Dope growers have been blamed for the death of a "beautiful" young kiwi chick that was being monitored by the Department of Conservation.
Two-month-old Matimati Ma, who stood out because of his unusual white feet, died after wandering into a net that had been used to protect an old marijuana plot in Ohope Scenic Reserve near Whakatane.
DoC biodiversity ranger Bridget Palmer said the area had been "over-run" with old plots before workers cleared them out to make way for a kiwi habitat restoration as part of the Whakatane Kiwi Project.
"We are still coming across old ones and, unfortunately, that one was one of the places we didn't get to in time," Ms Palmer said.
It was realised something had happened to the chick when its transmitter began sending a mortality signal.
"We went down to find him straight away."
She said seeing him caught in an old flounder net - which would have made for a painful death - had hit the team hard.
"We have chicks that do occasionally get predated in the bush, even though we are trying to control predators," Ms Palmer said. "And we do have some that do things like fall down banks or drown in streams, but this didn't need to happen ... that's what was really gutting.
"It makes us feel guilt also, because we are in the bush looking around all the time and we thought by this stage we would have found all of those plots."
Workers had since gone in and cleared the plot and a polythene-lined pit that had also been used to keep possums and rodents away from marijuana plants.
Hundreds of kiwi had been released in the area, she said, and after a bad year in 2012, the volunteers had been feeling good about the progress of the latest clutch.