Acclimatization Society,
and these were set free in the neighbourhood of his home at Waimate,
in South Canterbury. They very quickly increased, till they numbered
thousands. They live in the bush, scrub, and fern about the gullies
and gorges. They come out in the evenings to feed in the open ground.
Their food consists chiefly of grass, but they are very fond of
certain trees, particularly _Panax arboreum_, which they scratch and
bark pretty badly. The skins of those taken in winter make very fine
rugs, as the fur is thick and heavy. The flesh is said to be very
palatable, and the tails make excellent soup. They are quite large
creatures--small kangaroos, in fact--and the old bucks weigh over 60 lb.

About the year 1870 Sir George Grey imported some wallabies from
Australia and set them free on Kawau Island. About the same time Mr.
John Reed, of Auckland, also imported some, which he liberated on
Motutapu Island, whence they have spread to Rangitoto. Those on Kawau
increased to such an extent as nearly to eat out the vegetation, and
when the property was sold the new owners allowed the wallabies to
be killed out wholesale. They have by now been mostly all destroyed.
Even in Sir George Grey’s time us many as two hundred would be killed
in a single battue. Some got across to the mainland--a swim of three
miles--but they cannot be very numerous. They belong to the same
species as those so common at Waimate.

[Illustration:

  [_W. Beken, photo._

FIG. 1.--THE COMMON SCRUB WALLABY.]


COMMON OPOSSUM (_Trichosurus vulpecula_), AND SOOTY OPOSSUM
(_Trichosurus fuliginosa_).

People who live in or near the bush in many parts of New Zealand know
that among the trees are to be found numerous furry animals about the
size of a big terrier dog, which are popularly known as opossums. The
name is a misnomer, like so many popular names. The true opossums are
found only in America; they belong to a different family of marsupials,
and are carnivorous. Our animals are herbivorous, and ought to be
called phalangers; but the other name will always stick to them now.

These animals are not usually seen during the daytime, but they
come out at night, and, when other kinds of food are short, may
make an attack on the orchards and eat the apples and pears as they
are becoming ripe. But because they are chiefly nocturnal in their
habits young people seldom see them, and unobservant people may live
in a district containing thousands of opossums and never know that
they occur in the neighbourhood. These animals are not natives of
New Zealand. They were first brought to this country from Australia
about sixty years ago, and were liberated near Riverton. Later
importations have frequently been made, both private individuals and
acclimatization societies introducing them. Thus the Auckland Society
and Sir George Grey brought a considerable number from Australia
between 1869 and 1876, and Kawau at one time was overrun with them. The
Wellington Society liberated nineteen Tasmanian black opossums in the
ranges behind Paraparaumu in 1892; and the Otago Society got twelve
silver-grey opossums from Gippsland in 1895, and liberated them in the
Catlin’s district. They have increased greatly in most wooded parts of
the Dominion.

[Illustration:

  [_W. Beken, photo._

FIG. 2.--THE COMMON OPOSSUM.]

The opossum is a marsupial--that is, its young are brought forth in a
very rudimentary condition, and are carried by the mother in a special
pouch, which is provided with teats. When newly born they are little
blind (?), naked creatures, not half as long as one’s little finger.
The mother takes the little one in her lips and places it in the pouch
with its mouth to a teat, and in this position it is carried for about
four months. For the next two months it rides on the mother’s back,
until it is able to look after itself. It leaves its mother when about
six months old, and is then nearly half-grown. The opossum has only one
young one once a year. (On the other hand, the true American opossum
produces as many as a dozen at a time.) When fully grown the opossum is
about 18 in. long. It has a thick, bushy tail, about 11 in. long, the
end of which is blackish in colour. From this thick tail these animals
are sometimes known in Australia as “brush-tailed opossums.” The legs
are short and strong, and each foot is furnished with five fingers or
toes. The bodies are covered with close, thick, woolly fur. In the
first-named species the upper part of the body is a grizzled-grey
colour, with the chin blackish, a rusty patch on the chest, and the
rest of the under-surface whitish or yellowish. In the sooty opossum
the fur is of a dark brownish-black colour. Otherwise the two species
are very like one another. The head is small and somewhat fox-like,
with rather short ears.

These animals live in trees, taking shelter in holes during the day,
and sometimes they make a kind of rough nest at the bottom of the hole.
The trees which they frequent are often marked by the tracks scored on
the trunk by the sharp claws of the animals as they climb. They ascend
the trees in a succession of jerks or short jumps, stretching out their
feet and claws as far as possible on each side, and rarely losing their
hold. In descending a tree they always come down head first.

In Australia opossums feed on the leaves of various species of
_Eucalyptus_ (or gum) trees, taking to other food only when these are
scarce owing to clearing of the bush. In New Zealand they feed on
whatever the bush supplies them with, chiefly leaves and shoots. Mr.
F. Hunt, of Round Hill, says of them, “The food the opossum lives on
is chiefly leaves of broadleaf, kamahi, broad-gum (_Panax_), and mapau
(_Pittosporum_), rata-blossoms, supplejack-berries, berries of fuchsia
and makomako, and practically all the seeds and blossoms that grow in
this part of the bush. The opossum is not a grass-eating animal. It
will eat white or red clover, sweetbrier shoots and seeds, but if an
opossum is caged and fed on grass it will die of starvation. Also, if
it were fed on turnips it would take as much to feed twelve opossums as
one sheep would eat. When I and my brother were catching opossums for
the Southland Acclimatization Society we fed them on carrots, boiled
wheat, bread, boiled tea-leaves with sugar, and anything sweet. The
damage the opossums would do running at large would be very little,
seeing that they never come on to open country. The animal is blamed
for barking apple-trees; but the opossum does not bark a tree. It
might scratch the bark with its teeth, but it does not strip it off.”

Colonel Boscawen, of Auckland, who is a most reliable authority, tells
me that as long as there is plenty of green stuff available opossums do
not interfere with fruit, but that the damage they are often charged
with is the work of rats--presumably black rats. On the other hand,
at Kawau, Motutapu, Hawera, and other places they are stated to be
destructive in orchards, eating the shoots of apple and plum trees in
the spring-time and the fruit in the autumn.

The number of opossums in this country now is enormous. In 1912 it was
estimated that over sixty thousand skins were taken in the Catlin’s
district alone. Some acclimatization societies try to protect these
animals, while fruitgrowers seek to destroy them. The law is rather
complex on the subject, and few laymen know whether or not it is legal
to destroy them. Meanwhile a large number are killed annually; but
their skins are often declared as rabbit-skins, though, as a matter of
fact, they are worth four or five times as much.



CHAPTER III.

UNGULATA--WILD PIGS.


Most people think they know all about pigs, and hardly associate them
with wild life in New Zealand. They usually consider them the dirtiest
creatures on earth, and yet, with remarkable inconsistency, they eat
ham and bacon without inquiring too particularly how the animals
producing them were reared or fed. The pig is naturally one of the
cleanest animals and most particular feeders known, and it is only the
filthy way in which most people keep them which is responsible for
their popular reputation.

Pigs are the commonest of the larger mammals which have become feral in
New Zealand, and are the most widespread. They are plentiful in wild
bush country from the North Cape to the Bluff, and have also gone wild
in the Chatham and Auckland Islands. I hope to be able to tell the
majority of my readers some facts about these much-maligned animals
which they did not know before.

Pigs (_Sus scrofa_) belong to the section of Ungulates known as the
Artiodactyla, or even-toed. They walk on their third and fourth toes,
which are the only ones to reach the ground; those on each side, which
are much smaller and higher up, are the second and fifth digits; there
is no trace of the first. Pigs are distinguished by several characters,
of which the most outstanding are the bristly skin, the flexible snout
tipped by a fleshy disk within which the nostrils open, the numerous
teeth and tusk-like canines, while the teats extend along the underside
of the body. They possess a single stomach, and are consequently
non-ruminating animals. Pigs increase at a great rate, for they
commence to bear young when about a year old, and bring forth several
at a birth. Domestic pigs produce twelve, or even more, at a time; but
wild pigs seldom have more than six or seven.

We have the most exact data as to their introduction into this country.
Captain Cook informs us that while he was in Queen Charlotte Sound
in June, 1773, on his famous second voyage, “Captain Furneaux put on
shore, in Cannibal Cove, a boar and two breeding-sows, so that we
have reason to hope this country will, in time, be stocked with these
animals, if they are not destroyed by the Natives before they become
wild, for afterwards they will be in no danger.”

Forster, in his journal, says, “They were turned into the woods to
range at their own pleasure.” In the following year (October, 1774)
he says, “We took the opportunity to visit the innermost recesses of
West Bay, in order to be convinced, if possible, whether there was
any probability that the hogs brought thither about a year before
would ever stock those wild woods with numerous breeds. We came to the
spot where we had left them, but saw not the least vestiges of their
having been on the beach, nor did it appear that any of the Natives
had visited this remote place, from whence we had reason to hope that
the animals had retreated into the thickest part of the woods.” Most
probably this is what happened, and these first pigs were probably the
progenitors of many thousands.

On the 2nd November of the year 1773 Captain Cook gave a few pigs to
some Natives who came off in their canoes near Cape Kidnappers. Thus
pigs were first introduced into both the South and North Islands of
New Zealand. I do not think there is much doubt that the wild pigs of
the South Island--“Captain-Cookers,” as they came to be called--were
the progeny of those originally set free at Cannibal Cove, though Cook
himself recorded in 1777, “I could get no intelligence about the fate
of those I had left in West Bay and in Cannibal Cove, when I was here
in the course of my last voyage.” There is an earlier record of the
introduction of pigs into the North Island, for in 1769 De Surville
presented the chief of the Natives at Doubtless Bay with two little
pigs, but there is no record as to what came of them.

The next introduction was apparently on the occasion of the visit
of Captain King, Governor of New South Wales, to the Bay of Islands
in 1793, when he gave the Natives two boars and ten young sows.
Dieffenbach, who was in New Zealand in 1839, but who is not a reliable
authority on any matters relating to Maori stories or traditions, gives
a different version of this gift. He says, “Captain King, at the end
of last century, landed at the north end of the island, and gave the
Natives three pigs, which, however, were mistaken by them for horses,
they having some vague recollection of those which they had seen on
board Captain Cook’s vessels. They forthwith rode two of them to death,
and the third was killed for having entered a burying-ground. A very
old man who had known Captain King related this singular story to me.”
Dieffenbach’s credulity seems to have been played on as regards the
horses, whatever approximation to truth there is in the other part of
the story; it is most improbable that any horses were on board any of
Cook’s ships.

The pigs introduced into the country in the early days were evidently
of more than one kind. Mr. R. Scott, formerly M.P. for Central Otago,
tells me that the wild pigs formerly so abundant in this district
were “originally a variety of the Tamworth breed--long-snouted,
razor-backed, built for speed rather than for fattening, quick and
agile in movement. The predominating colour was red or sandy red, with
some black, and a few black-and-white, but these may have come from
an occasional tame boar which strayed and became wild. At the time
when they were most numerous in Otago they were decidedly gregarious,
usually three or four generations running together in mobs numbering
from half a dozen up to forty or even fifty. When attacked by dogs, if
cover, such as flax, scrub, or high grass, was handy, they made for
it, and would form a circle, with the older pigs on the outer ring and
the younger ones in the centre, for greater protection. The boars,
particularly the old ones, lived alone, and roamed far and wide. The
habits of the wild pig were clean.” The late Mr. Robert Gillies wrote
that “in 1848, the year of the settlement of Otago, wild pigs were very
common on the site of Dunedin.” In 1854 he and a party killed seventy
pigs at the back of Flagstaff Hill in two days. “The long, pointed
snout, long legs, and nondescript colours of the true wild pigs showed
them to be quite a different breed from the settlers’ imported pigs.
Their flesh tasted quite different from pork, being more like venison
than anything else.”

The wild pigs of the North Island were a different race from the
“Captain-Cookers,” and were probably the progeny of animals imported at
a later date. Dieffenbach says (in 1835), “The New Zealand pigs are a
peculiar breed, with short heads and legs, and compact bodies.”

The increase of the wild pigs in pre-settlement days was very
remarkable. Nearly every sealing and whaling vessel which visited these
Islands between 1800 and 1830 took away quantities of pork as part of
the cargo to Sydney. Dr. Monro, who accompanied Mr. Tuckett on his
trip through Otago in 1844, speaking of the hill country south-west of
Saddle Hill, says, “There is a famous cover for pigs, too, between the
upper part of the Teiari [Taieri] Valley and the sea. The whalers come
up the river in their boats and kill great numbers of pigs here.”

After settlement commenced and people started to cultivate certain
areas and to run sheep, wild pigs came to be looked upon as animals to
be killed out. Drummond tells us that “they multiplied astonishingly,
and enormous numbers assembled in uninhabited valleys far from
the settlements. At Wangapeka Valley, in the Nelson Province, Dr.
Hochstetter in 1860 saw several miles ploughed up by pigs. Their
extermination was sometimes contracted for by experienced hunters, and
he states that three men in twenty months, on an area of 250,000 acres,
killed no fewer than twenty-five thousand pigs, and pledged themselves
to kill fifteen thousand more.”

At the present time wild pigs are still common in nearly all scrub or
thin bush country which is not too near settlement, and to those who
like the element of danger in their hunting they afford good sport.
They are usually pursued by dogs, often specially trained for the
purpose, which after a time succeed in bailing up their prey. The
pigs prefer to take their stand in the hollow of a tree or some such
locality, and an old boar will often do considerable damage to the dogs
before he is despatched. The orthodox manner is to run in and stab
him; but a man without a gun has little chance if he ventures to close
quarters with a bailed-up boar.

As to the food of the wild pigs, they root up the ground wherever the
bracken fern (_Pteris aquilina_ var. _esculenta_) is found, the starchy
rhizomes furnishing abundant nutriment. They are also very fond of the
thick rootstocks of spear-grasses (_Aciphylla_) and other umbelliferous
plants, and have largely eaten out these plants over large areas. In
the Chatham Islands they have been mainly responsible for exterminating
the fine native forget-me-not, known as the Chatham Island lily. In the
Auckland Islands they have destroyed great areas of _Bulbinella_ and
_Pleurophyllum_.



CHAPTER IV.

UNGULATA--DEER.


Exclusive of horses and pigs, all the other ungulates which have
been introduced into New Zealand and have become established here
belong to the group of ruminants, or ruminating animals. They are
so called because they “ruminate”--that is, after the food has been
rapidly swallowed it is forced back up the gullet and more thoroughly
masticated. Belonging to this group we have to deal with deer, oxen,
goats, and sheep. These animals agree in the following zoological
characters: They have all two digits or toes on the feet, which are
therefore popularly known as “cloven.” They have no upper incisor
teeth, and the canines in the upper jaw are frequently wanting. They
are furnished with horns--a very special characteristic--sometimes
only on the males, sometimes on both sexes. The stomach has four
chambers. The first is the large paunch, or rumen, the organ which
in cattle constitutes the well-known article of food termed “tripe.”
This opens into a smaller bag, the reticulum, or honeycomb bag, so
called on account of the network arrangement of the folds or ridges
of the mucous membrane which lines it. The reticulum opens into the
psalterium, or “many-plies,” a globular organ, the interior of which is
filled with folds, or laminae, which are arranged like the leaves of
a book, and very close together; hence both the technical and popular
names. The fourth chamber is the abomasum, or reed, sometimes called
the rennet-stomach. This is the stomach proper, in which the digestion
of the food is carried on, and it is the part which when removed from
calves is employed for the curdling of milk.

Deer are distinguished from all other ruminants by the presence of
antlers, which in all our introduced forms occur in the males only.
These antlers are very interesting organs. In the commencement of the
spring a pair of knobs is to be seen upon the forehead of the adult
male animal. This is covered with a nearly smooth dark skin, and a scar
can be detected in the middle of each, which is that left by the antler
of the year before when it fell off. With advancing spring these knobs
commence to grow, feel warm to the touch, and sprout out, as it were,
round the scar. One branch takes a forward direction, whilst a second
and larger one makes its way backward. These become in the fully-formed
antler the brow-antler and the main beam. As long as the antler, which
is composed of genuine bone of very dense texture, is increasing in
size it is covered with the same warm, black skin as is the knob
from which it sprang, and as this skin is covered with short, fine,
close-set hair it has received the name of the “velvet.” It is this
velvet which secretes the bony texture of the antler from its inner
surface; therefore any mishap to it injures the growth of the antler
in the part affected. The animals, therefore, during the time they
are “in velvet” are more than usually careful to protect their heads,
and are inoffensive even to strangers. When the antlers have ceased
to grow, the velvet dries up, and the deer rub their horns against
any neighbouring trees and force them into the soft earth until the
membrane is quite rubbed off. Up to this time they have lived a kind of
solitary existence, but now they go forth in their full vigour, seek
out their future mates, and fight any other stags which dare to dispute
their ascendancy.

The desire to stock the mountain country of New Zealand with large
game, so that the Briton’s delight in going out to kill something
might be satisfied, has led to the introduction of no fewer than
nine kinds of deer, in addition to other large animals. Of these,
four species--fallow deer, red deer, sambur deer, and white-tailed
deer--have established themselves in different parts of the country,
and are included among the animals to shoot which licenses are now
issued. By law they are strictly preserved, but much poaching has
always been and still is done. At the same time, it must be remembered
that the poaching is chiefly done by two classes of people--namely, by
residents in the neighbourhood of the districts where the game abound,
and by mere pot-hunters. For the first class it may be said that many
farmers, who take no special interest in acclimatization work or in
so-called “sport,” who were not consulted in any way on the subject,
and who probably object to seeing the undesirable game laws of the Old
Country being reintroduced here for the sake of a few wealthy people
who are willing to pay a price for the privilege of killing deer,
naturally resent the incursions of animals which ignore or break down
their fences, harass their stock, and eat their hay and turnips.
Therefore some of this destruction of imported game takes the form
of reprisals for injury done to crops, fences, and stock. There is
practically little or no poaching, such as is characterized by the name
in the Mother-country, done on the property of private individuals,
and consequently destruction of game in New Zealand is not looked upon
as a heinous offence, as were breaches of the iniquitous game laws of
Britain in pre-war days. The game in New Zealand is the property either
of the State or of the acclimatization societies, and public opinion
on the subject of its destruction is lax in comparison with what it
is in countries where game is looked upon as something reserved for
and sacred to the sporting instincts of a small, self-constituted,
and select class. Still, a very fair measure of protection is ensured
to the animals, and they have increased in many districts where they
have been liberated. It has been recognized, too, that a wealthy class
of tourists can be induced to visit the country if, in addition to
scenic attractions, there can be added those things which appeal to
the sporting instincts of humanity. This has led the Government of
the Dominion in recent years to devote some attention to the subject
of introducing various additional kinds of big game to those already
brought in by the acclimatization societies.

In addition to the four species already mentioned the following kinds
of deer have been introduced into this country:--

Sir George Grey liberated a pair of wapiti (_Cervus canadensis_) in
Kawau some time in the “seventies.” The doe died, and the buck had
to be killed, as he became dangerous. In 1905 the Tourist Department
obtained eighteen of these fine deer, which were designated as “elk,”
from America. Ten of these were a present from President Roosevelt
to the Government. These animals were liberated at the head of Nancy
Sound, on the south-west coast of the South Island, and are now
increasing in numbers.

In 1885 the Otago Acclimatization Society received three Japanese deer
(_Cervus nika_) from Mr. J. Bathgate, and they were liberated on the
Otekaike Estate, near Oamaru. Five years later they were reported as
“doing well and growing into a nice little herd.” In the report for
1892 it is stated that “little or nothing has been heard about these
deer,” and nothing has been reported since. Apparently they have all
been destroyed.

In 1905 the Tourist Department obtained six of these deer, and
liberated them on the Kaimanawa Ranges, near Taupo. I have heard
nothing further about them.

In 1905 the Government purchased five black-tailed (or mule) deer
(_Odocoileus hemionus_) in America, and liberated them at Tarawera. In
1915 the Hawke’s Bay Society reported them as increasing.

In 1870 the Auckland Acclimatization Society received three South
American deer (probably _Cariacus chilensis_) from Mr. W. A. Hunt, but
there is no further record of them.

The first attempt to introduce moose, or true elk (_Alches machlis_),
was made by the Government in 1900, when fourteen young ones were
shipped on board the “Aorangi” at Vancouver. Owing, however, to
the rough voyage, only four--two bulls and two cows, nine months
old--arrived in New Zealand. They were liberated near Hokitika, but
appear to have separated soon, as in 1903 one cow was in one district,
another at the gorge of the Hokitika River, while nothing was known of
the bulls. In 1913 the last-mentioned cow was “in splendid condition,
and as tame as a kitten.” The others seem to have disappeared.

In 1910 the Government obtained ten moose, and these were liberated on
the shores of Dusky Sound. Two years later a mining party found traces
of both old and young moose, and the latest reports show that the
animals are increasing.

In 1867 the Otago Society imported seven axis deer, or chital (_Cervus
axis_), which were liberated in the Goodwood bush, near Palmerston. In
1871 another stag was landed and added to the herd, which at that time
numbered about thirty. Ten years later the Inspector reported that he
had seen over forty. Then complaints began to come in from the settlers
round about that the deer were a nuisance, and their numbers gradually
diminished. Gradually they were killed off, and none have been seen
thereabouts for the last twenty years.

In 1898 the Wellington Society received a pair of axis deer from the
Zoological Society of Calcutta, and placed them on Kapiti Island, in
Cook Strait. Four years later they had not increased, and I have not
heard of them since. In 1907 the Tourist Department liberated five axis
deer at Mount Tongariro, and in 1909 five in Dusky Sound. No reports
have as yet been received regarding either of these latest experiments.



CHAPTER V.

UNGULATA--FALLOW, RED, AND SAMBUR DEER.


FALLOW DEER (_Cervus dama_).

On account of its graceful form, beautiful colouring, and comparatively
inoffensive manner, this is the favourite deer for parks and
pleasure-grounds.

The fallow deer has palmated antlers--that is, they end in a broad
expansion, which is divided into several points, and has been compared
to a hand with its fingers. These antlers are not developed at all in
the fawn; in the second season they are simple snags; in the third the
two front branches develop; in the fourth the extremity of the beam
begins to assume the palmated form; while the fully developed antler
occurs only in the sixth year. It is thus possible to tell the age
of a buck by its antlers, and the following terms have been used to
distinguish the stags: Fawn, pricket, sorrel, soare, buck of the first
lead, and buck complete. The antlers are usually cast about November,
but I have no information as to the dates in the different districts,
and whether the milder climate of the North Island causes any earlier
development. By the middle of February the new horns are almost free
from their velvet, and in about five months the antlers are complete.
The breeding (rutting) season begins about the middle of April, when
the bucks are occasionally heard to utter a sort of grunting bark. This
is the only kind of sound uttered by these animals. A single fawn is
born each year, usually in the month of December.

