DU Director Dan Steele looks at another tool to help in the fight against predators.
The biggest problem with conservation in New Zealand is complacency and believing that someone else is looking after mother nature on your behalf.
So many people leave things to the Department of Conservation and believe that that’s enough.
It’s not, it’s going to take a huge combined effort from many New Zealanders and particularly landowners to slow the decline in our biodiversity caused by these introduced pests.
But it is not easy to start a conservation project, it is usually an extra job for already busy landowners and who pays, how is it going to be maintained and what should be done?
We ran a really good trapping demonstration for our local sustainable farming group last week, the Taumarunui Sustainable Land Management Group.
Mustelid expert Professor Carolyn (Kim) King, of Waikato University, gave a great overview of New Zealand pests, how we got to this point and whether pest-free New Zealand has any hope of success. The jury is still out on this.
But she believes future technology may well make it possible.
We’re trying to demonstrate that it’s quick and easy to set a few traps around the farm; knowing what to do is often the biggest obstacle with farmers. Then of course there is the capital cost to set up traps and the ongoing maintenance. Goodnature, a Wellington pest company founded 13 years ago, is certainly making the setup and the maintenance easy with their well thought-out technology.
The new Chirp feature on their traps provides bluetooth information from the trap direct to your smartphone.
You link your phone to the trap and it logs the GPS coordinates, and when you check the trap, it tells you how many strikes the trap has had and when.
Then once you’re back into cellphone reception or internet connection, the information is automatically uploaded to the cloud onto the Goodnature world map.
Your traps and kills can be viewed by anyone looking at the map – they show up orange.
Cunningly though, when people are viewing your traplines, they can only see to within 150 metres of where you have your traps placed, so people can’t turn up and steal or sabotage your traps. The owner of the traps can however have their GPS coordinates down to a metre or two.
We are finding the A24 Goodnature traps a good way for people to sponsor some traps, to be involved and stay in touch with how the conservation work
It’s so important to be holding our ground against predators; this week at Blue Duck Station, we have had a kaka sighting and a report of a bittern booming.
The Goodnature A24 rat and stoat trap automatically kills 24 rats or stoats (and mice) one after the other, before you need to replace the CO2 gas canister. When the pest tries to reach the lure inside the trap, they brush past a trigger which fires a piston, killing them instantly. The piston retracts and resets ready for the next pest. The trap comes with a pump that refreshes the lure automatically for six months. Three different trap kits are available: a trap-only kit, a trap with a counter or a trap with Chirp.
Ian Jensen writes about the ‘necessity of continuance’ in the war against pests.
For several years, no records were kept to show the numbers of predators dispatched on the property, though one Tims trap early on accounted for about 35 ferrets over three years.
In February 2008 a comprehensive record was started, compiled mainly from pests that my dogs found, hares that keen hunters dispatched, along with wasp nests that have been eliminated as well as bait stations for rats and mice.
In 2009, with assistance from Greater Wellington Regional Council, a number of DOC 200 traps were provided, and others have been purchased since.
The property is coastal dunes south of Te Horo, with about 10 hectares of wetland, where there are nine traps located on the wetland margins. Weasels are the predominant catch, followed by stoats, rats and ferrets and a few small to medium rabbits.
It seems bird numbers, particularly pheasants, have increased over recent years along with Californian quail. With the ducks, it is harder to make a comparison as water levels also play a very important part in the survival of the young and moulting birds.
For my traps I use the juice from ‘Sardines in spring water’; I have a small sealed container kept in the fridge that I store it in – once every three months seems to be enough to keep up the interest.
Some say it is not counting the numbers caught that matter, but it is the numbers still around that matter. However counting the numbers caught keeps one well motivated to continue the onslaught.
In 2017 there were 29 weasels and four stoat caught, while in 2018 that dropped significantly to four weasels, three stoats and a ferret.This year has spiked with 21 weasels, 16 stoats and two ferrets – we also passed the 500 mark with hedgehogs since records began.
Blue Duck Station, where DU director Dan Steele and his family live, work, conserve and save ducks, have discovered traps that seem to be super efficient. Here is something about them.
We are pretty excited about the latest technology for dealing with pests; Good Nature’s A24. The A24 is quite different from the DOC200 (350 of which we maintain), and has some advantages over it. The A24 does not need regular maintenance as it automatically re-sets and is therefore great for places with difficult access. The auto- resetting also means they have the potential to catch more as there is no waiting period between kills.
For these reasons we plan to put them in the far back blocks and inaccessible ridges on the station. We have also purchased some counters to indicate when to replace the gas canisters and to give us some catch numbers.
