Thieves in Wellington, New Zealand, are in for a nasty surprise if they open their spoils from a recent robbery. A pick-up truck owned by conservation company Goodnature had been parked in the city suburb of Roseneath on Sunday night when thieves smashed a window and made off with a box that had been left in the vehicle.
Because markings on the box indicated chemicals were inside, company director Robbie van Dam suspected the burglars thought they were getting materials for drug-making.
Instead, they got something much more potent: 16 small bottles of experimental oil extracted from the anal glands of stoats.
"Stoat anal gland oil is extremely smelly stuff and it lingers on any fabric or surface," he said.
Anal gland oil research is part of the company's projects in learning about high-powered attractants for their A24 self-resetting trap. "We know a range of lures will be part of removing stoats from the whole of New Zealand," van Dam said.
"Scent glands are just one of the experiments our sophisticated R & D team is working on."
The thieves could get more than they bargained for: just a few drops of scent glands in their car or home would stink for weeks.
"We popped a gland in our lab a couple of years ago during research.
We had fans running and windows open in the middle of a Wellington winter, and it still took weeks to go. Some staff chose to work from home for a couple of days."
The oil was so potent it was in the process of being moved off-site for storage.
The thieves' motivations weren't likely to be industrial espionage, he believed.
"We're normally just trying to attract stoats, rats or possums, but I guess there are other kinds of opportunist pests in Roseneath."