Fallow deer are gregarious animals, going about in herds, which consist
of bucks by themselves, and of does and their fawns by themselves.
These herds coalesce in February and March, and again--at least, in
Britain--at the beginning of winter. Sir Harry Johnston suggests that
this winter gathering into large herds is a relic of the days when they
were forced to band together in large numbers to protect themselves
from the attacks of wolves and other carnivorous beasts. It would be
interesting to learn whether this habit of winter aggregation is kept
up in New Zealand.

Fallow deer are of two main types. The first, which is rather larger
than the second, becomes a light reddish-grey or reddish-brown in
summer, spotted more or less brightly with white; the legs and belly
being cream-colour or pale buff. There is generally a black line right
down the centre of the back from the shoulder to the end of the tail;
the lower side of the tail and the rump under it are white. In late
autumn the fur changes in colour, the spots disappear, and the fur on
the upper part of the body becomes a dark uniform brown. The buck of
this variety stands about 36 in. high at the shoulder, sometimes a
little more, while the does are somewhat less.

In Britain there is a smaller type which is entirely without spots, and
which is not nearly as handsome as the other. I do not know whether
any of this type were introduced into New Zealand. Most probably those
brought here came from park herds, and these are often very brightly
coloured and spotted. It would be interesting to learn what types we
have in the country.

Fallow-deer venison is considered to be better and more juicy than that
of the red deer. In my opinion, venison is not equal to mutton; but
one has to bear in mind that when we eat venison we are usually eating
the flesh of bucks, or male animals, while we do not eat the flesh of
rams. If we did, and compared it with that of deer, we might find cause
to reverse our judgment. It is interesting to note in old authors how
greatly venison was esteemed, and it was mostly fallow-deer venison
which is referred to.

The first introduction of fallow deer into New Zealand was in 1864,
when the Nelson Acclimatization Society received three from England.
All the early records of the Nelson Society are lost, so we do not know
what came of this experiment. Perhaps, however, these animals were the
originals of an old-established herd which exists in that district.

In 1867 the Otago Society introduced two deer, in 1869 twelve more, and
in 1871 one. All these were liberated on the Blue Mountains, Tapanui,
where they have increased to a vast extent, and now form one of the
most important herds in the country. Licenses to shoot them have been
issued for over twenty-five years.

In 1871 the Canterbury Society had four fallow deer in their gardens,
but there is no record now obtainable as to where they came from, nor
definitely as to what was done with them. In later years, however,
some were running on the Culverden Estate, and two more deer--obtained
from Tasmania--were added to them. This herd did not increase, and
apparently they have all been destroyed since.

The Hon. S. Thorne George, who lived on Kawau from 1869 to 1884, told
me that the first fallow deer in the colony were introduced there by
his uncle, Sir George Grey, but he could not give the exact date of
their introduction. However, in 1876 the Auckland Society received
twenty-eight deer from London, and, of these, eighteen were liberated
on the Maungakawa Range, Waikato, while ten were sent down to Wanganui.
The former herd has increased very largely, and is noted for the fine
heads of the stags, due, no doubt, to the abundance of food and the
favourable climatic conditions. The Wanganui herd is now also a large
one. On Motutapu, in the Hauraki Gulf, there is a very large herd,
which numbered over a thousand some three years ago. These may either
be descended from animals got from Kawau, or were originally obtained
from the Waikato herd. Smaller and more recently established herds
occur near Timaru, Hokitika, and Lake Wakatipu; so it is seen that this
species is widely spread throughout New Zealand.


RED DEER (_Cervus elaphus_).

This handsome animal is found now in many parts of New Zealand, forming
great herds, some of which number many thousand individuals. The
red-deer stag is a lordly creature in summer, standing over 4 ft. high
at the shoulder, with a thickly coated neck of greyish tint, a rich
red-brown body-colour, uniformly curved, symmetrical antlers, and a
head held high. In winter the coat is longer and of a greyish tint. The
new-born calves are brilliantly spotted with white, a character which
this species shares with many other kinds of deer. In some species,
as in the axis and fallow deer, the spots are retained in the adults,
while in the majority they are lost as the animals come to maturity.
The inference is that the progenitors of all these deer were spotted
animals; but this character has been lost in the course of time by
several species, though still retained in the young. The same thing is
seen among horses, newly-born foals often showing the characteristic
bars on the shoulders which are still found among certain wild races of
horses in the adult animals.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--RED DEER (AFTER LYDEKKER).]

The antlers of the red deer are very complex. “In the spring of the
year following its birth the antlers are nothing more than straight,
conical, and unbranched ‘beams,’ the animal being then known as a
‘brocket.’ In the following spring the antler has, besides the ‘beam,’
a small branch from its base, directed forwards, known as the ‘brow
antler’; it is then termed ‘spayad.’ In the third year an extra front
branch is formed, known as the ‘tres,’ and the whole antler is larger.
This ‘tres’ is sometimes seen in the smaller antler of the ‘spayad.’ In
the fourth year the ‘brow-antler’ is doubled, to form the ‘brow’ and
‘bez-tine,’ at the same time that the top of the main beam divides into
the ‘sur-royals’ of the ‘staggard,’ or four-year male. In the fifth
year the ‘sur-royals’ become more numerous, the whole antler of the
‘stag’ being heavier than previously, only to be exceeded in weight by
those of the fully adult ‘great hart,’ with ten or more points, each
being larger and longer than the year before. In Britain the conditions
of life and food are not of the quality which develops first-rate
antlers; at the same time it is--in Scotland, at least--the habit
to shoot those with the finest heads, and so leave the indifferent
specimens to perpetuate the species. In some of the ancient forests
of Germany superb herds of the red deer were to be obtained [this was
before the war, of course], whilst in several of the old castles of
that country antler trophies are preserved as memorials of sport in
times gone by with as many as six-and-sixty points.”

It is clear that there are several distinct strains of red deer in the
country, recognized chiefly by the form and growth of the antlers,
which are usually what sportsmen look to. This mixing of breeds
probably tends to the production of a strong race, and the efforts of
the main acclimatization societies are directed--often, it must be
admitted, rather blindly--to the elimination of defective deer. In
the case of some of the large herds attempts are frequently made to
thin out all weeds and deer with malformed antlers. According to Mr.
Hardcastle, the majority of malformations occur in the skull and not
merely in the horns, the horn-pedicle being often misplaced. In Otago
these malforms are most common in open tussock land or open birch bush;
they are not met with, as a rule, in rugged gorges or in rough and
dense bush country. Perhaps malformation is due to want of nourishment
at some period of growth, but there is no definite information on the
point, nor is it known whether the trouble is hereditary or not.

The pairing season in New Zealand is in March or April, and at that
time the stags are dangerous creatures. They drop their antlers usually
about September, the youngest being the latest to do so. The fawns are
born in November or December, and the animals continue to increase in
bulk and strength till they are about twelve years old. They probably
do not live more than twenty years, “though superstition credits them
with very many more.”

Wherever they are abundant red deer live mostly on certain trees and
shrubs, and eat grass only when other food is not obtainable. In the
North Island it is stated that fuchsia is the principal food in spring
and autumn, but that in winter they take to _Veronica salicifolia_
(koromiko) and other shrubs. Probably they eat the majority of the
native shrubs. In the South Island forests the following trees are
mostly eaten: Broadleaf, species of _Panax_, _Nothopanax_, _Coprosma_,
ribbonwood, pepper-tree, milk-tree, and tutu.[1] But when these are
scarce they will eat almost any shrub. They will not eat birch or
beech (_Nothofagus_), nor celery-pine (_Phyllocladus_), till other food
is exhausted.

[Footnote 1: NOTE.--Tutu is not poisonous, but rather fattening, when
animals become slowly accustomed to its use.]

The first specimens appear to have been brought--a pair of them--to
Nelson in 1851; but the doe was killed soon after, and the buck, after
remaining about Motueka for ten years, joined a lot then introduced.
In 1861 a stag and two hinds, presented by Lord Petre from his park in
Essex, England, were landed in Nelson. The progeny of these animals
increased, and rapidly spread themselves over a great part of the
high country in the provincial districts of Nelson and Marlborough.
Of late years they have farther spread into North Canterbury and over
towards the West Coast. Mr. Hardcastle, who in 1906 wrote a report on
the red-deer herds in the country, says, “The heads obtained in Nelson
are of a good colour and fairly massive, but compared with those of
Wairarapa and Hawea they have not the same average of span or spread.
Lord Petre’s herd had had no new blood introduced into it for many
years, so that a particular type of antler had been fixed from which
there is no throwing back.” According to Mr. Hardcastle, the type of
head of the first imported stag continues to persist, and dominates all
the deer of the Nelson herd. (In 1900 a herd, descended from Nelson
deer, was started in the Lillburn Valley, west of the Waiau River, in
Southland.)

In 1862 a stag and two hinds, presented by the late Prince Consort
to Governor Weld, were handed over by him to Dr. Featherston, then
Superintendent of the Wellington Province, and were liberated on the
property of Mr. Carter, East Taratahi, Wairarapa. They did not stay
there long, however, but crossed into the Maungaraki Range, where they
rapidly increased. Mr. Hardcastle reported in 1906, “The Wairarapa
forest is probably the best-stocked red-deer ground on the globe. On
Te Awaite Run, bordering on the east coast, the deer may now be seen
in bunches of up to one hundred head. At the beginning of last year it
was estimated that there were fully ten thousand head on the station.
According to information given in _The Field_ of the 15th September,
1906, the Windsor Park herd, from which the original stock came, has
been replenished from English, Scottish, German, and probably Danish
stock. The result has produced in the Wairarapa herd stags that are
remarkable for their massive antlers, some of which are of the German
type, and others again more resembling the Scottish form. The antlers
do not grow to great length, but some are very wide in spread, and
there is a great proportion of ‘Imperials,’ the most number of points
recorded being twenty-two. The stags mature their antlers early.
A number of heads have been shot on Te Awaite Station showing the
abnormal development of the back tines, such as is seen to be the case
in the great Warnham Park stags in England, and which is probably due
to the highly favourable conditions of climate, food, and shelter.”

In 1871 the Otago Acclimatization Society imported fifteen red deer,
some of which were sent to the care of Mr. Rich, of Bushy Park,
Palmerston; while seven were liberated on the Morven Hills Run, east of
Lake Hawea. Those at Bushy Park spread over into the Horse Range; but
they did not succeed, and no definite explanation of the failure has
been given. Probably the country was not high and wild enough: on one
side they were encroaching all the time on well-stocked sheep-country,
and on the other on old-settled farm land; besides which there were
many old diggers still about the neighbourhood. From one cause or
another they did not succeed. The Otago Acclimatization Society
reported them as quite extinct in 1892, but Mr. Hardcastle, writing in
1918, says they are still to be found on the Horse Range.

The deer liberated at Morven Hills were from the estates of the Earl
of Dalhousie, in Forfarshire, Scotland. They are the only lot of
pure Scottish-bred deer in this country. In their new home in the
New Zealand mountains they multiplied at a great rate, and have in
these forty-odd years spread over the country between Lakes Wanaka,
Hawea, and Ohau. They have worked their way up the Hunter and Makarora
Rivers, across the Haast Pass into south Westland, and right up to the
neighbourhood of Mount Cook. The most of this country runs from 3,000
ft. to 7,000 ft. in height, and much of it is very steep, rugged, and
inaccessible. But it contains much bush in the valleys and gullies,
and the open country is well grassed in summer. Hardcastle says, “The
North Otago stags maintain the true Scottish type of antler, but they
grow to much greater length than the antlers of any stags that have
been shot in the British Isles. The antlers are also remarkable for
their symmetry and perfection in the development of the tines, and
particularly the lower tines. Some magnificent heads have been got,
including a seventeen-and an eighteen-pointer, and two royals, each 46
in. in length of antlers; more recently a head 49 in. in length with a
spread of 50½ in., and either one or two with twenty points, have
been obtained. The coats of the stags are generally shaggy, owing, no
doubt, to the severe climate in winter.”

In 1895 the Otago Society obtained two fine stags from the Hunt Club,
Melbourne, to add to the North Otago herd; but I do not know what
special strain these belonged to. Again, in 1913, the society imported
a stag and six hinds from Warnham Park, England, the object in both
cases being to introduce new blood into the herds.

In 1897 the Canterbury Acclimatization Society imported nine red deer
from the Warnham Park herd, and liberated them in the gorge of the
Rakaia River. They have increased rapidly since, herds of forty and
more having been seen from time to time. Some of the heaviest heads
secured in New Zealand have been got from this herd. The record length
head from this herd is 48½ in.; the record spread is 46¾ in.; and
the record points twenty-four. The heaviest heads shot in New Zealand
have been obtained in the Rakaia Gorge herd, a number of dry skulls and
horns from thence weighing from 22 lb. to 23¾ lb. Mr. Hardcastle, my
informant, states that he does not think more than an odd head going as
much as 20 lb. has been shot in any other herd in New Zealand.

More recent importations have been as follows: In 1903 either seven
or eight fawns from Victoria, presented by Miss Audrey Chirnside,
of Werribee Park, were liberated at Mount Tuhua, in Westland. In
1906 four more from the same source were added to this herd; and
eight were liberated at Lake Kanieri. In 1903 the Tourist Department
obtained eight deer from the Duke of Bedford, and liberated them at
Lake Wakatipu. In 1908 four were obtained from Warnham Park, Sussex,
England, and were liberated at Paraparaumu. In 1909 three were
liberated at Dusky Sound.

The original importations of red deer account for the vast numbers of
these animals which are now to be met with in so many mountainous parts
of both Islands, for many of the acclimatization societies, as well as
the Tourist Department, have obtained deer from one or other of these
original herds, and have started new herds in other districts--for
example, in the country round Taupo and Rotorua, the West Coast Sounds
of the South Island, and Stewart Island--and these are all increasing.
In regard to the last-mentioned locality, a conflict has now arisen
between the would-be sportsmen of the Southland Acclimatization Society
and those who desire to see the rare native bird fauna of Stewart
Island preserved. It is to be hoped that no shooting of game will be
allowed in the island.


SAMBUR DEER, OR SAMBAR (_Cervus unicolor_).

This is a handsome deer from the hill-country of India. The stag stands
about 5 ft. high, is of a deep-brown colour, with the hair of the neck
developed almost into a mane. It is massively built, and carries great
antlers over 3 ft. in length, and presenting three powerful points.
Above the considerable brow-tine the beam bifurcates high up into two
fairly equal snags, and no more, in well-grown antlers. The hind is
much less massive, and of a yellowish tint. Captain Kinloch says of
the species that “Sambur delights in stony hills where there is plenty
of cover, and where they can have easy access to water. They browse
more than graze, and are nearly nocturnal in their habits. During the
daytime they seek the most shady retreats, and old stags especially
are most difficult to find, frequently betaking themselves to almost
inaccessible places, where the uninitiated would never dream of looking
for them.”

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--SAMBUR DEER (AFTER LYDEKKER).]

The introduction of sambur into New Zealand is difficult to trace. In
1875 the Auckland Acclimatization Society received a buck from a Mr.
Larkworthy, and in the following year a doe, but there is no further
mention of these deer in the society’s reports. However, in the annual
report of the Wellington Society for 1894 the following statement
occurs: “The Ceylon elk (sambur deer) imported into the Carnarvon
district, Manawatu, by Mr. Larkworthy have been brought under the
provisions of the Animals Protection Act, and are at present under
the control of the society. It has been reported that the herd now
numbers about thirty.” There is no previous record of these deer in the
Wellington Society’s reports. In 1900 the herd is reported to number
about a hundred, “but there is good reason to think that they are
really more numerous.... A pair of antlers was found on the hills near
Cambridge, and two deer were shot there,” some two hundred miles from
Carnarvon. In 1906 stag-shooting was opened for the first time in the
Marton district (Rangitikei), but there were numerous complaints about
poaching. The herd seems now to be a fairly large one, but the local
Rangers complain of indiscriminate destruction of deer in season and
out of season.

In 1907 the Tourist Department imported two sambur deer from Noumea,
and liberated them in the Rotorua district, adding to them some others
secured in the Manawatu, so as to form the nucleus of a new herd.


VIRGINIAN OR WHITE-TAILED DEER (_Cariacus virginianus_).

In 1905 the Tourist Department imported eighteen white-tailed deer from
America, and liberated nine of them at Port Pegasus, in Stewart Island,
and nine in the Rees Valley, Lake Wakatipu. The former location should
not have been chosen, for Stewart Island was long ago proclaimed a
sanctuary for native birds, and its selection illustrates the haphazard
way in which acclimatization work has been carried on in this country.
The introduction and the location were both apparently the choice of
Mr. Donne, of the Tourist Department, who is now in London. These deer
have increased to such an extent that in October, 1919, regulations for
shooting them were gazetted, which means that the island will cease to
be a sanctuary. The white-tailed deer is about 3 ft. high. The upper
part of the body is a bright chestnut colour in summer, changing to
a yellowish speckled grey in winter, and with black markings on the
face and tail. The distinctive feature, from which the popular name is
derived, is the white colour of the underside of the tail. The antlers
are rather large, up to 14 in. or more between the tips, and have as
many as eighteen points in the largest specimens. I do not know whether
they are very numerous in Port Pegasus, while there is no information
available about the herd in the Lake Wakatipu region.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--VIRGINIAN OR WHITE-TAILED DEER (AFTER
LYDEKKER).]



CHAPTER VI.

UNGULATA--WILD CATTLE, SHEEP, AND GOATS.


WILD CATTLE.

The animals which form the group called the Bovidae (from the Latin
_bos_, an ox), including cattle, sheep, goats, and their allies, differ
in several respects from Cervidae, or deer. One of the most important
differences is the structure of the horns. Those of the Bovidae are
hollow and permanent, while the antlers of deer are made of solid bone
and are deciduous, being renewed each year.

The wild cattle of New Zealand are (like the wild pigs) only
domesticated animals which have been running in unfenced country for
several generations back. They are not nearly so abundant to-day as
they were forty or fifty years ago. In these earlier days most of
the cattle on the larger runs--to whatever breed they belonged--were
more or less wild. They became greatly excited when they saw a man on
foot, for they were mostly accustomed to men on horseback, to whom
they gave only a passing notice. When mobs of such half-wild cattle
were to be yarded, either for branding of calves or for drafting, they
were handled pretty roughly. On enclosed roads they were dangerous,
and even in open country the presence of people on foot scared and
often scattered them. It is no wonder that when such cattle got into
wild country where they were undisturbed and never saw human beings
they and their progeny quickly became quite wild. When I first came
to Southland, about fifty years ago, we were bothered a good deal by
wild cattle. They found shelter during severe winter weather in the
extensive bush country which formed such a feature of Southland in
those days, and they used to come into our paddocks overnight. Fences
and ditches never troubled them: they hopped over them as if they were
non-existent. In the open country it was impossible to approach them
on foot, while even on horseback one had to make a wide circuit to get
within range of them. The gradual settlement and enclosure of the land
displaced them in time, and they are now found chiefly in distant and
seldom-visited parts.

It is difficult to find exact records of the introduction of cattle
into New Zealand. They were no doubt brought over by the missionaries,
and also by the whalers who settled along the coast. Thus in 1833 John
Bell set out from Sydney for Mana Island, in Cook Strait, with ten head
of cattle and 102 sheep. Apart from a reference in Marsden’s journal to
the landing of some cattle, this is the first record I can find since
the days of Cook and Vancouver. In 1839 E. J. Wakefield saw wild cattle
on the hills at the entrance of Pelorus Sound. In 1840 he states that
they were abundant on Kapiti, and says that they were the descendants
of some which were given to the Natives in exchange for flax. The Hon.
S. Thorne George, writing to me four years ago, said, “When I first
went to Kawau, in 1869, there was a large number of wild cattle. The
island was originally occupied as a cattle-station, but owing to the
rough country and heavy bush very many were lost and became quite
wild.” Mr. A. C. Yarborough, of Kohukohu, informs me that forty years
ago wild cattle were very numerous in all the bush country, and in
those days Hokianga and the large areas of the west coast of the Island
north of Auckland were nearly all covered with bush. The Natives used
to kill them in large quantities for the sake of their hides, which
were valued at 6s. to 12s. each. In later years these wild cattle have
been driven farther and farther back, until they are now found only
in the ranges distant from settlement. These cattle are merely the
descendants of tame ones which have wandered, the Maoris’ fences being
usually of a defective character.

The wild cattle of these early days were an extremely mixed lot, and it
is hard to say to what breed they were most nearly allied. Shorthorns,
Ayrshire, and Polled Angus were commonly mixed in the South Island, but
all sorts of strains were represented.

Mr. B. C. Aston, who crossed over part of the Wellington district
in 1914 and 1915, says, “Wild cattle are abundant in unfrequented
valleys and gorges of the Tararua Range. They are apparently Hereford
cattle gone wild. They eat out many species of native plants, and have
destroyed great numbers of _Ligusticum dissectum_, which is one of the
most abundant and characteristic plants of the higher ground.” He adds
that cattle are particularly fond of certain native trees and shrubs,
such as hinahina, karamu, broadleaf, mangrove, tawa, and karaka. I
myself noticed in Ulva, in Paterson Inlet, forty years ago, that the
only winter food for the cows was hinahina and similar small trees,
which had to be cut down for them. My son Stuart informs me that wild
cattle are found in the high country between Lake Wakatipu and the west
coast of the South Island; their tracks are numerous, for example, in
the valley of the Rockburn.

In 1841 cattle were first introduced into the Chatham Islands. Many
of them soon became wild, and used to be trapped by the Natives in
the early “sixties.” Wild cattle are now very numerous in the central
tableland.

In 1850 cattle were landed on the Auckland Islands, but they were all
killed off by sealers. In 1894 cattle were landed from the “Hinemoa”
at Enderby and Rose Islands for the use of shipwrecked mariners who
were unfortunate enough to be cast ashore on these inhospitable shores.
Dr. Cockayne tells me that in 1903 there were about fifteen and ten
head respectively on these two islands, and Mr. B. C. Aston adds that
on Enderby Island they have exterminated the huge tussocks of _Poa
litorosa_.


WILD SHEEP.