The A24 cannot tell you what it has caught as the carcasses of the creatures rot away or are often carried off by other predators so we will continue to rely on our DoC200s for this. We plan to record A24 catch numbers however and add them to our catch database, linked to our GoogleEarth application.
We believe that anything is worth giving a go in our battle against predators and protecting our whio and other species. We do not plan to replace our DoC200s with A24s but will use them as an addition and in different areas. We are looking forward to seeing results after we have had the traps up for a while.
It is also worth mentioning that the public feel the same, as two of our A24s have been sponsored by visitors as part of our ‘sponsor a trap’ programme!
*Blue Duck Station hosts a number of overseas people they call eco warriors, who visit and work on the station, learning about conservation and helping to protect the Whio.
Animal pests and predators are a major threat to the survival of New Zealand’s special native flora and fauna.
A wide range of techniques and tools are used to control pests, depending on the threats and the terrain. Ground control is Department of Conservation’s main approach. They use traps, bait stations or culling. It can prove highly effective where the terrain is suitable and regular checks can be made.
It is DoC’s most widely used pest control approach with more than 400,000 hectares under ground control management. Around 80 percent of the Animal Health Board’s operations are ground control. Ground control methods are precise, but are also labour- intensive and expensive.
This website will inform you of three new types of humane kill traps developed by the Department of Conservation and Philip Waddington. These traps are designed to assist conservationists with their protection of native species that have almost been wiped out by introduced predators.
These traps are regarded as innovative and responsible:
The DOC 150 and 200 humanely kill three pest predators - stoats, rats and hedgehogs.
The DOC 250 targets and humanely kills four pest predators - ferrets, stoats, rats and hedgehogs.
DU member of Pohangina wetlands Gordon Pilone, sent in these shots of a recent catch.
He uses DOC 250 traps to eliminate stoats, rats and hedge hogs.
The kill traps are elevated on a plank on blocks to delay weed invasion and stoats seem to like “running the plank”.
Gordon said a hen egg as bait can be successful even at several weeks old. Also used successfully for stoat kill, is a Timms tunnel trap baited with a fish head.
To help protect the birds, a trapping programme is underway to get rid of ferrets and other pests to provide a safer environment for rare native birds in the Wairarapa Moana wetlands.
These include Australasian bittern, royal spoonbill and the dabchick. Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) started trapping around Matthews lagoon and Boggy Pond in July. Using covered traps that exclude birds, pest animal officer Steve Playle was successful straight away, catching 13 ferrets and three feral cats in the first month.
“These are large and powerful predators that need to catch and kill regularly. If we can control them around the wetlands, the wetland birds are bound to increase in numbers,” he said.
Hawke’s Bay wetland bird expert and Ducks Unlimited president John Cheyne, said numbers of Australasian bittern were low in a count taken earlier this year, and the work being done by officers like Steve should help raise bird numbers in the wetlands.
“There is a lot of great wetland habitat at Wairarapa Moana, but I only heard eight bitterns calling. There should be more.
Trapping ferrets and feral cats should allow them and all the other ground-nesting birds to breed more successfully.” The trapping programme is part of a wider project to enhance the wetlands around Wairarapa Moana, involving the councils, DoC, iwi, farmers, environmental groups and the community.
Story courtesy of the Greater Wellington Regional Council.
Motu Scenic Reserve is a 20 hectare kahikatea wetland forest located just past Motu township in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
The reserve is unique as it contains: an oxbow wetland (crescent-shaped lake lying alongside a winding river) and an original kahikatea swamp forest, one of only two percent left in New Zealand.
The remainder of the reserve is alluvial forest with a low canopy of houhere (lacebark) and wheki-ponga (tree fern). Kahikatea (white pine) emerge 30 metres above the canopy. Motu Scenic Reserve is also habitat for aquatic bird species and provides valuable habitat for weka and common bush birds. Visitors can access the reserve, although there are no formal walking tracks.
In 1913 the government approved 70 acres of native bush and lagoon for Motu Scenic Reserve now managed by the Department of Conservation. Visitors from the Motu Hotel often went boating on the lake in the early 1900s when the hotel was at its most popular.
A photo taken by well known local photographer William Crawford in the 1900s features the oxbow lake with Christian Hansen rowing his children and James Whinray (nearby Whinray Scenic Reserve is named after).
DoC undertakes trapping, weed control and restoration planting at the reserve.
The trapping programme targets rats, mustelids and possums. While weed control focuses on Japanese honeysuckle, old man’s beard, English ivy, Japanese walnut and various willow species. Visitors can learn more about problem weeds in the reserve from an information panel installed next to the lake.
