Reinvasions provide prime examples of source-sink population dynamics, and are a major reason for failure of eradications of invasive rats from protected areas. Yet little is known about the origins and population structure of the replacement population compared with the original one. We eradicated eight populations of ship rats from separate podocarp- broadleaved forest fragments surrounded by open grassland (averaging 5.3 ha, scattered across 20,000 ha) in rural landscapes of Waikato, New Zealand, and monitored the- re-establishment of new populations. Rats were kill-trapped to extinction during January to April 2008, and then again after reinvasion in April–May (total n = 517). Rats carrying Rhodamine B dye (n = 94), available only in baits placed 1–2 months in advance in adjacent source areas located 170–380 m (average 228 m edge to edge) away, appeared in 7 of the 8 fragments from the first day of the first eradication. The distribution of age groups, genders and proportions of reproductively mature adults (more immature juvenile males and fewer fully mature old females) was different among marked rats compared with all other rats (P = 0.001, n = 509); in all rats caught on days 7? of the first eradication compared with on days 1–6 (P = 0.000); and in the total sample collected in fragments by trapping to and after local extinction compared with in brief, fixed-schedule sampling of populations in continuous forests (P = 0.000). Genotyping of 493 carcases found no significant population-level differentiation among the 8 fragments, confirming that the rats in all fragments belonged to a single dynamic metapopulation. Marked rats of both genders travelled up to 600 m in a few days. Conservation of forest fragments is compromised by the problem that ship rats cannot be prevented from rapidly reinvading any cleared area after eradication.