The first attempt to introduce sheep into New Zealand was made
by Captain Cook during his second voyage to this country. It was
unsuccessful, but the record is interesting. He brought away two
rams and four ewes from the Cape of Good Hope, but by the time the
“Resolution” entered Dusky Sound in March, 1773, only a ram and a
ewe survived, and they were in such a bad state, “suffering from an
inveterate sea-scurvy,” that their teeth were loose, and they could
not eat the green food which was given to them. Forster in his journal
states that they “were in so wretched a condition that their further
preservation was very doubtful.” However, they must have improved, for,
considering the country about Dusky Sound too rough and forest-clad for
them, Cook took them on to Queen Charlotte Sound, which was entered on
the 18th May. In his journal he says, “On the 22nd, in the morning, the
ewe and ram I had with so much care and trouble brought to this place
were both found dead, occasioned, as was supposed, by eating some
poisonous plant. Thus my hopes of stocking this country with a breed
of sheep were blasted in a moment.” Most probably they had eaten tutu,
which is common in the Marlborough Sounds district.

I cannot find when sheep were next brought into New Zealand, but as
soon as settlement began they were freely imported from New South
Wales. In those early days fences were very rough, and little or no
attempt was made to keep sheep within enclosures. They were therefore
allowed to roam freely over the open country, and were mustered at only
rare intervals for shearing, tailing the lambs, culling, &c. It was
inevitable, therefore, that numbers escaped the musterers, especially
in high and inaccessible country, and that thus wild sheep became very
common in the mountainous districts of the South Island.

Wild sheep are still abundant in some of the wilder parts of the
country, and are especially numerous in the high limestone country of
Marlborough. Much of this country is a _terra incognita_, for it is
most inaccessible, except in certain rare states of the river-gorges,
and very few people know anything about it. Mr. Aston, who recently
visited this region on a botanical quest, says, “On the north-west side
of Isolated Hill is a gently sloping tussock-land, stretching down
towards the Ure River, on which are hundreds of wild sheep in small
flocks of about half a dozen in each. All--rams, ewes, and particularly
the lambs--are, as far as we could see, in excellent condition. Some
were curiously marked and coloured. One had a brown body, black
legs and face, and white forehead. The rams had large horns, and
all were tamer than ordinary domestic sheep. Their food appears to
consist of the silver-tussock (_Poa caespitosa_)--which was well
eaten down--spear-grass, and several other native plants and shrubs.”
In another part of his account he adds, “These sheep destroy the
mountain-ribbonwood trees (_Gaya Lyallii_) by eating the bark, which we
watched one stripping off in large sheets.”

In the district of Strath Taieri, in Otago, some forty years ago
certain sheep on one of the runs--probably the progeny of a single
ram--were found to be evidently short-winded. Apparently the action of
the heart was defective, for when these sheep were driven they would
run with the rest of the flock for a short distance, and then lie down
panting. The result of this peculiar affection was that at nearly
every mustering these short-winded sheep used to be left behind, being
unable to be driven with the rest. Sometimes they were brought on more
slowly afterwards, but if it happened to be shearing-time they were
simply caught and shorn where they lay. As a result of this peculiar
condition a form of artificial selection was set up, the vigorous,
active sheep being constantly drafted away for sale, &c., while this
defective strain increased with great rapidity throughout the district,
for whenever the mobs were mustered for the market, shearing, or
drafting, these “cranky sheep,” as they came to be called, were left
behind.

This defective character appeared in every succeeding generation,
and seemed to increase in force, reminding one of the Ancon sheep
referred to by Darwin. At first, of course, the character was not
recognized as hereditary, but as the numbers of this “cranky” breed
increased to a very great extent, and spread over the district, it
came at last to be recognized as a local variety. When the runs on
which these sheep were abundant were cut up and sold, or released in
smaller areas, the purchasers found it necessary, for the protection
of their own interests, to exterminate the variety, of which hundreds
were found straggling over the country. This was easily and effectively
done in the following manner: As soon as a sheep of this variety was
observed it was pursued, but after running for a couple of hundred
yards at a great rate of speed it would drop down panting behind a
big stone or other shelter, and seemed incapable for a time of rising
and renewing its flight. It was immediately destroyed, and in this
manner a useless--but to the naturalist a very interesting--variety was
eliminated.

Sheep were introduced into the Chatham Islands in the early “forties,”
but as late as 1855 there were only about two hundred of them. When
sheep-stations were organized in 1866 there were about two thousand on
the island, and by 1900 they had increased to about sixty thousand,
and by this time a great many had become wild. Dr. Cockayne says
they have profoundly altered the native vegetation by eating out
many characteristic species of plants, such as _Myosotidium nobile_,
_Aciphylla Traversii_, _Veronica Dieffenbachii_, and allied species,
all of which they eat greedily.

On the Auckland Islands sheep have been liberated at various times
since 1890, and on the Antipodes between 1886 and 1900, for the benefit
of shipwrecked mariners, but they either died off or were killed by
castaways. They were also liberated on Campbell Island between 1888
and 1890. In 1896 the island was taken up as a sheep-run--a piece of
vandalism on the part of the men who did it and the Government which
granted it--and in 1903 there were about 4,500 sheep on it. The changes
produced in the vegetation have been described and discussed at length
by Dr. Cockayne. In 1907, according to Mr. R. M. Laing, there were
some eight thousand sheep on the island, and the transformation and
destruction of the native flora was going on at a great rate.


WILD GOATS.

The introduction of goats dates from Captain Cook’s second voyage. He
says in his journal, “On June 2, 1773, I sent on shore on the east
side of the sound [Queen Charlotte Sound] two goats, male and female.
The former was something more than a year old, but the latter was much
older. She had two fine kids some time before we arrived in Dusky Bay,
which were killed by cold.” Forster in his journal says they were left
by Captain Furneaux in an unfrequented part of East Bay, “this place
being fixed on in hopes that they would there remain unmolested by the
Natives, who, indeed, were the only enemies they had to fear.”

On the third voyage the “Resolution” was in Queen Charlotte Sound
from the 12th to the 25th February, 1777, and Captain Cook says,
“I gave Matahouah two goats (a male and a female with kid) and to
Tomatongeauooranuc two pigs (a boar and a sow). They made me a promise
not to kill them, though I must own I put no great faith in this. The
animals which Captain Furneaux sent on shore here, and which soon after
fell into the hands of the Natives, I was now told were all dead.”

It is popularly believed that the wild goats of New Zealand are
descended from those introduced by Captain Cook; but while this may be
partly true of those in the South Island, especially at its northern
end, it can hardly explain those found in the North Island. It is
more likely that they are descended from escaped animals. Mr. F. G.
Gibbs tells me that goats were imported into Nelson some time in the
“forties.” “In the ‘fifties’ a large number were kept tethered on some
hills in the Maitai Valley, still called the Goat Hills. Some of these
goats escaped into the back country, and were the progenitors of the
wild goats.”

Wild goats are very abundant in many parts of New Zealand. Great
numbers of them are to be met with in the rocky and precipitous country
west of Palliser Bay, near Wellington. Except when they move they are
difficult to see, as their colours blend almost undistinguishably
with that of their natural surroundings. They were abundant also on
Kapiti Island, but have recently been greatly reduced in number by the
caretaker, who has shot several thousands. They also occur, though not
so commonly, on the sparsely scrub-clad faces of the west coast north
and south of Hokianga, as well as on the outskirts of bush land. In
the high country of Marlborough they are very abundant, and are mainly
of three colours--black (which is, perhaps, the commonest), khaki, and
white. In a trip through the cañon of the Ure River Mr. B. C. Aston
says, “The fusillades of stones showered down on us by the goats which
we had disturbed were a source of ever-present danger.” Mr. W. R.
Bullen, of Kaikoura, informs me that they are numerous on his run, but,
while they eat very much the same food as the sheep do, they keep the
scrub and bush open, so that the sheep can move through it.

Writing of things in the Lake Wakatipu district, Mr. L. Hotop, of
Queenstown, tells me that there is an immense number of wild goats
spread all over the Lakes district--a moderate estimate gives them as
many as thirty thousand. “They are principally at Moonlight, Skipper’s,
Sandhills, and at the lower end of the lake, seriously interfering
with the pasturage in these localities; one runholder has paid year
after year for as many as one thousand during the season. At Moonlight
a digger, during the past nine months [in 1916], has shot 550. My
informant tells me he was offered 2s. 3d. a skin for as many as he
could send.”

Mr. W. H. Gates, of Skipper’s, writing in 1916, said, “There are a
lot of wild goats here, almost within rifle-range of my cabin. One
sheep-farmer gave 1s. for each pair of ears, and 1s. for each pelt. The
male is a rough-looking customer; some have horns 15 in. in length and
2½ in. by 1¾ in. at the root, and they grow in a slightly spiral
form. I think there is a strain of many breeds running through them
all. Some have long hair, but are not the Angora breed. Some are almost
white, but the chief colours are black-and-white or black-and-tan. I
have noticed here (and also on the west coast) that the female has her
young in the winter, when food is not plentiful. Why this is so I never
could understand.”

Goats are still found wild on the Galloway Station, Central Otago,
though not so abundantly as in former years. They live in the high
country, and do not come down to the settlements. Mr. A. Gunn, who
managed this large run for many years, tells me that they are of
great use to sheep-farmers, as they keep down the “lawyers” (_Rubus
australis_), and thus save the sheep from being entangled. In shooting
them, if the wind is coming from their direction, you can smell them
before you see them; and a billygoat is always found standing on guard
while they are feeding. While they are of many colours, black-and-white
is the commonest, though brownish-red, grey, and even occasionally a
white one is found. They live in the roughest places they can find.

Goats are also found in considerable numbers round the south-east
corner of the South Island, but whether they have escaped from the
settlements about Preservation Inlet or have worked overland from
Southland it is not possible to say with certainty. Probably the former
is the explanation of their occurrence from Puysegur Point inland.

The attempts made from time to time to acclimatize goats on the
outlying Southern Islands are of interest. Captain Enderby landed some
on Enderby Island in 1850, and Captain Norman landed them on both the
Auckland and Enderby Islands in 1865, but none appear to have survived.
Dr. Cockayne says, “Two or three were landed on Ewing Island in 1895,
but none have been seen recently. On Ocean Island, a very small islet
in the Auckland Group, goats are numerous at the present time, but I
have no details as to how they got there.” Captain Bollons, of the
“Hinemoa,” writing me in February, 1916, speaks also of the last-named
island, and adds, “Goats have been sent down from time to time to the
Auckland Islands since 1890, most of which have either died or been
killed off for food by castaways. At the Snares they were liberated
about 1889, but soon died off. At Campbell Island some were landed in
1883 and 1890, and several were alive when the main island was taken
up for a sheep-run in 1896. At the Antipodes several were liberated
between 1886 and 1900, but were either used for food by the castaways
or died off.”


OTHER SPECIES OF BOVIDAE.

The Tourist Department has in recent years introduced various species
of large game into New Zealand. Thus a small number of thar, or
Himalayan goats (_Capra jemlaica_), are now running wild on the Sealey
Range, near Mount Cook. Apparently they are increasing rapidly.

Chamois are also increasing in the neighbourhood of Mount Cook. The
first were introduced in 1907, when eight were received as a present
from the late Emperor of Austria. By latest accounts there is now a
considerable flock in that mountain region.



CHAPTER VII.

CETACEA--WHALES, DOLPHINS, AND PORPOISES.


How little any of us in New Zealand know about the monsters of the deep
which are to be met with in the seas round our coasts! I seldom meet
with any one who knows anything about them, or who can furnish me with
anything beyond the merest shreds of information. I myself have seen
a few whales and dolphins, and numerous porpoises; and this is the
experience of all who travel by sea and care to observe its wonders.
But such observers are few. Most of those whose business takes them on
the great waters are concerned with other things than the animal life
which the sea contains; and even fishermen, whose occupation takes them
out constantly among this animal life, can give little information
which is of the slightest value on anything but fishes.

Whales and their allies are not fishes, but are warm-blooded mammals,
which suckle their young, and which breathe air--not dissolved oxygen,
as fishes do. They constitute the order Cetacea. Twenty or more species
are met with in New Zealand seas. Of these many are most imperfectly
known, and several are only recognized by their bones.

Zoologically cetaceans are fish-like mammals, which have the tail
expanded into horizontal flukes, the anterior limbs converted into
fin-like paddles, and the posterior limbs represented by some
rudimentary bones. Their bodies are nearly quite destitute of hair,
and, as they have to breathe air, their nostrils are represented by a
single or double blowhole, which is nearly always situated far back
upon the skull. Some of the order have simple conical teeth; others
have the jaws furnished with plates of baleen, or whalebone.

Whales include the largest of all vertebrate animals, but their reputed
measurements, like those of many fish, have to be received with a
grain of salt. The largest whales are the Rorquals, and perhaps 85 ft.
is about the maximum recorded length. Compare that with the biggest
dray-horse or the prize fat bullock at a show, and then try to realize
what a huge bulk it is.

The whalebone-whales are well represented in New Zealand waters, though
individuals are now rare compared with their relative abundance a
century ago. A Norwegian company which started operations on a large
scale in the North Island a few years ago abandoned the enterprise
after trying it for a year or two. There was not enough money in it.
Yet whalebone is enormously valuable--it was worth £2,000 a ton twenty
years ago, and, in spite of numerous substitutes, it still keeps its
place.

The Fin-back, or Rorqual (_Balaenoptera musculus_), runs up to 70 ft.
in length, and yet its food seems to consist chiefly of small pelagic
crustaceans belonging to the Copepoda. These little creatures, which
can be taken by a fine-mesh surface net at all seasons of the year,
vary from one-tenth to one-fortieth of an inch in length. It would
be a somewhat difficult calculation to find how many of these little
creatures would be required to assuage the appetite of a hungry whale.
The whale has about 330 baleen plates on each side of its jaw, and
these act as strainers to catch the little crustaceans. The production
and destruction of inconceivable myriads of organisms are among the
extraordinary and awe-inspiring phenomena of the sea.

Two other species of _Balaenoptera_ are the Blue Whale (_B.
sibbaldii_), which has been taken 85 ft. in length--the giant of its
race--and the Pike Whale (_B. rostrata_), which seldom exceeds 30 ft.

The Humpback Whale (_Megaptera lalandii_) is so called because it has a
lowish hump on its back, which represents the dorsal fin. Its maximum
length is probably 60 ft. None of these whales, which are species with
a very wide geographical distribution, are of much commercial value.

Of the “right” whales--which are merely the right kind of whales for
the whaler to pursue, as their whalebone is longer and more valuable,
and their oil more abundant and superior in quality to that of the
other species named--the most important is the Southern Right Whale
(_Balaena australis_). This animal is world-wide in its distribution,
occurring in all seas but the Arctic regions, where its place is taken
by the Greenland Whale (_B. mysticetus_).

Allied to this is the Little Australian Whale (_Neobalaena marginata_),
which occurs only in the ocean south of New Zealand and Australia, and
which grows only about 16 ft. long.

The most important of all these animals from a commercial point of
view is the Sperm Whale, or Cachalot, an animal 60 ft. to 70 ft. in
length--nearly one-third of it head--which used to be common in these
southern seas, though mainly an inhabitant of warmer regions. The
specific name--_Physeter macrocephalus_--refers to its gigantic head.
The mouth is ventral in position, and the lower jaw is furnished with a
great row of teeth, and according to Frank Bullen, who gives a picture
of it, the animal turns over on its back like a shark when it is going
to bite. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--SPERM WHALE, OR CACHALOT.]

These animals are still fairly common, though they are persistently
and unremittingly pursued for their destruction. Bullen, writing of
Foveaux Strait in the “nineties,” says, “Only three days elapsed after
our arrival when whales were seen. For the first time I realized how
numerous these gigantic denizens of the sea really are. As far as the
eye could reach, extending all round one-half of the horizon, the sea
appeared to be alive with spouts--all sperm whales, all bulls of great
size. The value of this incredible school must have been incalculable.
Subsequent experience satisfied me that such a sight was by no means
uncommon here--in fact, ‘lone whales’ or small ‘pods’ were quite the
exception.”

The cavity lying below the skull in the great square head of this
whale is filled with spermaceti, which is fluid fat during the life of
the animal. Up till as late as the middle of the eighteenth century
this oil was regarded as the brain of the cachalot. The most valuable
product yielded by the Sperm Whale is ambergris, which is a product of
the intestinal canal. When first extracted it has a greasy feel and
consistency, and then as it hardens it acquires its characteristic
sweet, earthy odour. It is occasionally found floating at sea or
washed up on beaches, and it is extraordinary how constantly lumps of
fat or tallow thrown overboard by passing vessels get picked up on
the shore and are eagerly seized by the finders, who think they have
discovered a treasure. I have had numbers of such finds brought to
me for identification. They nearly always turned out to be chunks of
mutton-fat. The value of ambergris is very problematical--anywhere from
5s. to 10s. per ounce, probably. As far as I know, it is used only in
connection with perfumery.

Professor Beddard says of the Sperm Whale, “Its food is chiefly
cuttlefishes, and it is said to have a predilection for those colossal
cuttlefishes whose existence has until recently been doubted. Mr.
Bullen has sketched a conflict between these two giants of the deep.
On the other hand, it is said that its large throat, more than big
enough to swallow a man (this whale is credited with being that which
swallowed Jonah) does not usually admit fishes larger than bonitos
and albacores.” Bullen’s account of this fight is worth reading by
all interested in these creatures. It is, of course, unsubstantiated,
and the illustration which accompanies it is in part imaginary and
taken from the description. But the account is probably correct, and
the fact of their choice of food is well authenticated. In another
part of his work, describing the contents of the mouth of a captured
Sperm Whale, he writes: “In the maw there were, besides a large
quantity of dismembered squid of great size, a number of fish, such as
rock-cod, barracouta, snapper, and the like, whose presence there was
a revelation to me. How in the name of wonder so huge and unwieldy a
creature as the cachalot could manage to catch those nimble members
of the finny tribe I could not for the life of me divine! Unless--and
after much cogitation it was the only feasible explanation that I could
see--as the cachalot swims about with his lower jaw hanging down in
its normal position, and his huge gullet gaping like some submarine
cavern, the fish unwittingly glide down it, to find egress impossible.
This may or may not be the case; but I, at any rate, can find no more
reasonable theory, for it is manifestly absurd to suppose the whale
capable of catching fish in the ordinary sense, indicating pursuit.”

Whaling was a most profitable industry in these Islands a century ago.
Waikouaiti was a well-known whaling-station when John Jones started
his settlement there over seventy years ago. Otakou (or Otago) was
another; and it is not so long ago that the old trying-down plant was
still lying about Harrington Point. Stewart Island and Foveaux Strait,
Tautuku Bay, and other sheltered spots on the coast were all originally
settled by whalers. But these days are gone, and the whales themselves
are comparatively rare. Whaling, however, is still carried on by
motor-launch from Tory Channel and other places.

Besides the species I have mentioned, another, allied to the Sperm
Whale, is occasionally met with. This is the Pigmy Whale (_Kogia
breviceps_), which differs in various anatomical respects from its
larger relative, but most markedly in its size, for it seldom exceeds
15 ft. in length.

Several species belonging to the family of beaked whales have been
described from New Zealand waters by the late Sir James Hector and
other naturalists. They are by no means common animals, but one reason
of their rarity may be the fact of their being chiefly found right down
in the Antarctic Ocean, where they are scarcely disturbed, as they have
little commercial value.

Of the Porpoise Whale (_Berardius arnouxi_) only four or five specimens
have been met with, yet it is the only well-known species of the genus.
“It is 30 ft. to 32 ft. in length, and is of a velvety black colour,
with a greyish belly. Instead of lowing like a cow, this whale has been
described as ‘bellowing like a bull’!”

Of the genus _Mesoplodon_, which are known as Scamperdown Whales, some
five species are said to occur in New Zealand. They are moderate-sized
whales, 15 ft. to 17 ft. in length, which have a world-wide
distribution.

Another whale, known as the Goose-beak Whale (_Ziphius cavirostris_) is
probably the only species of the genus, and its distribution is also
world-wide. Beddard says of it, “Our knowledge of _Ziphius_ dates from
the year 1804, when a skull, ‘completely petrified in appearance,’ was
picked up upon the Mediterranean coast of France, and described by the
great Cuvier. It was forty years before another specimen was found. In
the New Zealand specimen described by von Haast the body was scored by
numerous lacerations. These wounds may have been due to fights among
the whales themselves; the forwardly-situated teeth would be capable
of inflicting such wounds. But it has also been stated that the armed
suckers of gigantic cuttlefish are responsible for these scratches.”

Every one who has travelled up and down the coast, and most who
have sat by rocks overlooking the open ocean, are familiar with the
schools of porpoises which are so common in these southern seas. It
is interesting to watch them from the deck of a steamer, and to see
how they dash along near the surface of the water with their peculiar
gliding movement, curving their bodies as they plunge in and out of
the water. They keep a wonderful regularity in their distance from
one another, moving as if by mechanical means with a remarkable
rhythmic movement. Bullen gives a short account of porpoise-hunting
in the “Cruise of the Cachalot.” He states that these animals have
“no skin--_i.e._, hide--the blubber or coating of lard which encases
them being covered by a black substance as thin as tissue paper. The
porpoise-hide of the boot-maker,” he adds, “is really leather made from
the skin of the _Beluga_, or ‘White Whale,’ which is found only in the
far north.” I cannot say whether this is accurate or not, for though I
have frequently seen porpoises at close quarters I have never seen them
cut up. Our species--_Cephalorhynchus hectori_--is usually from 5 ft.
to 7 ft. long; it is quite distinct from the common European species,
which, indeed, belongs to a totally different genus.

The dolphin--_Delphinus delphis_--is perhaps the most familiar of all
cetaceans. It is a world-wide species, which is particularly common in
the Mediterranean. There it has been observed from very early days, and
a great number of mythical stories have gathered round it; hence the
stories of Arion and others. “The leaping of the dolphin out of the
water is exemplified in many Mediterranean coins and coats-of-arms; the
heraldic dolphin is represented with an arched back as in leaping.”
Many of the animals usually claimed as porpoises are really dolphins.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--THE DOLPHIN (AFTER MCCOY).]

One of the most famous animals of this group, one with a world-wide
reputation, is “Pelorus Jack,” the pilot-dolphin of the French Pass,
known for many years to every traveller between Wellington and Nelson.
This famous “whale” has been photographed scores of times, and his
general form and large dorsal fin are well known. I am indebted to
Messrs. Sharland and Co. (Limited) for permission to reproduce the
photograph shown in Fig. 8. For something like twenty years he met
every steamer that came through the French Pass, whether by day or
night. His “station,” if one may use the word, was somewhere off the
mouth of Pelorus Sound, and as soon as a passing vessel got within a
mile or two of this region “Jack” would be seen racing along until he
was alongside, when he would escort the boat for some distance before
racing off again. Among various yarns told about him was one that he
used to rub himself on the vessels, presumably either for a scratch on
the back or to divest himself of some of the fish-lice which frequently
infest whales. I have seen him on several occasions, and never to
greater advantage than when he accompanied the little trawling-steamer,
the “Doto,” as we were going into the French Pass. He kept alongside
and played round the bows for over five minutes, and then sheered
off to visit a larger vessel which was coming in from Cook Strait.
In Hutton and Drummond’s “Animals of New Zealand” he was stated to
be a _Beluga_, or White Whale, and was identified as _Delphinapterus
leucas_; but this is purely a northern species. Waite considers it is
a Risso’s Dolphin (_Grampus griseus_), and says “the general colour
of the animal is grey, curiously marked with scratch-like lines, which
are probably caused by the cuttlefishes which form the staple food
of the grampus.” In a pamphlet published in 1911 by James Cowan on
“Pelorus Jack” it is stated that “he is a dolphin of a bluish-white
colour, tinged with purple and yellow, and with irregular brown-edged
scratch-like lines covering the upper surface of his body. His flippers
are dark in hue, mottled with grey. He is about 14 ft. in length--as
nearly as can be judged, for he doesn’t stay still very long--and
he is blunt of nose, humped of forehead, with a high falcate (or
scythe-shaped) dorsal fin and a narrow fluked tail.” By an Order in
Council of the 29th September, 1904, it is notified that for five years
from that date it would not be lawful for any person “to take the fish
or mammal of the species commonly known as Risso’s Dolphin (_Grampus
griseus_) in the waters of Cook Strait, or of the bays, sounds, and
estuaries adjacent thereto.” Any person committing a breach of this
regulation was liable to a fine of not less than £5 nor more than £100.
This regulation was renewed from time to time, an Order in Council of
the 24th April, 1911, extending it for a further period of five years.
The regulation was aimed solely at the protection of “Pelorus Jack,”
the only individual marine animal, I believe, which has thus secured
Government protection.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--PELORUS JACK, A FAMOUS DOLPHIN.]

The Maoris believe that Kaikai-a-waro, as they call “Pelorus Jack,” has
been known to their race for some three centuries, and a considerable
body of legend has grown up about him. One European skipper, Captain
Turner, of Nelson, met with a big white “fish” in Pelorus Sound nearly
fifty years ago, and he thinks this is the same as the whale which
afterwards took up its station towards the French Pass.

It was stated in 1911 that the carcase of “Pelorus Jack,” bitten by
sharks, had been washed up on D’Urville Island. It was found, however,
that the animal discovered there was a bottle-nosed whale. Meanwhile it
is a fact that the “pilot-whale” has not been seen for some years, and
whether he has “passed out” or merely shifted his quarters no one knows.

The list of New Zealand whales is not yet exhausted. Mention has just
been made of the Bottle-nose (_Prodelphinus obscurus_), which is not
unfrequently met with. A more interesting animal is the Killer Whale
(_Orca gladiator_), often spoken of as the “grampus,” a word which
itself is a contraction of the French _grand poisson_, or big fish. The
killer is marked with contrasting bands of white or yellow upon a black
body-colour. It is a fairly large species, growing to a length of 30
ft. It is a powerful and rapacious whale, and it is stated that as many
as thirteen porpoises and fourteen seals were taken from the stomach of
one of them. This is a large order, and perhaps the culprit died of a
surfeit; if not, it certainly deserved to.

The killers sometimes combine to attack larger whales, and in Bullen’s
interesting book he repeats an account of a combat which he witnessed
between a bull cachalot and such a combination of enemies. Two hungry
killers and a 16 ft. swordfish joined forces to attack the big whale.
The swordfish launched himself at the monster, but the latter turned in
time to receive the shock on the head, and the blow glanced off it, the
fish rolling helplessly over the top of the whale. With a sudden rapid
movement the latter turned, grasped the aggressor with his immense
jaws and crunched him into two portions, which he promptly swallowed.
Then, with a terrific lash of his tail, he came down on one of the
killers, and “crushed it like a shrimp under one’s heel.” Here is
Bullen’s conclusion: “The survivor fled--never faster--for an avalanche
of living furious flesh was behind him, and coming with enormous leaps
half out of the sea every time. Thus they disappeared, but I have no
doubt as to the issue. Of one thing I am certain: that if any of the
trio survived they never afterwards attempted to rush a cachalot.”
Bullen is rather mixed in this narrative. According to a Dr. Frangius,
“When an Orca pursues a whale the latter makes a terrible bellowing,
like a bull when bitten by a dog.” He may be referring to a Right
Whale, for certainly his remark does not apply to the Sperm Whale,
which is a dangerous foe to all its enemies.

The Cowfish (_Tursiops tursio_) is a beaked whale, some 12 ft. long,
which has been taken in New Zealand waters. The colour of the back
varies from black to lead-colour, while the under-parts are white. It
is a species of world-wide range.

So is the last of the whales which I shall mention, the Blackfish
(_Globicephalus melas_), known in the Hebrides and the west of Scotland
as the “ca’ing whale.” This is one of the largest of the dolphins,
reaching some 20 ft. in length. It is a gregarious species, moving
about in great schools or shoals. Its sheep-like habits enable it to be
easily driven on shore in herds, when the animals are easily harpooned.
Schools of Blackfish not unfrequently visit the inlets and shores of
the North of Auckland. Bullen gives an account of an attack on an
immense school of Blackfish which the “Cachalot” encountered when near
Christmas Island in the mid-Pacific.

Any one interested in the natural history of the sea will find the
study of its cetaceans is still in a very incomplete state. Few people
know anything about them scientifically, because their occurrence and
the opportunity of studying them at first hand are so erratic and rare.
When a whale comes ashore it is usually in some inaccessible place, and
if the fact is communicated to a museum the finder usually places a
considerable price on his discovery, which makes the investigation too
expensive to be undertaken. When our fisheries are properly organized
it will be possible to study the cetacean fauna much more closely and
accurately than is at present the case.



CHAPTER VIII.

CARNIVORA--CATS AND DOGS.


Five species of carnivorous animals (exclusive of menagerie specimens)
have been introduced into New Zealand. Cats and dogs are domestic
animals of which numerous individuals have gone wild from time to time;
while ferrets, stoats, and weasels have been liberated and are now
common.

One of the most characteristic features of the land carnivora is “the
looseness of their skin, which, instead of being stretched on the
body as tightly as a drum-parchment, as it is in grass-eaters--for
instance, the ox or hippopotamus--is quite ‘baggy,’ having between it
and the flesh of the beast a layer of the loosest possible fibres.
It is for this reason that the skin of any but a very fat dog can be
pinched up so readily, while of an herbivore it may be said, in the
words of eulogy uttered by Mr. Squeers of his son Wackford, ‘Here’s
firmness, here’s solidness! Why, you can hardly get up enough of him
between your fingers and thumb to pinch him anywheres.’” As Parker
says, “The use of this loose skin will be very evident to any one who
will take the trouble to watch the great cats playing together at the
Zoological Gardens. They are continually scratching one another, but
the loose skin is dragged round by the claws, which in consequence can
get no hold and do no harm; with a tight skin, on the other hand, the
slightest scratch of such a claw as a tiger’s would cause a serious
wound. The looseness of the skin is very evident in the puma and
jaguar, in which it hangs in a fold along the middle of the belly, like
a great dewlap.”

The skull is very strongly developed, and has great bony ridges for the
attachment of the jaw-muscles. In herbivorous animals the brain-case
is small and the face much prolonged; but in carnivores--especially
cats--the face is very short relatively to the cranial portion of
the skull. The higher carnivora cannot chew or grind their food;
they only tear it and mince it. Cats and dogs walk on the toes, the
under-surfaces of which are covered with soft leathery pads, so as to
ensure a soft, silent footstep. What looks like the knee is really the
wrist, and what looks like a backward-turned knee in the hind leg is
the heel, the true elbow and knee being almost hidden by the skin. In
all carnivores the canine teeth are relatively very large. All of them
have the senses of sight and hearing very well developed. The young are
always born in a comparatively helpless condition, and are generally
blind for some time after their birth.


THE CAT.

There is no record as to the first introduction of cats into New
Zealand; but no doubt they were brought here by the very first
settlers--perhaps earlier even, by the crews of vessels which called
at Kororareka and other parts of this county in the very early whaling
days. They do not seem to have strayed far from the haunts of men until
rabbits began to multiply. Then, when the sheep-farmers found that
the capacity of the country for carrying sheep was being seriously
reduced by the vast increase of rabbits, they resorted to all sorts of
devices to cope with the pest. One method was to purchase cats in the
towns, take them out to the back country, feed them for a time till
they became somewhat habituated to the locality, and then turn them
loose. No doubt some died, but most of them became more or less wild,
and learned to subsist on the smaller animals of the neighbourhood.
Probably native ground-birds suffered most from their presence. They
certainly destroyed many young rabbits, but it is also true that
they were frequently found living and rearing their young in burrows
alongside families of rabbits. They cleared off the rats, which were
formerly so common, and they also largely exterminated lizards. My
son, Dr. Allan Thomson, tells me that in the Awatere Valley, in
Marlborough, rabbit-hunting cats are greatly esteemed by the settlers,
and are believed to be much more efficient than stoats and weasels.
They are only partly wild, as frequently the domestic cats feed their
young on rabbits and interbreed freely with wild cats living near the
homesteads. He observed a cat at Awapiri teaching two kittens to kill.
She would leave the house, and in about ten minutes’ time would return
with a baby rabbit, evidently obtained from a stop. When the kittens
were very young she killed the rabbit and skinned it. A week or two
later she would give them the dead rabbit with the skin just
partially turned back, and they quickly learned to complete the skinning.
Still later she gave them the live rabbit, with which at first they
played, but in a very short time they learned to approach the rabbit
from behind and grip it by the neck, lying practically on top of it
and pinching the gullet until the rabbit was strangled. Cats, in his
opinion, become rabbit-killers only when they are thus taught by their
mothers, but once they acquire the habit they feed on little else.

Dieffenbach, writing of the Piako district in Auckland Province in
1839, says, “The cats, which, on becoming wild, have assumed the
streaky grey colour of the original animal while in a state of nature,
form a great obstacle to the propagation of any new kinds of birds,
and also tend to the destruction of many indigenous species.” This
statement about the colour of wild cats has been made much of. It
is true to only a very limited extent, and I have always felt that
such statements--coming from a traveller who had only limited means
of observing the facts, and apparently founded his conclusions on a
few isolated observations of the settlers--are not always safe to
generalize from. In the present instance they led Darwin (in “The
Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication”) to quote him, and
to use the statement as a proof of the strong tendency to reversion
shown by the cat when it escaped from domestication. At the time
Dieffenbach wrote settlement was quite in its infancy, and cats had not
long been introduced. It is probable, therefore, that his statement,
whether the result of his own or other people’s observations, referred
to cats which were themselves progeny of grey animals. It certainly is
the case that in Central Otago, where cats were freely liberated to
cope with the rabbit pest, animals of many and varied colours are now
found wild. Mr. Robert Scott, formerly M.P. for Central Otago, who had
exceptional opportunities for observing the facts, has recently given
me most interesting information regarding this question. He says, “The
wild cat was, no doubt, the descendant of the shepherd’s and miner’s
tame cat. The predominating colour was grey-striped (or tiger-striped,
as some people called them), occasionally yellow, and rarely black or
black-and-white. The time I write of was the ‘seventies’--say, from
1870 on to the time when poisoning the rabbits with phosphorized grain
came in. The cats, though not numerous, were fairly common, especially
in districts where cover, such as fern and scrub, was plentiful. They
grew to an immense size, and were game to the last if attacked; in
fact, no dog would tackle one single-handed. They were always in the
pink of condition, which may be accounted for by the abundance of feed
available in the shape of wekas, ducks, and rats, with perhaps a dead
sheep or bullock occasionally. When the rabbit-poisoning came in that
class or variety of cat disappeared along with the wild pig and weka.
The reason for the extermination of the cat is because it prefers
the entrails to the flesh. Since that time, up to the present, cats
have been turned out in considerable numbers, but the rabbit-trapping
has effectually prevented their increase, and the survivors still
retain their original colours--that is, black, black-and-white, grey,
grey-and-white, &c.; but they are much smaller than the wild cat of
forty years ago. My opinion is that had the original cat survived
till to-day the colour would have invariably been grey, or, rather,
grey-striped.”

Mr. H. C. Weir, of Ida Valley Station, Otago, states that on high
country, where rabbit-traps are seldom if ever used, they grow to a
very considerable size, and are most commonly of a grey colour; but
yellow, grey-and-white, and black are also to be met with. He adds,
“I cannot say I ever saw any approaching the tiger-like stripe of the
Home-country wild cat, and I have seen a good few of them in the wilds
of Sutherlandshire, Scotland.”

Some people consider that wild cats are responsible for much of
the failure which has followed the constantly renewed attempts to
naturalize game birds. At the annual meeting of the Wellington
Acclimatization Society in 1898 a member said, “Cats are more
destructive to game than all the hawks, weasels, and stoats in the
colony. Most of the bush coverts are full of these cats, a fact which I
myself proved near Feilding, where, with the assistance of traps baited
with smoked fish, I caught many.” I think they may have contributed to
some extent to this failure, but only in a few parts of the country,
and then chiefly in the neighbourhood of settlements. Personally, I do
not think that wild cats have had much to do with the extermination
of introduced game. The whole question is a difficult one to get any
definite knowledge upon, opinions differ so much. Thus Mr. Charles
J. Peters, of Mount Somers, considers that wild cats are far more
effective in keeping down rabbits than are stoats or weasels, and
estimates that cats will kill more rabbits in a month than one of the
others will in six months.

Mr. B. C. Aston, in a paper on the Kaikoura Mountains, speaks of the
half-wild cats which are found about deserted fencers’ and musterers’
camps as retaining “all their love for man’s comradeship if encouraged,
but they invariably refuse to eat anything that they have not killed
themselves. They probably exist on rabbits, birds, and mice. As a
result of their hunting habits their chest and forelegs are largely
developed, and they have a look different from the ordinary cat, being
leaner, and quicker in action.”

Wild cats, so my son Dr. Allan Thomson tells me, are the bane of the
island sanctuaries of New Zealand, being present on Kapiti Island,
Little Barrier Island, and Stephen Island, in which last they kill and
eat the tuatara. They have been reduced to small numbers by shooting,
but their complete extermination has not yet been accomplished.

When the Russian Commander Bellingshausen visited the Macquaries in
1820 he found numbers of wild cats hid among the foliage. There were
at the time, however, two parties of traders (seal-hunters?) on the
island, one of thirteen and the other of twenty-seven men, and these
probably accounted for the cats.

Captain Musgrave, who was a castaway from the schooner “Grafton,” when
she was wrecked on the Auckland Islands in 1864, found a cat in a trap
more than a year after the date of the wreck. “She soon cleared the hut
of mice, which were dreadfully common.”

In 1868 Mr. H. H. Travers, in his account of a visit to the Chatham
Islands, states that wild cats were very abundant, and that they
destroyed a great number of the indigenous birds.


WILD DOGS.

It may seem strange to speak of dogs as wild animals in New Zealand,
and it is questionable whether there are any wild dogs at the present
time, but in the early days of settlement they were fairly abundant,
and were truly feral. Dogs are the most thoroughly domesticated of
animals, and in none has the moral and intellectual faculties been
more highly developed. But just as some men degrade these faculties to
the basest uses and become a menace to the rest of their race, so some
dogs--only a few, it must be admitted--go wild and become a menace to
their human companions and masters.

It is of interest to remember that when Captain Cook came to New
Zealand the Natives had dogs, which they had brought with them from
their original homes in Polynesia. Most of the histories of the
migrations of the Maori refer to the fact of their bringing dogs with
them, so that they had probably been in the country for some centuries
before the date of Cook’s visit in 1769. Crozet, who visited these
Islands in 1772, saw these dogs, and described them as follows: “The
dogs are a sort of domesticated fox, quite black or white, very low on
the legs, straight ears, thick tail, long body, full jaws, but more
pointed than that of the fox, and uttering the same cry. They do not
bark like our dogs. These animals are only fed on fish, and it appears
that the savages only raise them for food. Some were taken on board our
vessels, but it was impossible to domesticate them like our dogs: they
were always treacherous, and bit us frequently. They would have been
dangerous to keep where poultry was raised or had to be protected: they
would destroy them just like true foxes.”

Forster, in his account of Cook’s second voyage, writing of the Queen
Charlotte Sound Natives in 1773, says, “A good many dogs were observed
in their canoes, which they seemed very fond of, and kept tied with
a string round their middle. They were of a rough, long-haired sort,
with pricked ears, and much resembled the common shepherd’s cur or
Count Buffon’s _chien de berger_. They were of different colours, some
quite black and others perfectly white. The food which these dogs
receive is fish, or the same as their masters live on, who afterwards
eat their flesh and employ the fur in various ornaments and dresses.”
Later on in the same journal he says, “The officers had ordered their
black dog to be killed, and sent to the captain one-half of it. This
day (June 9), therefore, we dined for the first time on a leg of it
roasted, which tasted so exactly like mutton that it was absolutely
undistinguishable.... In New Zealand and in the tropical isles of the
South Sea the dogs are the most stupid, dull animals imaginable, and
do not seem to have the least advantage in point of sagacity over our
sheep. In the former country they are fed upon fish; in the latter, on
vegetables.”

Bellingshausen, who visited New Zealand in 1820, says, “We saw no
quadrupeds except dogs of a small species. Captain Lazarew bought a
couple. They are rather small, have a woolly tail, erect ears, a large
mouth, and short legs.”

Dieffenbach, writing nearly seventy years after Cook’s visit, remarks
that “the native dog was formerly considered a dainty, and great
numbers of them were eaten; but the breed having undergone an almost
complete mixture with the European, their use as an article of food
has been discontinued, as the European dogs are said by the Natives to
be perfectly unpalatable. The New Zealand dog is different from the
Australian dingo; the latter resembles in size and shape the wolf,
while the former rather resembles the jackal.”

The Rev. Richard Taylor, author of “Te Ika a Maui,” who is not always
a reliable authority where natural history is concerned, says, “The
New Zealand dog was small and long-haired, of a dirty white or yellow
colour, with a bushy tail. This the Natives say they brought with
them when they first came to these Islands.” Then he adds, “It is
not improbable, however, that they found another kind already in the
country, brought by the older Melanesian race, with long white hair and
black tail: it is said to have been very quiet and docile.”

The Maori dog has totally disappeared. Mr. S. Percy Smith, of New
Plymouth, tells me that the last one he heard of was about 1896. But
I have mentioned it here because it was in part the progenitor of
the wild dogs which afterwards became such a dangerous nuisance to
sheep-breeders.

When settlement began European dogs must have crossed freely with the
native animal, and many, both of the introduced and crossed dogs,
became truly wild, especially as there were sheep and goats to worry,
and pigs to chase and kill.

Dr. Lyall, who was surgeon on H.M.S. “Acheron” during the survey of
the coast of New Zealand in 1844, says of the kakapo, or owl-parrot,
that “at a very recent period it was common all over the west coast
of the Middle Island; but _there is now a race of wild dogs_ said to
have overrun all the northern part of this shore, and to have almost
exterminated the kakapo wherever they have reached.” Brunner, who
visited the West Coast a few years later, makes a similar statement in
his Journal. The early settlers could not distinguish between Maori
dogs and these wild, half-bred curs. Thus R. Gillies, writing in
after-years of the early days of the Otago settlement, which was formed
in 1848, says, “For some years after the settlers arrived here the wild
dog was the terror of the flockmaster, and the object of his inveterate
hostility.” W. D. Murison, formerly editor of the _Otago Daily Times_,
writing at the same period (1877), tells how in 1858 he and his
brother took up country in the Maniototo Plains, which they reached
by the valley of the Shag River. The wild dogs were very troublesome.
The first was caught by a kangaroo-dog, apparently imported from
Australia for the purpose of hunting them. “This particular wild dog
was yellow in colour, and so was the second killed; but the bulk of
those ultimately destroyed by us were black-and-white, showing a
marked mixture of the collie. The yellow dogs looked like a distinct
breed. They were low-set, with short pricked ears, broad forehead,
sharp snout, and bushy tail. Indeed, those acquainted with the dingo
professed to see little difference between that animal and the New
Zealand yellow wild dog. It may be remarked, however, that most of the
other dogs we killed, although variously coloured, possessed nearly
all the other characteristics of the yellow dog. The wild dogs were
generally to be met with in twos and threes; they fed chiefly on quail,
ground-larks, young ducks, and occasionally on pigs. On one occasion,
when riding through the Idaburn Valley, we came across four wild dogs
baiting a sow and her litter of young ones in a dry, tussocky lagoon.
To our annoyance our own dogs joined in the attack upon the sow, and
the wild dogs got away without our getting one of them.... In all we
destroyed fifty-two dogs between September, 1858, and December, 1860.”

Taylor White, writing in 1889, says, “I consider these dogs entirely
distinct from the European dog. For the wild dogs met with on the
Waimakariri River, in the alpine ranges of Canterbury, during the
year 1856, were in colour and markings identical with those found in
the alpine region of Lake Wakatipu in 1860, a distance of several
hundred miles apart. There seems little room to doubt that they were an
original Maori dog. The fact of their wanting the two tan spots over
the eyes mostly seen in European dogs of approximate colour is a very
strong evidence also in favour of this opinion.”

At one time wild dogs were so common in Marlborough and did so much
damage on the sheep-runs that packs of hunting-dogs were bred for the
special purpose of running them down. As settlement proceeded and the
country became opened up wild dogs were gradually exterminated. The
only ones which are now met with are curs which have taken to rabbits
or to sheep-killing, and have managed to escape from their owners.

Bellingshausen reported wild dogs on the Macquaries in 1820, but
it is improbable that they long survived the sealers, who probably
generally brought them to the islands. As soon as the killing of seals
and sea-lions stopped the dogs in all probability died out. Captain
Musgrave, who was wrecked on Auckland Island in 1864, discovered wild
dogs, like sheep-dogs, on the island. Their case, however, was probably
similar to those on the Macquaries, for I am not aware that any
subsequent visitor to the island has seen them.

In a reprint from the Auckland _Herald_ of the 18th November, 1866, we
read, “It is not generally known that about Otamatea and the Wairoa
the bush is infested with packs of wild dogs, as ferocious, but more
daring, than wolves. These dogs hunt in packs of from three to six
or eight. They are strong, gaunt, large animals, and dangerous when
met by a man alone. Not long since a Maori, when travelling from one
settlement to another through the forest, was attacked by three of
these animals at dusk, and only saved himself by climbing into a tree,
where he was kept prisoner until late the next day. The extensive
district over which these packs roam was once well stocked with wild
pigs, but most of these have fallen victims to the dogs, and since
this supply of food has failed the dogs have ventured after dark to
the neighbourhood of Native settlements and the homesteads of European
settlers in quest of prey.”



CHAPTER IX.

CARNIVORA--FERRETS, STOATS, AND WEASELS.


The Mustelidae, or weasel family, is the most heterogeneous assemblage
of all the carnivorous group. Though differing much among themselves,
they possess certain important characters in common. One of the most
familiar is the presence of anal glands, situated beneath the root
of the tail, which contain a more or less noxious and evil-smelling
fluid. The three members of the family which have been introduced into
New Zealand belong to the genus _Putorius_, which receives its name
from the Latin word _putor_, a stench. The most notorious example is
the American species, the skunk, whose perfume is so strong that David
Harum records how a man who killed one went into the woods for a week
and “hated hisself.”

Of all intentional introductions to this country that of the animals
of this family is the most unfortunate and undesirable. The history of
the business is, to my mind, a depressing one, for it shows what people
are prepared to do to save their own pockets, whatever the effect
may be upon others. These animals have not done what was expected of
them--namely, suppressed the rabbits, or even kept them in check, but
they have exercised a most baneful influence on the bird-life of the
country. The characteristics of the three species are somewhat similar.
They have been called vermiform animals, for they have a singularly
worm-like appearance. The body is long, narrow, and cylindrical in
shape, while the legs are relatively extremely short. The neck is also
very long, and bears a small, flattened head; the eyes are small,
savage-looking, and glittering.

The ferret is closely allied to the polecat, but is a domesticated
variety, and is zoologically interesting, because it is a true-breeding
albino, having white fur and pink eyes. It originated in Africa, and
retains this characteristic of its warm origin: that it is unable to
endure great cold; hence if it goes wild in New Zealand it usually
survives only in warm and sheltered localities. It is from 12 in. to
15 in. long, and is a stouter animal than either of the others. Though
a semi-domesticated animal, it never shows the slightest affection for
its master, and has usually to be kept in confinement. My son, Dr.
Allan Thomson, tells me that about Kekerangu, in Marlborough, wild
ferrets are at present very numerous.

I have no record of the introduction of the true polecat (_Putorius
foetidus_) into these Islands; but some five or six years ago Mr.
Anderton, curator of the Portobello Marine Fish-hatchery, shot two
animals which were too large for stoats, being about 18 in. long. They
were not ferrets, in that they were brown-coloured. Unfortunately
he did not keep the bodies, their smell, for one thing, being so
offensive; so their specific character was not determined.

[Illustration:

  [_J. Macdonald, photo._

FIG. 9.--THE FERRET.]

The stoat is about 1 ft. long and is somewhat distinctively coloured.
“In summer the upper parts vary from yellowish-brown to mahogany-brown,
while the underside is white tinged with sulphur-yellow, except on the
throat, which is pure white. The tail is tipped with black. The brown
upper and white under surfaces are separated by a perfectly distinct
line of demarcation, which extends from the snout to the root of the
tail, dipping down at the limbs, so as to include the outer surfaces
of the latter in the dark area. In winter, on the other hand, the
skin is--with the exception of the tip of the tail, which always
remains black--pure white, tinged here and there with sulphur-yellow.
Intermediate states between full winter dress and full summer dress are
often found.” In winter, when the fur is white, the animal is known
as the ermine, and white stoats are well known in winter in the South
Island. The favourite food of the stoat consists of rats and mice,
but it is fond of birds, and thus is a danger in a poultry-yard. It
occasionally attacks lambs. These creatures seem often to kill for the
mere sake of killing. In my boyhood days I at one time kept a large
number of rabbits in an enclosure. One night a stoat got in and killed
the whole lot--over a dozen--and left each with a hole in the back of
its head. These animals are fairly abundant over New Zealand at the
present time.

[Illustration:

  [_J. Macdonald, photo._

FIG. 10.--THE STOAT.]

One is frequently asked what is the difference between a stoat and a
weasel. According to one authority, the one “is stoatally different
from the other, and weasely distinguished.” But this does not help
us much. The weasel “in length, from snout to root of tail, does
not exceed 8 in. The tail is about 2 in. long. The fur is light
reddish-brown above, and white below.” The size and black-tipped tail
best distinguish the stoat. The weasel is a good climber, and makes use
of its skill in this accomplishment to prey upon birds, their eggs and
young. Rats and mice are its favourite food.

[Illustration:

  [_J. Macdonald, photo._

FIG. 11.--THE WEASEL.]

The history of the introduction of these vermin into this country is
characteristic of the acclimatization methods of the past. Ferrets
have been introduced from early times by dealers in birds and animals.
The first authentic record is that of the Canterbury Acclimatization
Society, which received five in 1867. They were apparently not
liberated, nor were subsequent introductions for some time. When
rabbits began to increase to an alarming extent various suggestions
were made as to the importation of what was called “the natural enemy.”
The fox is the real natural enemy of the rabbit, but this was too risky
a proposal to be made. The Victorian Government had already allowed
some idiots to introduce foxes into that country in order to allow them
the pleasures of fox-hunting, and the result has not been encouraging.
One well-known public man in New Zealand proposed to introduce Arctic
foxes “because their fur would be so valuable.” When it was pointed
out to him that they would probably prefer lamb to rabbit, he replied
that, as they did not know anything about lambs in their native haunts,
it was improbable that they would take to eating them in New Zealand.
Fortunately his proposal was not given effect to. Meanwhile sheepowners
brought pressure to bear on the Government, and as a result steps were
taken to obtain ferrets. Numbers of these were introduced in 1882, and
in the following year Mr. Bailey, Chief Rabbit Inspector, recommended
the introduction of stoats and weasels. To show the scale on which
these recommendations were carried out, I summarize from Mr. Bailey’s
reports as follows:--

(_a._) In July, 1883, it is stated that since March, 1882 (fifteen
months), the Agent-General had made thirty-two shipments of ferrets
from London, numbering altogether 1,217 animals. Of these, only 178
were landed, at a cost of £953. Of 241 purchased in Melbourne, 198
were landed, at a cost of £224. Thus the total number landed was 376,
and the cost £1,177, or £3 2s. 7d. per head. The natural increase was
122, but 157 died of distemper. At this period it would seem as if
the Government kept a perfect menagerie of these animals. In the same
year a substantial bonus was offered to any one who would introduce a
certain number of stoats or weasels in a healthy condition.

(_b._) In 1884 he reports “nearly 4,000 ferrets were turned out; 3,041
in Marlborough alone, and about 400 on Crown land in Otago.” The
rest appear to have been sold to private individuals. It is evident
that there was no study of the suitability of a semi-domesticated
subtropical animal becoming acclimatized in this country, and, as a
matter of fact, the ferret has not gone wild in the South Island to any
great extent. Mr. Bailey also stated in this report that “an agent has
been sent Home to procure stoats and weasels.” Mr. Rich, of Palmerston,
imported some of these latter in a sailing-vessel, but how many I
cannot learn.

(_c._) In 1885 two lots of stoats and weasels were received from
London--viz., 183 weasels (out of 202 shipped) and 55 stoats (out of
60). Of these, 67 weasels were released at Lake Wanaka on a peninsula
of 8,000 acres, on which they reduced the rabbits, but by no means
exterminated them; 28 weasels were liberated at Lake Wakatipu; 15
weasels near the Waiau River, in Southland; and 8 stoats at Ashburton.
The rest were sold at Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

(_d._) In 1886 the Government introduced two lots. Of these, 82 stoats
and 126 weasels were distributed in about equal lots to the Wilkin
River, the Makarora, at the head of Lake Ohau, and on the Waitaki; and
32 stoats and 116 weasels were distributed between Marlborough and West
Wairarapa. A private shipment of 55 stoats and 167 weasels was also
received for Riddiford’s station in West Wairarapa. The localities
selected for these animals were those in which rabbits were most
abundant. Mr. Bailey also reported that “ferrets were turned out by
thousands,” but the success was only partial.

In the same year a meeting was held at Masterton to consider the
administration of the Rabbit Act, and the best means of dealing with
the pest. One of the resolutions carried was, “That the introduction of
ferrets, stoats, and weasels in large numbers is in the opinion of this
meeting the only means by which the rabbit pest can be successfully put
an end to, and that every owner of land infested with rabbits should
either turn out ferrets in proportion to his acreage or contribute to
a fund for the breeding and purchase of ferrets, stoats, and weasels
to be turned out in the district. That the landowners present form
themselves into an association for the purpose of providing the
natural enemies.” An association was accordingly formed with this
object in view, large sums of money were subscribed, and hundreds
of stoats and weasels were introduced into the district. Several of
the acclimatization societies took strong exception to the action of
the Government and of the sheepowners directly concerned; but as the
societies were themselves directly responsible for the rabbits to a
large extent their protests were ineffectual.

These animals have not exterminated the rabbits; they do not even
keep them in check in most parts. They have, however, helped in the
practical extermination over wide areas of many species of indigenous
birds, for they have penetrated into quite unsettled and unbroken parts
of the country, where apparently they feed on the avifauna.

Every one who has had any experience of these vermin has his own view
as to their usefulness or otherwise, but it is seldom that careful
observers put their experiences down on paper. I have collected some
evidence on this subject, and give here a few of the observations which
have been recorded.

Mr. George Mueller, Chief Surveyor of Westland, in his report on the
“Reconnaissance Survey of the Headwaters of the Okuru, Actor, and Burke
Rivers” (Reports N.Z. Survey Department for 1889-90, p. 50), says,
“Several weasels and ferrets were caught and killed at the Okuru and
Waiatoto Settlements, within about a mile from the sea-coast.... No
rabbits were met with until near the Actor, nineteen miles from the
coast, and they were only seen in numbers at the very headwaters of
the Okuru.... Meanwhile the kakapos, kiwis, and blue ducks have nearly
disappeared from the district.”

Mr. Richard Henry, writing from Lake Te Anau in September, 1890, says,
“I have known the ferrets to take young paradise ducks out of a clutch
often in 1888, and last year the same pair of ducks reared only two
young ones; but away from the lake I have seen larger families. I
found two black teal ducks killed by a ferret, though it is seldom any
of their work is seen, for they always drag their prey under cover.
The black teal are getting scarce.” Mr. Henry adds, “I think very few
ferrets at liberty survive the winter for want of food.” My own opinion
is that they cannot endure the cold.

Mr. Richard Norman, Albert Town, writing in the _Otago Witness_ of the
2nd October, 1890, says, “I think that Mr. E. H. Wilmot’s experience in
the Hollyford Valley, as recorded in the _Witness_ a year or two ago,
conclusively proves that the imported vermin kill the native wingless
birds. He encountered there a ferret-warren, and the weka, kiwi, and
kakapo were almost exterminated. In the Makarora Valley these used to
be plentiful, but since the advent of the stoats and weasels they are
very rare, and rabbiting tallies have not depreciated.”

Mr. Charles J. Peters, of Mount Somers, writes about these animals
(1916): “Since the stoats and weasels became fairly numerous the
rabbits have increased 100 per cent. and more. I have found weasels’
nests both in heaps of fencing-material and also in rabbit-burrows.
These nests have always been made of skylarks’ feathers. I have also
found parts of young hares at weasels’ camps, but never a sign of a
rabbit.”

Mr. Yarborough, of Kohukohu (Hokianga), states that stoats and weasels
do not seem to be so numerous now (1916) as they were some few years
ago. At that time a great number of these intrepid little animals
appeared on the eastern side of Hokianga Estuary, and were occasionally
observed swimming across the river, which is about a mile wide. For the
last year or more they have neither been seen nor heard of. The same
observation has been made of the occurrence of these animals on the
peninsula on which the Portobello Marine Fish-hatchery stands. Three or
four years ago they were very abundant, but recently there are few to
be seen.

In Taranaki a correspondent informed me last year that either stoats or
weasels destroyed a litter of nine sucking-pigs in one night. Another
informant states that “at Lee Stream, in the Taieri district, I saw
a rabbit paralysed with fright and uttering squeals of terror, and
on looking for the cause observed a stoat fully 10 ft. away walking
deliberately towards its victim. The rabbit was killed by one bite
on the neck. A few weeks ago a lady informed me that she had seen a
somewhat similar occurrence at Brighton, but in this case the rabbit
struggled to the lady for protection, and fell trembling at her feet,
while the stoat disappeared.”

A few years ago stoats were fairly common in the suburbs of Wellington,
and made great depredations amongst poultry, entering the fowlhouses at
night. My son describes seeing a couple playing in a vacant section at
Hataitai, and taking not the slightest notice of passers-by.



CHAPTER X.

CARNIVORA--SEALS.


The wild life of New Zealand includes members of the marine Carnivora
and of the Cetacea; but these animals are known only to the relatively
few persons who “go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great
waters,” and to some residents of the sea-coast. I say “some residents”
because too many who live by the seaside know nothing of the wonders of
the ocean.

The marine Carnivora belong to the section Pinnipedia--literally
“fin-footed”--so termed because the limbs are modified into flippers.

When New Zealand was discovered by Europeans seals were extraordinarily
abundant on the coasts, but they shared the fate of similar unprotected
animals in other parts of the world. Their fur and oil were valuable
and were easily obtained, and the animals were slaughtered so
mercilessly that they were nearly exterminated. Only one species, the
fur-seal (_Arctocephalus forsteri_), occurred commonly on the shores
of the three main islands of New Zealand, though the sea-leopard
(_Ogmorhinus leptonyx_) was an occasional visitor. As these animals
are now protected, a few stray ones still come inshore, but they are
somewhat rare visitors.

Before referring at length to the fur-seal I may with advantage quote
what Sir James Hector had to say about other species in a report
he prepared for the Minister of Marine in 1892. He states that the
hair-seal, or sea-lion (_Eumetopias hookeri_), used to take up its
station on the west coast of the South Island about December. The
animals are polygamous, and the males are enormously larger than the
females. The males arrive first. “Soon afterwards the cow seals appear,
and on landing give birth to the young, each male securing a harem of
ten to twenty cows, and protecting the mothers and young pups. The
rutting season is in January, after which the males (or lions) leave
the mothers to bring up the young until May, when they all leave the
coast for the winter. The mode of life of the hair-seals has, however,
been much altered since 1863, when I made my first observations, and
I believe that the New Zealand hair-seals have now become much more
solitary, and that they will soon become extinct.”

When I was in the extreme south of Stewart Island in 1874 I found the
tracks of these animals in the scrub close to the water’s edge, though
I did not meet with the sea-lions themselves. I have not heard of one
being seen for many a long day.

Speaking of the sea-leopard, Hector wrote as follows: “This is common
round the New Zealand coast, but is a solitary animal. They frequently
come on shore, and, notwithstanding their feeble powers of locomotion,
they scramble far back into the bush in flat country, and occasionally
ascend rivers for a long distance. For instance, one of the seals
ascended the Waikato River a few years ago as far as Hamilton, and was
claimed by the Maoris as being a real _taniwha_.”

The fur-seal (_Arctocephalus forsteri_) is named after J. R. Forster,
the naturalist who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage of
circumnavigation. When in Dusky Bay the seals were found in great
numbers on the rocks in the sound, Forster described them as seals
with ears (the northern seals being earless), free hands, feet webbed
on the under-surface, naked between the fingers, and hardly nailed.
“Gregarious in habit, they are timid, and fling themselves off the
rocks into the sea on the approach of man; but the most powerful resist
when attacked, bite the weapons used against them, and even venture to
assail the boats. They swim with such rapidity that a boat rowed by
six strong men can scarcely keep up with them. Tenacious of life to a
degree, a fractured skull did not despatch them.” These animals are
from 6 ft. to 7 ft. in length; the anterior flipper is about 30 in.
long; and the posterior about 15 in. Full-grown males weigh 260 lb. and
over, and females from 200 lb. to 220 lb. The hair is soft and black,
with reddish-grey tips, and the under-fur is a delicate reddish colour.
In old specimens the hairs are tipped with white.

Hector, writing in 1892, says, “I spent from June, 1863, to January,
1864, in the western sounds of Otago, and have since made occasional
visits at other seasons, but chiefly during the summer months, from
February to May. I have always observed the seals closely, and have
collected many specimens. The male fur-seal used to arrive about the
5th November on inaccessible rocky platforms outside the entrance
to the fiords or sounds, and the cows began to arrive about the 1st
December. At the same date all the young stock--males up to seven and
females up to three or four years old--went to still more exposed
places by themselves, and spent the moulting season until about the
end of March, when, having acquired the new fur coat, they proceeded
to sea. The last of these ‘hauling-grounds,’ as they are called, I
have known in New Zealand was at Cape Foulwind, but formerly they were
all round the coast. In the breeding-grounds, or ‘rookeries,’ the old
males keep guard on the females and newly-born pups until the close
of the rutting season, about the 15th February, and then desert them,
being then in a feeble and emaciated condition from having fasted, and
fed only on their own fat, for several months. The females remain with
the pups until they learn to swim and to catch fish for themselves,
and about the end of May they all leave the coast, only occasionally a
groggy old bull remaining behind for the winter months.”

Soon after the discovery of New Zealand by Cook the abundance of the
fur-seals on the coast led to the exploitation of this source of wealth
by sealers--many from Sydney, but others from far-distant ports of
Europe and America. Sealing from Sydney appears to have commenced as
early as 1791, but it was not till 1801 that the trade was “free to
British subjects, as to foreigners, although as a concession granted by
a private company” (the East India Company), according to Dr. McNab.
Sir Joseph Banks, in a memorandum on the “Present State of the Colony
of Sidney, in New South Wales,” dated the 4th June, 1806, says of
the fur-seal, “The island of Van Diemen, the south-west coast of New
Holland, and the southern parts of New Zealand produce seals of all
kinds in quantities at present almost innumerable. Their stations on
rocks or in bays have remained unmolested since the Creation. The beach
is incumber’d with their quantities, and those who visit their haunts
have less trouble in killing them than the servants of the Victualling
Office have who kill hogs in a pen with mallets. While this is the
case the utmost encouragement should be given to those colonists who
will embark in search of the seals.... There can be no doubt that at
all times hereafter seals will be attainable in great quantities--as
is now the case in Newfoundland--by stationary fishers, who know the
courses they take in their migrations, and can intercept them in their
progress by nets and other contrivances. Thus, if we encourage our new
settlers to disturb as speedily as possible every seal-station they can
discover, we shall receive from them an immense supply of skins and
oil in the first instance; shall prevent the interference of foreign
nations in future in the sealing fishery; and secure to ourselves a
permanent fishery hereafter, because it will be carried out by means
which none but stationary fishermen can provide.”

To show how far out Banks was in his estimate of the permanency of the
seal fishery, I may quote a sentence from a despatch sent by Surgeon
Luttrell to Under-Secretary Sullivan, dated the 8th October, 1807: “A
few of the ships that have arrived have had a Home freight of whale-oil
and seal-skins, but the latter trade is greatly on the decline, as the
seals are all nearly destroyed on the southern islands in this coast,
or, from the constant molestation they have suffered, have abandoned
the islands.” In the course of a parliamentary inquiry held in England
in 1819 a Mr. McDonald, who had been sealing on the New Zealand
coast, gave some evidence on this subject, from which I summarize the
following: The seals were taken at two different seasons, the best
being in April, when the pups are six months old, and the other about
Christmas, when the females come to the males. The pup seals yield
about 2 gallons of oil, and the “wigs,” or old males, from 5 to 6
gallons. The skins brought from 5s. to 8s. each. On the first voyage he
was out they brought over some 11,500 skins. Asked if the skins were
becoming scarce on the coast of New Zealand, he stated that they were
not, but they required to be well sought after.

From 1803 to 1805 several small vessels visited the south and
south-west coasts of New Zealand and carried off many thousands of
seal-skins; but even by that date the seals must have been reduced in
numbers, and the sealers had turned their attention to the Southern
Islands. Thus in 1806 the American ship “Favourite” reached Sydney with
60,000 seal-skins, said to have been obtained on the “east coast of New
Zealand.” As a matter of fact, they were taken on Antipodes Island.

A Mr. Scott, on the authority of Mr. Morris, an old Sydney sealer by
profession, remarks that “to so great an extent was this indiscriminate
killing carried that in two years (1814-15) no less than 400,000
skins were obtained from Penantipod, or Antipodes Island, alone, and
necessarily collected in so hasty a manner that very many of them but
were imperfectly cured. The ship ‘Pegasus’ took home 100,000 of these
in bulk, and on her arrival in London the skins, having heated during
the voyage, had to be dug out of the hold, and were sold as manure--a
sad and reckless waste of life.”

Later on the Bounties were visited; then the Auckland Islands were
discovered and exploited; and still later the Campbell and Macquarie
Islands. It is quite impossible to arrive at any estimate of the
quantity of oil and seal-skins taken in this destructive trade;
and, further, many of the most successful sealers did not state too
definitely where they obtained their catches.

A letter written in Sydney about 1824 states that, “I do assert of late
the southern and western coasts of New Zealand have been infested with
Europeans and New-Zealanders who without consideration have killed
the pups before they are prime, and the clapmatches before pupping,
for the sake of eating their carcases, the consequence of which is
that the increase of [_sic_] seals will be totally extinct in about
three years on the coast. This circumstance will illustrate what I
am about to observe when I state that the seals will not resort to
the ground frequented by man.” According to the late Dr. McNab, the
great seal trade of New Zealand was practically over by 1830. Captain
Benjamin Morrell, of the American schooner “Antarctic,” visited the
Southern Islands in that year, and here are his own words: “Although
the Auckland Islands once abounded with numerous herds of fur and
hair seals, the American and English seamen engaged in this business
have made such clean work of it as scarcely to leave a breed; at all
events, there was not one fur-seal to be found on the 4th January,
1830. We therefore got under way on the morning of Tuesday, the 5th,
at 6 o’clock, and steered for another cluster of islands--or, rather,
rocks--called ‘the Snares.’... We searched them in vain for fur-seal,
with which they formerly abounded. The population was extinct--cut off,
root and branch.”



CHAPTER XI.

CHIROPTERA--NEW ZEALAND BATS.


How many people--especially young people--in New Zealand have seen
native bats? Two species occur in the country, and one of these at one
time was fairly common. Now they are very rarely seen in the settled
districts. It is some years since I have seen one in the Dunedin
Town Belt, a locality in which they formerly were common. In Hutton
and Drummond’s “Animals of New Zealand” it is said that “a peculiar
interest is attached to these creatures. One has become very rare;
the other is on the brink of extinction, and may, indeed, even now
have ceased to exist. They are popularly called the ‘short-tailed’ and
the ‘long-tailed.’ As if to make up in one respect for deficiency in
another, short-tail has long ears, and long-tail has short ones.” I
do not think this estimate of their occurrence is a correct one. Bats
still occur in forest regions, and in the wide and quite unsettled
areas lying between the open country of Otago and Southland and the
West Coast Sounds it is quite probable that the short-tailed species
is still to be met with. The only people likely to come across bats
are the few explorers who traverse these almost unknown regions, and
bushfellers and sawmill hands, for these animals hide themselves from
all ordinary observers. Bats hide away in holes in trees and in rock
caves during the day, and even when flying at night are not easily
caught, unless one stretches out a white sheet, when they sometimes
flap right into it.

The short-tailed bat (_Mystacops tuberculatus_) seems to have first
been met with by Dr. Knox, of Auckland, who got one and presented it to
the British Museum in July, 1843. In 1871 he got another, I think, in
the Hutt Valley. In the same year, when H.M.S. “Clio” was in Milford
Sound, several of these bats were caught when the sails were being hung
out to dry. When Hutton described this species in 1871 there were only
two specimens in the Colonial Museum--one from the Hutt Valley and the
other from the “Clio.”

The feet of bats are peculiar. The toes are all about the same length,
and the first (or great) toe is nearly in a line with the others;
all are furnished with sharp claws. They are not fitted to walk on
the ground, but to grasp the branches of trees, and Hutton says this
species “has adaptations which led to the conclusion that it hunts
for its insect prey not only in the air, but also on the branches
and leaves of trees, among which its peculiarities of structure must
enable it to creep and crawl with ease and security.” The length of
this little bat is about 2·8 in., and the spread of its wings about 12
in. Knox says of it, “A well-defined line ran from the wrist-joint,
sweeping round to the elbow, knee, and setting on of the tail, dividing
the wing-shaped pectoral extremity, so that on the internal segment
hair was developed, whilst on the external segment the integumentary
expansion was perfectly smooth, so that when the forearm and hand was
completely drawn in or retracted, the tail being free, the animal
resembled in every respect, even in that of colour and short silky
hair, a little mouse; and the small, short thumb, with its peculiar
nail, would rest on the ground.”

The long-tailed, short-eared bat (_Chalinolobus morio_) is found all
over New Zealand. Hutton says of it, “Up to 1885 it was common about
Christchurch, but it is thought that the destruction of the old wooden
bridge over the Avon, where numbers used to gather together, has driven
it away. It measures about 2 in. in total length, being slightly
smaller than the other species, and is about the same size as the
‘flitter-mouse,’ the commonest species in England.” Knox gives rather
larger dimensions for this bat. One he measured was 3½ in. long
and had a spread of wing of 10·8 in. Buller, writing of these animals
in 1892, says that both species, according to the Maoris, live in
communities, inhabiting the cavernous interior of some dead and hollow
tree, congregating there in hundreds and thousands, and clinging to the
sides in successive tiers, packed so closely as to occupy the entire
surface.

Mr. Caldwell, a District Surveyor, gave Buller the following
information about this bat: “I left Carterton, together with two
companions,” he said, “for a walk into the hills at the right-hand
side of the Waiohine, going by way of the Belvedere Road. We got
fairly up the hills by about 10 a.m., and climbed a high range
covered with black-birch. Getting warm we sat down on the moss to
rest. Then my attention was attracted by a smell of a kind I had not
noticed in the bush before, and one that reminded me of a flying-fox
camp in Queensland. I followed the smell for some distance to a
large birch-tree, with an opening about 4 ft. from the ground. I had
evidently traced the smell to its source, for at the opening it was
fairly stifling. I could see nothing, so I lighted a bunch of dry
leaves, and thrust it through the opening into the tree. As I did
this a bat flew out in my face, then another and another. The smoke
increased, and the bats streamed out in hundreds. I had no means of
computing the number; but one of my men, having a small switch in his
hand, kept striking at the stream, the result of which I afterwards
counted. There were exactly a hundred bats killed. For one killed at
least ten must have passed and flown away. Large numbers dropped down
in clusters through the blazing opening. I had no idea there were so
many bats in the Wairarapa, and would not have believed it had I not
seen them. I have never seen in New Zealand another such collection.”
My first comment on reading this account was disgust and indignation at
the wanton slaughter of these rare and inoffensive animals. Buller adds
that “most unfortunately the fire took possession of the tree, which
was in a very dry and combustible state, and the whole colony perished
in the conflagration.” It is no wonder these animals have become rare!

Cheeseman records numerous other instances of the great congregations
of these bats in bush-covered districts. Many hundreds were found in a
hollow tree in the Wangapeka Valley, Nelson, in 1881. Later on a colony
of several hundreds was found in the Thames; and in 1893 a bushfeller
in the Kaipara district found hundreds of them in a tree which he cut
down. He brought twenty-two of them alive in a box to Mr. Cheeseman,
who, being anxious to see how they would behave in a room with closed
doors and windows, liberated them. “The experiment justified to some
extent the belief that bats enjoy an acute sense of touch, probably
unequalled throughout the animal kingdom. They took to their wings at
once, and commenced to circle round the room with that quick, soft, and
noiseless flight which they are enabled to pursue by means of their
velvety wings. The presence of full daylight did not affect them in
the slightest degree, and they made no mistake in estimating their
distance from an object. They circled round the room, flying in and
out of the corners, skimming just below the ceiling, and hovering over
the furniture, but never coming in contact with anything. Nor did they
dash themselves against the window-panes, as birds would have done in
similar circumstances, but they treated the glass in precisely the
same manner as the walls of the room. After satisfying themselves that
there was no mode of escape from the room, they began to settle down
on the tops of the architraves of the doors and windows, hanging, head
downwards, by the claws of their forewings. Ultimately they collected
in clusters of four or five, cuddling quite close to one another, and
they were then easily transferred to their cage.”



CHAPTER XII.

RODENTIA--RATS.


The gnawing-animals, which constitute the order Rodentia, form the most
sharply defined group of the Mammalia, the distinguishing characters
and name being derived from their teeth. These are of two kinds
only--viz., incisors and grinders--there being two efficient incisors
in each jaw, and from three to six molars. There are no canine teeth
at all; consequently it is easy to recognize the skull of a rodent by
its dentition. The animals are mostly small, the beaver being about
the largest; while some kinds of mice are hardly more than a couple of
inches long.

Seven species of rodents have been introduced into this country at one
time or another. Of these, three species of rat, the mouse, and the
guinea-pig belong to the simple-toothed rodents--that is, they never
have at any period of their life more than two incisors in the upper
jaw. The rabbit and the hare belong to the double-toothed rodents.
These have each two large incisors in the upper jaw, and behind them
two small--almost rudimentary--incisors.

A species of rat was one of the four land-mammals occurring in these
islands when Captain Cook first visited New Zealand, the others being
a dog and two species of bats. Sir Joseph Banks says in his Journal,
“On every occasion when we landed in this country we have seen, I had
almost said, no quadrupeds originally natives of it. Dogs and rats,
indeed, there are--the former, as in other countries, companions of
men, and the latter probably brought hither by the men. Especially as
they are so scarce that I myself have not had an opportunity of seeing
even one.”

This was not Forster’s experience, for in his account of the second
voyage of Cook (in 1773) he says, “Our fellow-voyagers [Furneaux in the
‘Adventure’] found immense numbers of rats upon the Hippah Rock [Queen
Charlotte Sound], so that they were obliged to put some large jars in
the ground level with the surface, into which these vermin fell during
the night by running backwards and forwards, and great numbers of them
were caught in this manner.” It is now almost certain that this native
rat was the same species (_Mus exulans_) as is still common in many
of the South Sea islands and throughout the Pacific, and it probably
came with the original immigrants, the ancestors of the Morioris and
Maoris. It is, however, probable that the common European black rat
(_Mus rattus_) came also into the country with the various ships which
touched at these shores from 1769 onwards. Indeed, Yates, who wrote in
1835, says, “The Natives tell us that rats were introduced in the first
ship by Tasman.” He is certainly not an authority on the subject, and
too much importance need not be attached to his statement; but it is
nevertheless interesting. In Cassell’s Natural History, Dallas, who
writes on the Rodentia, says, “New Zealand at the time of its discovery
harboured a rat known as the forest-rat, or Maori rat, which was a
favourite article of food with the Natives, and is now almost extinct.
It has been proved by Captain Hutton to be identical with our black rat
(_Mus rattus_), and was probably introduced by the ancestors of the
Maoris.”

I do not know when this was written, for Messrs. Cassell and Co. take
the precaution not to put dates on many of their books. But Hutton,
in vol. 20 of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute” (1888),
speaks of the rats which invaded Picton and the Marlborough Sounds as
_Mus maorium_, and says, “This rat is certainly different from _Mus
huegeli_, from Fiji, and, I should think, from _M. exulans_.” The
whole subject has recently been investigated by Oldfield Thomas, who
is the greatest living authority in this group, and he is certainly of
opinion that the kiore, or Maori rat, was the common Pacific species,
_M. exulans_. Endless confusion occurs, however, among early writers in
speaking of rats and their species, and this must be borne in mind in
reading the accounts of these animals.

The Rev. R. Taylor--who is not always, however, a reliable
authority--says that this Maori rat was in general size about one-third
that of the brown, or Norway, rat. The Maoris used to make elaborate
preparations to catch them, and hundreds of them would be captured at
one hunting. He says the animal is reported to run only in a straight
line, and that the Maoris made special lines of roads in order to lead
them into their traps, which were baited with miro and other berries.
If these roads were crooked, they said, the rats ran into the forest
at the bends. They fed entirely on vegetable matter, and were greatly
prized as food by the Natives, who also extracted much oil from them.

The native rat quickly disappeared before other rats and also cats;
it was extremely rare thirty or forty years ago, and is probably
quite extinct now. As, however, the species is common in Polynesia,
occasional immigrants may arrive in New Zealand from time to time.
The popular belief among both Maoris and Europeans was that it was
exterminated by the Norway rat (_Mus decumanus_). It is, however,
probable that the latter is a more recent immigrant than the old
European black rat, which is still an extremely common animal here.
That the Maori rat was once very abundant seems to be proved by the
fact that the Natives always erected their storehouses for food on
various kinds of piles as a protection against the depredations of
these animals. This habit, according to Judge Mailing (“Pakeha Maori”),
was the custom before Europeans landed in the country.

Tancred, writing of Canterbury in 1856, says, “The native rat forms
numerous burrows, rendering the soil unsafe for a horse.” He also
repeats the statement about its being exterminated by that formidable
invader the Norway rat. Mr. W. T. L. Travers, writing in 1869, says,
“It has been the fashion to assume that before the arrival of Europeans
in this colony this creature [the native rat] was common, and to
attribute its destruction to the European rat; and, indeed, the Natives
have been credited with a proverb in relation to this point. It is not
in effect impossible that the ultimate destruction of those which still
existed when trade was first opened between Europeans and the Natives,
long after the colonization of New Zealand, may have been hastened by
the introduction of the European rat; but I am satisfied that before
that time they had become very scarce, and, indeed, I have been told
by gentlemen who have lived in the northern part of this [the South]
Island for upwards of forty years that they never saw a specimen.”

Speaking of Nelson in 1842, Judge Broad said, “Native rats were an
intolerable nuisance; they ate everything, ran about the houses in
the dark, and had no fear of man. They drove the cats away, and only
disappeared when rat-killing dogs were introduced.” I do not think
these were native rats at all, for the latter ate only vegetable
matter, and these vermin seemed to eat everything.

Dr. Hocken has an interesting statement in his “Early History of New
Zealand,” as follows: “In 1840 Messrs. Dodds and Davis, of Sydney,
established a farming settlement at Riccarton, close to where
Christchurch now stands, and sent down James Heriot (or Hariot) as
manager, two farm hands, and two teams of bullocks. They ploughed and
cultivated about 30 acres of land and secured their crops. But in less
than a year they decided to abandon all further efforts. Numberless
rats attacked the garnered stores, and the bar at the mouth of the
river or estuary proved a sad obstacle to shipping whatever grain had
been spared by the scourge of rats.” We do not know now which species
this was, though I think it was probably the black rat.

It is rather interesting that in 1870 Sir Walter Buller wrote a
paper “On the New Zealand Rat,” and he both figured and described
the European black rat (_Mus rattus_). I have already said that this
rat probably arrived with some of the first ships which came to the
country. Oldfield Thomas in a paper written in 1897 in the “Proceedings
of the Zoological Society” says that the rats normally inhabiting ships
are not, as is commonly supposed, _Mus decumanus_, but _Mus rattus_,
and in most cases these are of the grey variety of that animal, with
white belly, though the black form may often be caught in the same ship
as the grey.

The black rat became enormously abundant in the early days of
settlement, and moved about the country in vast armies. The settlers,
bushfellers, and sawmill hands of fifty or seventy years ago recorded
how invasions of them in countless swarms used to move through their
district, climbing everywhere, and eating everything before them that
was of a vegetable nature. Oldfield Thomas, in the article already
referred to, says, “All the world over _Mus rattus_ takes to roofs and
trees on meeting its formidable rival, _Mus decumanus_, to which it
leaves the gutters and cellars.”

In early days in Southland we often heard about rat invasions, and the
popular belief then was that these were migrations of native rats.
I think there is little doubt that they were black rats, which are
not necessarily black-coloured. I propose to quote now from various
writers on the subject, to show how common these rodents were at times.

Taylor White states that on the west coast of the South Island they
came in vast crowds, climbed trees, tent poles and ropes, and ate
everything. On the shores of Lake Wakatipu they lived under the dead
leaves of the wild-spaniard or spear-grass (_Aciphylla squarrosa_ and
_A. Colensoi_).

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--THE BLACK RAT.]

Rutland records how, in 1856, the district of Collingwood, on the
western side of Blind Bay, was visited by a swarm, and in 1863 he
was informed of a swarm on the Shotover, Otago. I have heard of this
one also. Old miners used to tell how they were nearly eaten out of
provisions by an invasion of rats. Repeated swarms occurred in Picton
in 1872, 1878, 1880, 1884, and 1888. Rutland says, “These rat-swarms
invariably take place in spring. A few of the animals appear in August;
they increase in numbers till November, when all disappear again
gradually as they came. While in a locality dead rats are seen lying
about in all directions--on roads, in gardens, and elsewhere. Very
few have any marks of violence on their bodies; nor have they died of
hunger, since, on examination, they are generally found fat. In 1884,
in Picton, forty-seven dead rats were found lying together under the
floor of the sitting-room in one house. In another thirty-seven were
found dead under the kitchen. The whole town was pervaded with the
odour of dead rats. The average weight of a full-grown specimen is
about 2 oz. The fur on the upper portion of the body is dark brown,
inclining to black; on the lower portion white or greyish-white. They
run awkwardly and slowly on the ground, but run very quickly on the
trees. When suddenly startled or pursued they cry out with fear. The
extremely few females that occur amongst the countless hordes is a
fact that shows that, if breeding does take place at all during these
periods of travel, it must be on a very limited scale.”

I think a probable partial explanation of this problem is that only the
males migrate, while the females, which are producing young at that
very season--the beginning of spring--remain in their usual haunts.

“They do little damage, their food being green vegetables. Though
they enter dwellinghouses and barns, it is evidently not in quest of
food, as shown by corn and other eatables being left untouched by
them.” Rutland adds, “Among English country people, who have the best
opportunity of observing them, it is commonly asserted that in litters
of young rats the males produced outnumbered the females by about seven
to one.”

Meeson describes a plague of rats in 1884: “Nelson and Marlborough--in
other words, the whole of the extreme northern portion of the South
Island of New Zealand--is enduring a perfect invasion. Living rats
are sneaking in every corner, scuttling across every path; their dead
bodies in various stages of decay, and in many cases more or less
mutilated, strew the roads, fields, and gardens, pollute the wells
and streams in all directions. Whatever kills the animals does not
succeed in materially diminishing their numbers. Young and succulent
crops, as of wheat and peas, are so ravaged as to be unfit for and not
worth the trouble of cutting and harvesting. A young farmer the other
day killed with a stout stick two hundred in a couple of hours in his
wheat-field.” Among reasons suggested for the visitation he suggests
the pressure of famine: “Last summer was very wet, and last winter very
cold; the amount of snow lying on the high lands in the interior was
very great. Another is the excessive increase in numbers, producing an
intense struggle for existence.” It is thus seen that his conclusions
are somewhat different from those reached by Mr. Rutland, who did not
think that hunger was an impelling cause. He goes on to say, “I have
examined many of these animals, and have not found a single female.
One of my neighbours has examined two hundred of them, and a Maori, at
the pa beyond Wakapuaka, one hundred, with the same negative result.
Some females have, however, been taken, and in one case they were found
breeding. He is more like a big field-mouse than a Norway rat; and
besides being considerably smaller he is slightly darker in colour, and
less malodorous. He climbs trees and flax-plants, and is phytophagous
rather than carnivorous.”

Hutton, writing in 1887, said, “The rat appears to have invaded Picton
at the end of March, and to have suddenly disappeared by the 20th
April. Old Maoris recognized it as the rat they used to eat in former
times, and said that swarming on to the lowlands periodically was
always characteristic of it. These rats were often noticed climbing
trees. In the Pelorus, where they stopped longer, they built nests,
like birds, in trees.”

Kingsley, in 1894, records it as nesting on the branches of small
trees, 4 ft. to 5 ft. from the ground, near Totaranui, and gives
examples from Motueka, Riwaka, Collingwood, Nelson, and Taranaki.
I myself have seen tall thorn hedges at Whangarei full of their
nests--large, shapeless structures, which at first I thought must have
been made by house-sparrows which had taken to building in hedges.

At the present time black rats are extraordinarily common about
Christchurch. Mr. Speight, the curator, informed me three years ago
that Canterbury Museum was infested with them. A good deal of the
damage said to be done to orchards by opossums is almost certainly the
work of the black rat.

Marriner reports that he met with grey rats at North-west Bay in
Campbell Island, which Waite, of the Canterbury Museum, thought were
probably specimens of _Mus rattus_.

The brown, or Norway, rat (_Mus decumanus_) is ubiquitous, and, though
there is no record of its arrival in New Zealand, it no doubt arrived
here in the earliest days of settlement. Early in last century Russell,
or Kororareka, in the Bay of Islands, was the chief port of the young
colony, and rats must have become very abundant there. Charles Darwin,
who visited the Bay of Islands in 1835, says in his account of the
voyage of the “Beagle,” “It is said that the common Norway rat, in the
short space of two years, annihilated in this north end of the Island
the New Zealand species.” Dieffenbach, writing some time later, said he
never could obtain a native rat, “owing to the extermination carried on
against it by the European rat.” There is no doubt that this species
has had a considerable share in the destruction of the native avifauna,
and it is also responsible for much of the difficulty experienced by
acclimatization societies and private individuals in their attempts to
establish introduced game-birds, but I do not think it is responsible
for the disappearance of the Maori rat.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--THE BROWN OR NORWAY RAT.]

During visits to Stewart Island and the West Coast Sounds between 1874
and 1880 I was struck by the abundance of these animals in regions
uninhabited and almost unvisited by man. One day I remember that the
late Mr. Robert Paulin and I emerged from the bush on the south side
of Thule, in Paterson Inlet, when the tide was low, exposing a wide
stretch of beach nearly a mile long. We were much impressed by noticing
that the whole beach was alive with large rats, which were feeding on
the shell-fish and stranded animals which the tide had left exposed.
As soon as they saw us they ran for the shelter of the bush; they
were literally in hundreds. I am inclined to think that the rat which
frequents all sheltered beaches on the coast is this common brown
rat, and that it depends on the animal life of the sea-coast for its
livelihood.

In 1868 H. H. Travers reported these brown rats as very abundant in the
Chatham Islands; and Captain Bollons, of the “Hinemoa,” states that
they are very numerous round the homestead on Campbell Island.

A few years ago, when a scare arose about the bubonic plague, a feeble
and intermittent crusade against rats was inaugurated, especially in
Auckland; but it was, as might have been expected, absolutely futile.
It is, of course, well known that rats are the carriers of the plague
germs, or at least that they harbour the fleas which are the real
carriers. In the fifth and sixth chapters of I Samuel there is a
very interesting account of the plague which attacked the cities of
Philistia, and which produced emerods--that is, haemorrhoids or swollen
glands--as a conspicuous symptom. The lords of the Philistines, in
sending back the ark of God to the Israelites, because they thought
it was the cause of the malady which affected them, accompanied it by
models of emerods in gold, and also golden mice. These were probably
golden rats, and seem to show that in these early days, three thousand
years ago, the connection between the plague and the rats was well
recognized.

While brown rats are still very abundant, especially about the towns,
there is no doubt that the spread of weasels throughout the country has
vastly diminished their numbers, especially in the open, for a weasel
prefers a rat to a rabbit any day.



CHAPTER XIII.

RODENTIA--MICE AND GUINEA-PIGS.


THE MOUSE (_Mus musculus_).

It is probable that the mouse was introduced into New Zealand early in
last century, yet the first notice of the appearance of this familiar
little animal in the North Island is recorded by Dieffenbach, who wrote
as late as 1839. Pastor Wohlers, long a missionary working among the
Natives on Ruapuke, in Foveaux Strait, states that mice were first
brought to that island in the “Elizabeth Henrietta,” which was wrecked
there in 1824, and that even as late as 1873 they continued to be known
as “henriettas.” The late Mr. Robert Gillies, who arrived in Otago
in 1848, writing in 1872, says that it is quite certain there were
no mice in Otago in 1852; but a year or perhaps two years after they
were noticed, in Dunedin first. They quickly travelled south, but the
Molyneux stopped their migration for a time, and it was considerably
later before Molyneux Island (Inch-Clutha) was touched by them. Taylor
White speaks of mice appearing in the Canterbury Plains in the early
days of settlement (from 1855 onwards) “suddenly in thousands.” In
1866, during a discussion which arose at a meeting of the Canterbury
Acclimatization Society as to the reported destruction of small birds
by hawks, Mr. W. T. L. Travers reported “that he had opened a large
number of hawks, and in all cases found their food to consist entirely
of mice and grasshoppers.”

The mouse has never been found very far from the haunts of men, either
in this country or elsewhere. It is abundant in all settled parts, and
is also common on the Auckland, Antipodes, and Campbell Islands. Though
it follows man so closely, it frequently stays in localities where
men have been and have left, and there it is apt to have a bad time.
Mr. Philpott, writing to me on the 2nd January, 1918, said, “There is
a plague of mice in the district west of the Waiau. From Bluecliff
to the Knife and Steel, near the Big River and beyond, each hut [the
Government huts on the now abandoned telephone track to Puysegur Point]
was overrun with them. And not only at the huts, but on the beach and
in the dense bush, wherever we went, they were plentiful. At the Hump,
near Lake Hauroto, they were as numerous as elsewhere. This prevalence
of mice is certainly not usual; I have been on the Hump four or five
times since 1911, and last year tramped along to the Knife and Steel,
but, apart from an odd one or two, no mice were in evidence on former
trips. One noticeable thing about these little creatures was their
boldness: they were evidently very hungry. The wekas caught many of
them, swallowing them whole, head first.”

How terrible a pest these rodents can be is shown by the state of
affairs which has prevailed in the wheat-growing districts of Australia
during the past season or two. The following note, taken from the
Melbourne _Age_ of the 17th July, 1917, gives some idea of the
dimensions the pest has reached: “At Brooklyn there are nearly seven
million bags of wheat, forming three and a half miles of stacks, and
it is estimated that close on two million bags have yet to be railed
thither from country stations. At Spotswood three million bags, most
from the 1915-16 crop, are stacked.... The mouse plague in its myriads
has attacked the Brooklyn stacks. The very air reeks with the smell of
the mice, dead and alive. Daily to Brooklyn roll from seven hundred to
eight hundred railway-trucks, loaded at the country stations mainly
in the mouse-riddled areas of the Wimmera and the Mallee. From the
Goulburn Valley the trucks bring with them, it is observed, mice that
are few in comparison with those from the Wimmera and the Mallee. Every
truck from these two regions contributes its mice to the swarming
community at Brooklyn. And of the manner of the reception of these mice
the instances afforded on an inspection on a week-day are at least
suggestive. The average truck, when rolled alongside the wheat-stacks,
is received by a handful of labourers. The bags are hauled up by
tackle from truck to stack. When the last bag is lifted the doors of
the truck are thrown open, and the chaff and the spoilt wheat broomed
out. With the waste come flying out the mice--no great number in some
trucks, but, clearly, on the average delivery of trucks a day, adding
hundreds of mice to the pest, which has bitten deeply into the stacks
at Brooklyn. Scattering, scampering, the mice race down the rails. A
fox-terrier or two, wearing a _blasé_ demeanour, condescend to catch
a couple of mice as an example to the others. The rest of the new
arrivals find shelter in the base of the wheat-stacks, or the low
pile of damp, reeking bags of wheat awaiting reconditioning. Little if
any effort seems to be made by the labourers to check the pest in an
ordinary truck; and, indeed, a great deal of effort would be needed
to be effective, and the reception and despatch of trucks must be
inevitably delayed. Only when a badly infested truck, smeared with the
flour of mouse-gnawn wheat, announces its contents by a vile reek of
rotting mouse--an announcement beyond all risk of contradiction--it is
detached, hauled off to another track, and left loaded to await special
treatment.”

Two methods are adopted in Victoria to cope with the pest in the
wheat-trains. One is to plug all the holes in the truck, place a sack
in each corner with its mouth propped open with an iron hoop, and then
proceed to lift the bags of wheat out of the truck on to the stack. The
escaping mice jump into the sacks until they are nearly half-full. But
if the mice are too numerous to be dealt with in this way, then they
are gassed in the truck. I am not sure whether carbon disulphide or
carbon dioxide is employed--probably the former. This takes at least
an hour, and perhaps ten thousand mice are afterwards shovelled out of
each truck; and, as hundreds of trucks full of wheat were arriving at
Brooklyn each day, it is easily seen that the plague certainly was not
stayed. What happens at Brooklyn has been happening in other parts of
Australia, and we may be thankful that in New Zealand we have no such
gigantic pests to cope with.

As the mouse breeds all the year round and produces five or six young
at a birth, its rapid increase under favourable circumstances is easily
understood.


THE GUINEA-PIG (_Cavia porcellus_).

On the banks of the Rio de la Plata, and in the country lying to the
northwards, a little animal, considered by many naturalists to be the
wild form from which our domesticated guinea-pig is derived, is found
in thousands. It is known as the “restless cavy.” It generally lives
in moist situations, usually near the border of the forest, but never
in the forest itself or in the open fields. Other authorities consider
that the name “guinea-pig” is a corruption of Guiana-pig, and that the
first specimens may have come from that part of America. The prevalent
colours of the guinea-pig, as is well known, are white, black, and
yellow, and in this respect it differs a good deal from the “restless
cavy.”

It is hardly correct to include the guinea-pig among the wild animals
of New Zealand, as, although it has been frequently liberated, it has
never succeeded in establishing itself. At one time I had a number of
guinea-pigs running wild in my garden in Maori Hill, and noticed that
violets growing among the grass increased remarkably all the time they
were about. The guinea-pigs kept the grass very closely nibbled, but
would not touch the violets. These animals had a well-sheltered run
under a thick mass of periwinkle which grew along a raised bank. They
throve remarkably till a host of little ones, not much bigger than the
end of one’s thumb, began to appear. This was too much for the cats
in the neighbourhood. These creatures began to haunt the garden day
and night. They soon ate all the little ones, and, having acquired a
taste for this kind of game, they never stopped till they had destroyed
all the stock but a few old bucks. There is no reason why guinea-pigs
should not become wild in this country, except for the prevalence of
cats.

The only record I find of the introduction of these animals into this
country is by the Auckland Acclimatization Society in 1869; but they
have been repeatedly brought in by dealers for the last fifty or sixty
years. I believe that guinea-pigs are very good for food, for they are
very dainty feeders. But there is a considerable prejudice against them
on the part of most people. I had a bachelor acquaintance in London
who used to give very _recherché_ dinners to his male friends. On one
occasion they got a dish of a new and very palatable kind, which they
all enjoyed, until they learned that they had been eating guinea-pig,
when some of them highly resented their host’s experimenting upon them.
But it was only prejudice from which they suffered. They reminded me
of the lady who enjoyed stewed eel until she learned what she had been
eating, when she promptly retired from the table and managed to get
sick.

The family of the cavies, to which the guinea-pig belongs, is chiefly
characterized by the form of the teeth. The fore feet have four and
the hind feet three toes, all armed with hoof-like nails. The tail is
rudimentary or wanting; hence the common warning to children that if
one lifts a guinea-pig by the tail the eyes will drop out.



CHAPTER XIV.

RODENTIA--RABBITS.


Everybody in New Zealand knows something about rabbits; a great many
know a good deal about their habits, their value for fur and for
gastronomic purposes, and their destructiveness; but very few know
about the history of their introduction.

Probably every one knows that the rabbit (_Lepus cuniculus_) is a
burrowing-animal, which thrives particularly in more or less dry
regions. A wet climate does not suit it, and although there are regions
in New Zealand where rabbits are to be met with but only rarely, yet,
as a general rule, they are particularly abundant where there is a
limited annual rainfall. They increase at a great rate, the female
producing several litters of young in a season, and commencing to breed
when about six months old. The young are born blind and naked, and are
housed by the mother in a warm nest which is lined with fur pulled from
her own body.

Rabbits have long been domesticated, and several well-marked breeds
have been developed. For example, in the “lop-eared,” the ears are
large flaps pendent on each side of the head, and often touching
the ground. They are of many colours--white, black, brown, and
fawn--sometimes of one nearly uniform hue, but more often mixed. It is
clear that many of our New Zealand wild rabbits are descended from tame
ones, for they still retain their mixed colours. Albinos, with white
fur and pink eyes, form a distinct variety by themselves, and breed
true. The Angora rabbits have long fur, and are nearly always albinos.

The introduction of the rabbit into New Zealand has produced such
far-reaching effects and wrought such changes throughout the country
that it requires more than the sober language of the naturalist to
describe them. One thing is quite certain--namely, that the animal
was deliberately introduced into the country not by one individual,
but by numbers of persons, and by several acclimatization societies.
But no one will accept the blame for their introduction, so I may as
well detail all the facts known to me about their early history in New
Zealand.

According to the Rev. Richard Taylor, author of “Te Ika a Maui,”
the early missionaries were the first to introduce rabbits into the
country; but, unfortunately, he gives no dates. If he is correct,
however, they were almost certainly brought from New South Wales to the
far northern part of the colony between 1820 and 1830. They probably
never increased to any great extent, for, though there are rabbits in
a few localities north of Whangarei (I will specify localities later),
they are scarcely a pest there.

I am told that Jerningham Wakefield reported them as being placed on
Mana and Kapiti Islands, in Cook Strait, in 1840 or 1841, but I cannot
find any verification of the record. The first definite notice I have
discovered is in Mr. Tuckett’s diary of his expedition to the South
Island, which is printed as an appendix to Dr. Hocken’s “Contributions
to the Early History of New Zealand.” Speaking of the country between
the mouths of the Clutha and Mataura Rivers, Tuckett writes, under
date the 19th May, 1944, “Palmer has grown wheat and barley as well as
potatoes, and has plenty of fine fowls and ducks and some goats....
Returning from Tapuke [Taukupu], we landed on the island, and, with
the assistance of a capital beagle, caught six rabbits alive and
uninjured.” He does not say whether any were liberated on the mainland,
nor whether it was possible for those on the island to get ashore.

Mr. James Begg, who has given me some very valuable information as to
the earliest attempts to introduce these animals, tells me that “when
Willsher and party settled at Port Molyneux in the early ‘forties’
they sent to Sydney for rabbits, but whether they obtained them or
not I am unable to say. From early days there was at least one colony
of rabbits on the upper Waitaki. These remained quite local in their
habits, and did not increase to any great extent. They were finally
overwhelmed by the invasion of the grey rabbit from the south. The
late Mr. Telford, of Clifton, introduced some rabbits and bred them in
hutches till they numbered about fifty. They were then liberated on
Clifton, near the banks of the Molyneux, but died out in a short time.
This was about the year 1864. Mr. Clapcott also liberated some at the
old homestead at Popotunoa Station [Clinton], but they also failed to
thrive, and disappeared. It is probable that there were other attempts
to acclimatize rabbits, all more or less unsuccessful.”

From the point of view of a naturalist the failure of these attempts
is very interesting. It shows that there is a vast difference in the
aggressive power of the various breeds, for the country on which these
various lots of rabbits failed to make good has since been completely
overrun by other rabbits. It may be that they were unable to establish
themselves until a certain amount of clearing had been done, and till
a considerable number of wekas had been destroyed by tussock fires and
other means. Whatever the cause, it is the case that no rabbits were
able to establish themselves freely in New Zealand before 1860.

Dr. Menzies, who was at the time Superintendent of the Province
of Southland, is usually credited with having been the successful
introducer of them to the south of the South Island, an achievement
the credit of which has not been very eagerly sought after. They were
liberated on the sandhills between the ocean and the New River, a place
known as Sandy Point.

According to Mr. Huddlestone, silver-grey rabbits were first introduced
into Nelson in or about 1865; but there is no record as to what came of
this importation. Sir George Grey also appears to have introduced them
at or about the same time, for in the annual report of the Canterbury
Acclimatization Society in 1866 it is said that “an enclosure has been
set apart for the silver-grey rabbits presented by Sir George Grey,
which have thriven well and increased to a great extent, and _have
been distributed to members far and near_.” Later in the same year the
society passed this minute: “The suggestion of giving as a reward for
the destruction of hawks and wild cats some silver-grey rabbits was
approved.”

There is a very popular impression that the Otago Acclimatization
Society has no responsibility in connection with the rabbit plague.
Well, here are the figures taken from one of their own reports: “In
1866 the society liberated sixty rabbits, twenty-three in 1867, and
eighteen in 1868. There is no record as to where these came from.”

These are the only records I have been able to secure so far as to
the introduction of rabbits into this colony, but there is still a
source of information to be searched--namely, the publications of
the Provincial Government of Southland. But there can be no doubt, I
think, that what happened in the south happened elsewhere at every
port where settlement took place, and that private individuals at
Nelson, Wellington, New Plymouth, and Napier also imported rabbits.
But when the animals became a pest, and their increase was recognized
to be a calamity to the country, every one was desirous of repudiating
the responsibility for their introduction. Thus the framer of the
annual report of the Canterbury Society for 1889, not having read
the statement in the report for 1866, says, concerning “the rabbit,
that great scourge to our large runholders--that the introduction of
these cannot be laid to the charge of this society.” Similarly, Mr. A.
Bathgate, of Dunedin, in 1897, wrote, “It is to them [the Provincial
Government of Southland] that we are indebted for the presence of the
rabbit.”

The repudiation of the responsibility for the rabbits is almost
as funny as that for the sparrows. As soon as an animal turns out
differently from what was expected of it, and becomes a pest instead of
a blessing, then no one will admit having had anything to do with the
initial mistake of bringing it into the country.

From 1866 onwards the spread of the rabbits was phenomenal. I quote
part of Mr. Begg’s account of this increase: “About the year 1874 they
began to make their presence felt in an unpleasant manner. By 1878 they
had reached Lake Wakatipu, leaving a devastated country behind them.
At the same time they had reached as far east as the Clutha River, and
in a few years later had overrun the greater part of Otago as well as
the whole of Southland. Those were evil days for farmers in that part
of New Zealand, and especially for the squatters, who occupied large
areas of grazing-country. The fine natural grasses on which the sheep
and cattle grazed were almost totally destroyed. Sheep perished from
starvation by hundreds of thousands, and it is no exaggeration to say
that the majority of the squatters were ruined. On the old Burwood
Station the number of sheep fell in one year from 119,000 to 30,000.
This was partly due to heavy snow, but the rabbits prevented any
recovery. It is doubtful if the same country to-day carries more than
40,000 sheep. From the year 1878 onwards immense areas of grazing-land
were abandoned, as the owners gave up the unequal struggle with the
rabbits. In the early days hunting with dogs, shooting, digging out the
warren, poisoning with various baits, and trapping were the methods by
which farmers tried to rid themselves of the pest. Later, wire netting,
the introduction of stoats, weasels, and ferrets, fumigating the
burrows with poisonous gases (such as carbon disulphide and hydrocyanic
acid), and the stimulus given to trapping by the export trade in frozen
rabbits, have been relied upon to reduce their numbers. In the writer’s
experience practically no progress was made in reducing the numbers
of rabbits till about the year 1895. From that year there has been a
steady diminution. For twenty years the rabbits had the upper hand,
and, though many millions were killed annually, no reduction in their
abundance was noticeable. In the last twenty years there has been a
steady decrease. Large areas of hill country in the wetter districts
are now completely clear of rabbits, though they still persist in
favourable situations. In the dry country in Central Otago they are
still very troublesome and very vigorous, and their evil effects are
there seen on hundreds of square miles of country, once the finest
grazing-land in New Zealand, now little better than a desert.”

It must not be assumed that every one regards the rabbit as a nuisance.
Many a successful farmer of to-day got a start as a rabbiter. The
killing of rabbits actually became one of the principal industries of
the province. Their presence directly led to the subdivision of large
estates, and may have been quite as effective in this direction as all
the legislation on the subject. Since the war rabbit-skins have become
extraordinarily valuable, so that, instead of landholders paying for
the destruction of rabbits, rabbiters offer premiums for permission to
go on to land to trap the rabbits.

The introduction of rabbits had a lasting effect on acclimatization
generally. Before their advent partridges and pheasants had become
numerous, but they have entirely disappeared in Otago. In the effort
to cope with the rabbits the country was annually sown with poisoned
grain. This had a disastrous effect on both native and imported game.
Had rabbits not become a nuisance it is unlikely that weasels and
other vermin would have been introduced. These animals are largely
responsible for the decrease in the numbers of native birds, and also
make the successful introduction of new varieties more difficult.

The economic waste caused by the vast increase of rabbits in New
Zealand is incalculable, and certainly represents a loss in the
stock-carrying capacity of the country which probably runs every year
into millions of pounds. It is not only that they eat up food which
would support some millions more sheep than are at present reared, but
they destroy large areas of country, and yield very little return for
the damage they do. The annual export of approximately three million
rabbits, valued at (in pre-war times) about £70,000, and of some eight
millions of skins, valued at about £115,000, is all the return they
give, but it represents only a small proportion of the pest. In all
parts where rabbits abound their destruction entails a heavy expense
on the occupiers of the land. There are no data available to enable
any one to estimate how many rabbits are destroyed every year, but far
more are killed by phosphorus than by trapping. The latter method alone
furnishes any statistical data; the former is an unknown quantity, but
it represents a very large figure.

Probably the most ghastly exhibition of the work of rabbits is to be
found in the grass-denuded districts of Central Otago, parts of which
have been reduced to the condition of a desert. It is improbable that
this state of affairs could have been brought about by rabbits alone.
Before their advent the runholders who had possession of the arid
regions, in which the rainfall probably averages 10 in. to 12 in.
annually, and certainly never exceeds 15 in., were doing their best
to denude the surface of the ground by overstocking with sheep and
by frequent burning. The latter was resorted to because many of the
large tussock-forming grasses, especially such as the silver-tussock
(_Poa caespitosa_), yielded coarse and rather unpalatable fodder, but
after burning the tufts a crop of tender green leaves sprung up, which
were very readily eaten. Unfortunately the burning not only got rid
of most of the coarse growth of the tussocks, but it also swept off
the numerous bottom grasses which occupied the intervening spaces,
which were the mainstay of the depasturing flocks. Even before the
rabbits arrived the work of denudation of the grass covering had been
proceeding apace through the causes mentioned. Thus Buchanan, writing
in 1865, said, “It is no wonder that many of the runs require 8 acres
to feed one sheep, according to an official estimate.” Mr. Petrie
thought this an unduly severe estimate, “as in the mid-‘seventies’ the
sheep-runs of Central Otago were reputed to carry at least one sheep to
3 acres, or somewhat less.”

Mr. Petrie, who has reported to the Department of Agriculture on these
grass-denuded lands of Central Otago, knows more about this subject
than any one else who has written on it, and I quote him at some
length. He says, “Before the rabbit invasion began the hill-slopes
carried a fairly rich and varied covering of tussock and other grasses,
and, except on the steeper rock and sun-baked faces, had not been
seriously depleted even in the early ‘nineties.’ The earlier stages of
this depletion may now be seen in several of the Central Otago ranges,
as on the spurs of the Rough Ridge and the Morven Hills districts.
The northern slopes of the spurs are almost, in many instances,
entirely bare of grass, while the southern shaded slopes still carry
a fair amount of pasture. The grass covering generally stops abruptly
at the bottoms of the valleys, even when those are not worn into
water-channels. The vastly greater depletion of the pasture on the
northern slopes is easy enough to understand. They are more exposed to
the sun and to the frequent violent parching north-west winds; they
lose their covering of snow earlier in spring than the southern slopes,
and are thus more closely grazed at a critical season for the pasture;
and sheep at all times show a preference for feeding on the warmer
sunny slopes. When the pasture on the exposed slopes fails, that on the
shaded slopes has to feed all the stock that is about, and unless the
stocking is reduced to meet the new conditions the remaining grasses
are sooner or later eaten out. The desert, with all its problems, is
then established.”

In his account of how desert conditions arise in Central Otago Mr.
Petrie refers only to the effects produced by sheep, because it is the
loss in sheep-carrying capacity which is so serious; but later on,
after describing a typical specimen of the country, and showing that
in inaccessible situations a considerable variety of vigorous grasses
live on, he adds, “This is one of the facts that go to indicate that
the extermination of the grasses in this desert country is mainly due
to eating out by overstocking, rabbits as well as sheep being included
among the stock carried.... The desert and the greatly denuded lands
are not wholly destitute of vegetation. In most of their lower areas
greyish, flattened, firm, nearly circular patches of scabweed (_Raoulia
australis_ and _R. lutescens_) are thickly dotted about the bare
ground. Though otherwise useless, these moss-like composite plants help
to keep the soil from being blown or washed away, and when old supply,
in the decayed centres of the patches, spots with some amount of humus
where grass-seeds can more readily settle and grow.” These plants are
never eaten by either sheep or rabbits.

In regard to other native plants, rabbits have nearly exterminated the
wild spear-grasses (_Aciphylla squarrosa_ and _A. Colensoi_), which
used to be so abundant. They particularly attack these plants when the
ground is covered with snow. Mr. Petrie, writing me three years ago,
said, “When I first visited inland Otago, in 1874, _Aciphylla Colensoi_
was most abundant. In riding about it was almost impossible to deviate
from well-beaten tracks or roads because the spines pricked the legs
and feet of the horses.” In later years these plants have become
rare. Captain Hutton, writing me in March, 1892, said, “As to the
extermination of the wild-spaniards (_Aciphylla_), I believe it to be
due to rabbits. When I was in the Nelson District in 1872-73 there were
no rabbits on the eastern side of the Upper Wairau near Tarndale, but
they were abundant on the western side. Spaniards were abundant on the
eastern side, but almost destroyed on the western. The rabbits seemed
to burrow under the plants, and then eat the roots.”

Several species of _Celmisia_ (notably _C. densiflora_) have been
greatly checked, and others are almost exterminated. Mr. B. C. Aston,
in his ascent of the Kaimanawas in 1914-15, found that at a height of
4,200 ft. _Panax Colensoi_ was nearly exterminated by rabbits, which
had ring-barked all the young trees. This mischief is done after heavy
falls of snow, when the rabbits are driven down from the tussock-land
into the gullies of the scrub and forest zones. Trees of _Panax
Edgerleyi_ from 19 ft. to 20 ft. high were found to be ring-barked and
dead.

In a good many rabbit-infested districts, particularly in the North
Island, these animals have aided very materially in producing a certain
amount of erosion and washing-down of alluvium by burrowing extensively
in the banks of rivers and small streams. When floods came down, these
undermined portions were commonly swept away where the firmer banks
resisted the impact of the water. Dr. C. A. Cotton, of Wellington,
considers that this action has caused a slight rejuvenation of erosion
in certain districts and river-systems. Cattle, sheep, and goats
assist in this work, but rabbits are the most active agents in it. The
Rev. A. Don, writing to me in 1901, said, “The rabbits, by stripping
the ground of vegetation and burrowing into the faces of the slopes,
are converting what were once nice green hillsides into shingle-slopes,
because when once the face is so bared and its surface broken it begins
to slip.” Mr. Petrie also refers to this process in his report, as
follows: “The soil on the grass-denuded slopes, which is by no means
infertile, being no longer held together by the roots of plants, is
being rapidly removed by wind and rain, and pebbles and angular stones
are now closely dotted over great stretches of hillside that not many
years ago were covered with soil. On the steeper slopes, indeed, the
soil is being rapidly sluiced down into the gullies and thence into the
river, and deep, narrow, chasm-like watercourses are being dug out.”

I was at one time under the impression that in this new country, where
the causes--especially the natural enemies--which kept them in check
in their original home were wanting, and there seemed to be nothing
to arrest their development in any direction, there might arise new
varieties of rabbits, with modified habits, structure, &c. Particularly
did it seem likely that colour variations would thrive unchecked, and
the traveller passing through certain districts in Otago is certainly
surprised at the number of conspicuously coloured animals to be seen.
I was down at Romahapa recently and saw some rabbits at the edge
of the bush, and among a dozen of them there were some with white,
buff, and black. I was informed also that there are a number of them
in the district with a white ruff round the neck. Other observers
bear me out in the prevalence of coloured varieties among the wild
rabbits. Thus Mr. W. H. Gates, of Skipper’s, a keen observer of nature,
writing me two years ago, said, “As for colour, they are of all
colours--grey-and-white, tan-and-white, grey with a black ridge down
the backbone, grey with a white ring round their necks, cream with a
darker shade down the backbone, and buff.” Other observers speak of
the prevalence of black, black-and-white, and yellow rabbits. Grey is
certainly the best colour to hide a rabbit in sandy ground covered
with somewhat dry herbage, and in a district like Central Otago, where
rabbits are as “thick as locomotives”--as a certain Gaelic acquaintance
of mine with a limited knowledge of English and of locusts put it--one
can almost walk over the rabbits, as long as they sit still, without
seeing them. The warning white tail of the rabbit is a danger-signal to
other rabbits, for whenever a rabbit is running for shelter its white
scut warns all the others which it passes to run also. To find out with
some approximation of accuracy whether my idea of the prevalence of
coloured rabbits was correct or not, I applied to Mr. R. S. Black, of
Dunedin, who is a very large exporter of rabbit-skins, for information.
Mr. Black informed me that, while they are of all colours, yet 95 per
cent. of the skins exported are grey. The other colours appeal to the
eye, but they are not so common, after all.

That the rabbits of aberrant colours should survive is not to be
wondered at, seeing that in this country there are no foxes, and
neither owls nor hawks large enough or active enough to tackle a
full-grown rabbit. The common harrier hawk takes a considerable toll
of young rabbits, but is quite unable to keep them in check. In many
districts wild cats live mainly on rabbits.

I have from the far north an interesting record of a curious habit
among rabbits. Mr. Yarborough, of Kohukohu, writing in August, 1916,
tells me that rabbits became quite common in a district near Kawakawa,
at the head of the Bay of Islands, many years ago. Recently they have
reached the eastern side of the Hokianga River, and it is not unusual
to see them occasionally. Then he adds this interesting statement:
“I have never heard of any rabbit-burrows, as they appear to breed
among the rocks and roots of trees.” Another observer from an adjacent
district says that these animals are not uncommon near Kaikohe, where
they do make shallow burrows. The comparatively heavy rainfall of
Hokianga, amounting to from 60 in. to 70 in. in a year, has no doubt
a good deal to do with the comparative scarcity of the rabbit in that
part of New Zealand.



CHAPTER XV.

RODENTIA--HARES; INSECTIVORA--HEDGEHOGS.


THE HARE (_Lepus europaeus_).

Hares, like rabbits, are animals destitute of any special means of
defence against their enemies except the rapidity of their movements,
and they are exceedingly shy and timid. Their eyes and ears are
instantly cognisant of even distant warnings of danger, and the limbs
are admirably adapted for the most rapid flight. The hind limbs are
nearly twice as long as the fore limbs, and are very muscular. Owing to
their great length the animal, when moving slowly in search of food,
goes awkwardly about, “but the moment there is occasion for him to move
rapidly the disproportionate hind limbs stand him in good stead, and
he shoots along the ground by a series of long leaps and with great
swiftness. At the same time, it is observed that the length of its hind
legs causes the hare to run with much greater facility uphill than
down, and in fact it is said that in descending steep inclines the
animal is obliged to run obliquely in order to escape overbalancing
itself. When pursued the hare has the art of making sudden turns in its
course, known as ‘doubles’ or ‘wrenches,’ by which the dogs in chase of
it are thrown out. Greyhounds are swifter of foot than hares, but they
are incapable of changing their course so sharply, and thus, while they
are carried some distance onwards by their own impetus, their intended
victim is making off in a different direction.”

Hares can swim well, and have been seen crossing an arm of the sea
a mile wide. Hares do not burrow, but live in a small hollow on the
surface of the ground, which is known as the “form.” They select a
shady spot in summer, a sunny one in winter, and go under cover when it
rains. They live chiefly in cultivated country, but in New Zealand are
not uncommon on grass-land and on river-beds, though I have met with
them far up the slopes of Mount Egmont. They feed on most vegetable
materials.

Hares begin to breed when they are about a year old, and produce
several broods each year, each consisting of from two to five young.
I have been informed that in New Zealand hares usually produce three
or four young in a litter, whereas in England they seldom have more
than two. It is also stated that the animals are larger here than in
Britain. Both statements require verification, but if these are facts
they are probably due only to the abundance of the food-supply.

It is just about fifty years since hares were first introduced
into New Zealand, and the most remarkable thing about this fact is
that the numbers originally brought here were so small. The Otago
Acclimatization Society appear to have been the first to bring them
here. They got three from Geelong, in Victoria, in 1867, and liberated
them at Waihola, where two years later they were reported to be
plentiful. Another was obtained in 1868, and three more in 1875. The
Canterbury Society got two in 1868 and four in 1873. The Southland
Society imported some (the number is not recorded) in 1869 from
Victoria, two more in 1871, and two in 1874, and then forty in 1887.
The Nelson Society introduced some (again the number is not specified)
in 1872, and it is stated that these increased so rapidly as to become
a nuisance in the district. These are all the records I can find of
importations from abroad into the South Island, and, considering the
casual manner and small numbers in which they were introduced, their
subsequent increase is most remarkable. They soon spread all over the
flatter parts of the Island, keeping mostly about cultivated land, and
especially in districts where rabbits were not abundant. They are now
common from Foveaux Strait to Cook Strait.

In the North Island the Auckland Society introduced two hares in
1868 and nine in 1871. I can find no other record. From the Auckland
District they spread south, and other acclimatization societies
assisted to distribute them far and wide. Wellington liberated two in
1874, fourteen in 1875, and four in 1876; and in 1885 reported them
as “numerous in the vicinity of Wellington and the lower end of the
Wairarapa Valley.” In more recent years they are reported as in large
numbers about Marton, increasing about Pahiatua, and as seen in almost
every part of the Eketahuna district. The Taranaki Society introduced
them in 1876, and they were reported as thriving in 1884. On Mount
Egmont at the present time they are common about the bush-line, and
in the summer months up to 6,000 ft. In 1905 the Waimarino Society
purchased and liberated a number, and protected them for two years.
Later on they became so numerous that they were declared to be no
longer game, and all restrictions about shooting them were removed.
I learn from Mr. E. Phillips Turner, of the New Zealand Forest
Department, that they are found all through the volcanic plateau of the
North Island from Rotorua to Waiouru.

In no part of New Zealand have they increased to a greater extent than
in South Canterbury, where they became so abundant that a considerable
export trade sprang up, mostly from the Port of Timaru. Thus the total
number of frozen hares exported from New Zealand in 1910 was declared
at 10,744, and in 1911 at 11,418. The number has varied in subsequent
years, but is still very considerable. It is probable that a good many
hares are exported but declared in the Customs returns as rabbits.

In some parts of New Zealand hares tend to become white in the winter
season, just as they do in parts of the Old Country, following the same
seasonal variations as occur in ferrets, stoats, and other sub-Arctic
animals. Several observers state that this is a familiar phenomenon in
South Canterbury.


THE HEDGEHOG (_Erinaceus europaeus_).

This interesting little animal belongs to an order called the
Insectivora, not because they are the only mammals which eat insects,
but because the latter creatures, with worms and other “small fry,”
constitute the whole, or nearly the whole, of their food. Hedgehogs are
small, stoutly-built animals, with very short tails, and the greater
part of the hairs on the upper surface are converted into spines. They
have the power of rolling themselves into balls, and these spines thus
constitute a most powerful defensive armour. The spines are about 1
in. long, and are hard and sharp; they are greyish in colour, with a
dark-brown or nearly black ring a little above the middle. The legs
are short, so that the animal runs with its belly nearly touching the
ground, and the feet have five toes. A full-grown hedgehog is about
10 in. long. When a tame hedgehog is poked on the forehead it puts
its head down, erects its bristles like a crest, and utters little
short grunts; sometimes they make this grunting noise at night. In
the cauldron scene in Macbeth Shakespeare makes the Second Witch say,
“Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.”

In the colder parts of Europe the hedgehog becomes torpid in winter,
and lies asleep for months in a nest of moss or leaves, usually in a
hole or sheltered hollow. I do not know how long it hibernates in New
Zealand. It wakes up in spring, very hungry, and in its excursions,
which are undertaken at night, it proceeds to make up for lost time,
and runs about with a quick shuffling gait. It is particularly fond of
beetles, but it eats all sorts of insects, as well as worms, slugs,
and small snails. Occasionally it goes for bigger things, such as
frogs and mice, young birds, and especially eggs. It has been credited
with turning a hen off her nest and eating her eggs. Sometimes it eats
vegetables, and I am told that about Christchurch it digs the potatoes
out of the rows. On the whole, however, it is a beneficial animal in a
garden.

[Illustration:

  [_J. Macdonald, photo._

FIG. 14.--THE HEDGEHOG.]

The first hedgehogs brought into New Zealand were received in 1870 by
the Canterbury Acclimatization Society, which got a pair, but I do not
know what came of them.

In 1885 a shipment of one hundred was made to the Otago Society, but
only three survived the voyage. These were liberated in a suburban
garden, but were very sluggish, though the weather was warm; this was
probably due to their having lost their usual season of hibernation.
Others were probably imported later, for in 1890 hedgehogs were found
near Port Chalmers.

In 1894 the late Mr. Peter Cunningham, of Merivale, Christchurch, sent
a consignment of wekas Home, and got twelve hedgehogs out in exchange.
They were placed in a pigeon-house, but got out under the wire netting
and escaped. For years nothing was heard of them, but they gradually
increased and are now extraordinarily abundant. Mr. Edgar F. Stead, of
Riccarton, writing in March, 1916, says, “If I hunted through my garden
with my dog I could get a dozen now, and I frequently kill them. They
are extraordinarily destructive to chickens, their depredations being
readily identified by the fact that they eat their victim’s stomach
first, whereas a cat eats the breast first, and rats and weasels go for
the head and neck. Once a hedgehog starts eating chickens he will go on
until caught or the supply runs out. I know of many cases where a trap
set and baited with the remains of a chicken has caught the marauding
hedgehog.”

These animals are now very abundant between Christchurch and Dunedin.
Two pairs were introduced into the gardens at New Plymouth in 1913, and
they are now increasing rapidly in Taranaki.

Old superstitions and beliefs are difficult to eradicate. Among my
correspondents, one who hails (over forty years ago) from Surrey,
England, is a firm believer in the myth that hedgehogs visit the
cows during the night and suck their milk; and he warns me that the
milking-qualities of cows are frequently destroyed by them. I can find
no satisfactory evidence of this.



INDEX.


  Anderton, T.: Note on polecats, 67.

  Antipodes Island, goats on, 45;
    seals, 78;
    mice, 92.

  Aston, B. C., on--wild cattle, 39, 40;
    sheep, 41;
    goats, 44;
    cats, 61;
    rabbits, 103.

  Auckland Islands, pigs on, 21;
    cattle, 40;
    goats, 45;
    cats, 61;
    dogs, 65;
    seals, 78;
    mice, 92.

  Axis deer, 25.


  Banks, Sir Joseph, on--seals, 76;
    native rats, 83.

  Beddard, Professor, on sperm whale, 50.

  Bees, introduced, in New Zealand, 8.

  Begg, James, on rabbits, 97.

  Bellingshausen, Commander: Wild cats on Macquaries, 61;
    wild dogs, 63, 65.

  Birds, introduced, in New Zealand, 6.

  Black-tailed deer, 25.

  Bollons, Captain: Goats on the Southern Islands, 45;
    rats on Campbell Island, 91.

  Boscawen, Colonel, on opossums, 17.

  Broad, Judge: Bats in Nelson, 85.

  Brunner, Mr., on Maori dogs, 64.

  Bullen, Frank, on--sperm whales, 49;
    porpoises, 52;
    killer whales, 55.

  Bullen, W. R., on wild goats, 44.

  Buller, Sir Walter, on--bats, 80;
    native rats, 86.


  Cachalot, 49.

  Caldwell, Mr., on New Zealand bats, 80.

  Campbell Island, sheep on, 43;
    goats, 45;
    seals, 78;
    rats, 91;
    mice, 92.

  Carnivora, definition of, 11.

  Cetacea, definition of, 11.

  Chamois, 46.

  Chatham Islands, pigs on, 21;
    cattle, 40;
    sheep, 42;
    cats, 61;
    rats, 91.

  Cheeseman, T., on New Zealand bats, 81.

  Chital (or axis deer), 25.

  Cockayne, Dr. L., on--wild cattle, 40;
    sheep, 42, 43;
    goats, 45.

  Cook, Captain James: First visit to New Zealand, 8;
    introduction of--pigs, 18;
    sheep, 40;
    goats, 43;
    native dogs, 62.

  Cotton, Dr. C. A.: Erosion of land, 103.

  Crozet, Captain, on native dogs, 62.


  Darwin, Charles: Reversion among wild cats, 59;
    extinction of the native rat, 89.

  De Surville, Captain: Introduction of pigs, 19.

  Dieffenbach, Dr., on--pigs, 19;
    change in wild cats, 59;
    rats, 92.

  Don, Rev. A.: Action of rabbits on the country, 104.


  Enderby, Captain: Cattle on Southern Islands, 45.

  European birds in New Zealand, 6.


  Forster, Dr. J. R.: Introduction of--pigs, 19;
    seals, 75;
    native rats, 83.

  Furneaux, Captain: Introduction of--pigs, 19;
    goats, 43.


  Gates, W. H., on--goats, 44;
    colours of rabbits, 104.

  George, Hon. S. Thorne: Fallow deer on Kawau, 28;
    cattle on Kawau, 39.

  Gibbs, F. G.: Goats in Nelson, 43.

  Gillies, Robert, on--wild pigs, 20;
    dogs, 64;
    mice, 92.

  Goats, Himalayan (thar), 46.

  Grampus, 55.

  Grey, Sir George: Introduction of--wallabies, 12;
    wapiti, 24;
    fallow deer, 28;
    rabbits, 98.

  Gunn, A.: Goats in Central Otago, 45.


  Hardcastle, Mr., on red deer, 30, 31.

  Hector, Sir James, on seals, 74, 75.

  Henry, Richard, on ferrets, 72.

  Hochstetter, Dr.: Wild pigs in Nelson, 21.

  Hocken, Dr.: Settlement abandoned on account of rats, 86.

  Hotop, L.: Goats in Wakatipu district, 44.

  Huddlestone, Mr.: Rabbits in Nelson, 98.

  Hunt, F.: Food of opossums, 16.

  Hutton, Captain F. W., on--New Zealand bats, 80;
    rats, 84, 89;
    extermination of _Aciphylla_ by rabbits, 103.


  Insectivora, definition of, 11.


  Japanese deer, 24.


  Kawau, animals introduced on to: Wallaby, 12;
    wapiti, 24;
    fallow deer, 28;
    cattle, 39.

  Killer whale, 55.

  King, Captain: Introduction of pigs, 19.

  Kingsley, R. I.: Rats nesting in trees, 89.

  Knox, Dr.: Native bats, 79, 80.


  Laing, R. M.: Sheep on Campbell Island, 43.

  Lyall, Dr.: Race of wild dogs, 63.


  McNab, Dr. R.: Seal-fishery, 76, 78.

  Marriner, G. R.: Rats in Campbell Island, 89.

  Marsupial, definition of, 11.

  Meeson, Mr.: Rats in Nelson and Marlborough, 88.

  Menzies, Dr.: Introduction of rabbits, 98.

  Monro, Dr.: Wild pigs in Otago, 21.

  Moose, introduction of, 25.

  Mueller, George: Rabbits in Westland, 72.

  Murison, W. D.: Wild dogs in Otago, 64.

  Musgrave, Captain: Animals in the Auckland Islands--cats, 61;
    dogs, 65.


  Norman, Richard: Stoats in west coast, 72.


  “Pelorus Jack,” 53.

  Peters, Charles J.: Cats, 60;
    rabbits, 72.

  Petrie, D.: Grass-denuded land, 102, 104.

  Philpott, A.: Mice in Southland, 92.


  Reed, John: Introduction of wallabies, 12.

  Rodentia, definition of, 11.

  Rorqual, 47, 48.

  Rutland, J.: Plague of rats, 87.


  Scott, Robert: Wild pigs in Central Otago, 20;
    cats, 59.

  Slugs and snails, introduced, 8.

  Smith, S. Percy: Native dogs, 63.

  Speight, R.: Rats in Christchurch, 89.

  Spermaceti, 50.

  Stead, Edgar F.: Hedgehogs in Christchurch, 109.

  Studholme, J.: Introduction of wallabies, 12.


  Tancred, H. J.: Rats in Canterbury, 85.

  Taylor, Rev. R., on--New Zealand dog, 63;
    Maori rat, 84;
    rabbits, 97.

  Technical names, 10.

  Thar (Himalayan goat), 46.

  Thomas, Oldfield, on rats, 84.

  Thomson, G. S.: Cattle in west-coast country, 40.

  Thomson, J. A., on--cats, 58, 61;
    wild ferrets, 67.

  Travers, H. H.: Animals on Chatham Islands--cats, 61;
    rats, 91.

  Travers, W. T. L., on--rats, 85;
    food of hawks, 92.

  Tuatara, 61.

  Tuckett, F.: Pigs in Otago, 21;
    rabbits at Taukupu, 97.


  Ungulata, definition of, 11.


  Wakefield, E. J.: Wild cattle, 39;
    rabbits, 97.

  Wapiti (deer), 24.

  Weir, H. C., on wild cats, 60.

  White, Taylor: Native dog, 64;
    rats, 87;
    mice, 92.

  Wohlers, Pastor: Mice on Ruapuke, 92.

  Worms, introduced, 7, 8.


  Yarborough, A. C.: Animals at Hokianga--cattle, 39;
    stoats and weasels, 73;
    rabbits, 105.


By Authority: MARCUS F. MARKS, Government Printer, Wellington.



PUBLICATIONS OF THE BOARD OF SCIENCE AND ART,

WELLINGTON, N.Z.


  BULLETIN No. 1.--=NEW ZEALAND BROWN COALS=, with special
  reference to their use in Gas-producers. By H. Rand, M.A., B.Sc., and
  W. O. R. Gilling, M.A., B.Sc., National Research Scholars, Education
  Department.

    =PRICE, 2s.= Postage extra (New Zealand, 1½d.; abroad, 2d.).

  BULLETIN No. 2.--=THE HISTORY OF THE PORTOBELLO MARINE FISH
  HATCHERY.= By Geo. M. Thomson, M.L.C., F.L.S., F.N.Z.Inst.;
  illustrated.

    =PRICE, 7s. 6d.= Paper cover. Postage extra.

  MANUAL No. 1.--=NEW ZEALAND PLANTS AND THEIR STORY.= By L.
  Cockayne, Ph.D., F.L.S., F.R.S., F.N.Z.Inst. Second edition, rewritten
  and enlarged. Illustrated with 99 photographs and 14 text figures.

    =PRICES=: Cloth, =7s. 6d.=; paper, =5s.= Postage, 6d. extra.

SOME PRESS OPINIONS.

  “The second edition is virtually a new book.... No one is so
  well qualified to describe New Zealand plant ecology as Dr.
  Cockayne.”--_Nature_, London.

  “The story which Dr. Cockayne has to tell is wonderful, and the manner
  of his telling is full of charm. He gives no bare catalogue of plants
  nor bald descriptions, but shows by pen and picture the wonderful
  vegetation of those happy islands.”--_Gardeners’ Chronicle_, London.

  “The book will be treasured by all who find refreshment away from the
  cities and the petty affairs of men.... Dr. Cockayne’s style is as
  brilliant as it is simple. He cannot be misunderstood. “New Zealand
  Plants and their Story” is a book to give to one’s dearest friend,
  while keeping a copy for one’s own reading and pleasure.”--_Evening
  Post_, Wellington, N.Z.

  MANUAL No. 2.--=WILD LIFE IN NEW ZEALAND. Part I: Mammalia.= By
  Geo. M. Thomson, M.L.C., F.L.S., F.N.Z.Inst.; illustrated.

    =PRICES=: Cloth, =5s.=; paper, =3s.= Postage extra.

  MANUAL No. 3.--=GEOMORPHOLOGY OF NEW ZEALAND.= =Part I.:
  Systematic.= By Professor C. A. Cotton, D.Sc., F.N.Z.Inst., F.G.S.;
  illustrated. In preparation.

  New Zealand Journal of Science and Technology.

  Issued six times a year. Subscription (including postage), 6s. per
  annum, payable in advance; single copy, 1s. 6d.

  ORDERS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO

  “The Director, Dominion Museum, Wellington, N.Z.”



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

Page 30: Removed line that has been doubled up
‘ancient forests of Germany superb herds of the red deer were to’.

Page 43: It is in the opinion of the Transcriber that the word
Tomatongeauooranuc should be spelt Tomatongeauooranuk, as there is
no letter ‘c’ in the Maori language.

Page 60: Changed ‘is’ to ‘it’
reading ‘because it prefers the entrails’.





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