Sponsorship from Matua Wines has enabled restoration planting of manuka, flax, karamu, kahikatea and koromiko on the grassy margins of the reserve.
Motu Scenic Reserve is 47km from Opotiki, and 87km from Gisborne, turn off at Matawai on the Motu Road. At the township keep left, cross the bridge over the Motu River and the entrance to the reserve is located on the corner of Motu Road and Phillips Road. Nearby places are the Whinray Scenic Reserve Track and Pakihi Track.For more information check out doc. govt.nz
Tony Roxburgh, chair and trustee of the National Wetland Trust provided the AGM with a glimpse of happenings with wetlands in Waikato.
The Trust plans a state-of-the-art interpretation centre, with research and educational facilities, wetland gardens and heritage trails on land next to Lake Serpentine in the Waipa district. This is one of 69 peat lakes in Waikato.
Issues to be worked through include highway access and formal agreement with the Department of Conservation. DoC has already given approval to construct a 1.4 km predator fence around 10ha of the reserve at Lake Serpentine near Ohaupo.
Tony said the plan includes a visitor concept plan, an interpretation plan, business plan and landscape developed for the site. These were funded by grants from Transpower, Trust Waikato and Waikato Regional Council (Environmental Initiatives Fund), and supported by Waipa District Council.
They are looking at the best way to restore wildlife, including the feasibility of a predator exclusion fence. Funding from the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust, and a grant from the DoC’s Community Conservation Fund allowed them to produce a re-vegetation plan to restore vegetation and habitat.
Students of Te Awamutu School have been searching for native and exotic fauna, and have been the first to confirm long-tailed bats at the site. Other species confirmed include Australasian bittern, North Island fernbird, Black mudfish and Spotless crake.
The pest fence was completed in June this year and they now need sponsors and donations to help with pest eradication and re-introduction of native species.
Other work in the Waipa district includes Lake Ngaroto one of the peat lakes. It currently floods the peat and Tony said this could be one of the larger projects for the Waikato basin aimed at reducing loss of wetland and preserving the quality of the peat lakes.
Proposed predator control is vital for Habitat Te Henga and for the reintroduction and survival of many birds including pateke. John Sumich , Chair, Habitat Te Henga puts the case.
Matuku, Forest & Bird’s sanctuary, is approximately 120ha of regenerating mixed kauri and podocarps that merges into West Auckland’s Te Henga wetland, the largest in the Auckland area.
Visiting a dozen years or so ago, Sean O’Connor and Ossie Latham declared to John Staniland, the resident guardian, that it was ideal for pateke although the whole valley would need predator control. Finally in 2012 the current Pateke Recovery group leader Tiff Browne and Nigel Miller agreed the blend of forest, swamp, and farmlands offered all that pateke desire. With the large dune-impounded Lake Wainamu just over the ridge it would also be part of the habitat any released pateke would utilise so that (area) also needed predator control. And while you’re at it they’ll (pateke) probably use the small estuary at the beach so include that!
Since 2002 the Ark in the Park project had been steadily expanding predator control to the current 2400ha and its north western boundary is conveniently the eastern boundary of the suggested predator controlled area.
The Ark has successfully introduced robins, whitehead and kokako and has an extensive mustelid and rat control program. Additionally a volunteer beach care group have been controlling predators for some years and have seen the return of New Zealand dotterel for their efforts. Other volunteers run a trap line at the north of the beach where on a headland there are five species of shearwater; the highest number cohabiting on a mainland site.
I was able to get grants from WWF, and Auckland Council Biosecurity to purchase traps both DOC200s for mustelids [the stainless steel model owing to the proximity of the wild West coast salt air] and also Belisle kill traps for feral cats.
Although the existing trap lines at the beach and at Matuku are fairly short and well managed by volunteers the new requirements have two long trap lines each over 12km and therefore too long for a sustained fortnightly trap checking by volunteers. Another grant gained from the Auckland Zoo Conservation fund is for a contract trapper who will alternate the long lines.
Fernbird sightings and perhaps territories are to be recorded, as they believe fernbird will be an indicator species showing a positive response to predator control. Over 100 traps were placed during September and between volunteers doing the shorter lines and a contract trapper doing the long lines we hope to maintain the effort year round. So far the perimeter traps enclose over 1000ha.
Robins from the Ark in the Park sanctuary have dispersed and have been seen around the lake; a kokako has also visited Matuku and tomtit are now being seen at Matuku so the original vision of the Ark in the Park, “ From the ridges to the sea” could become a reality with this new venture aimed at bringing back pateke. The potential then is for other waterfowl and rails to become established in the wetland and gradually disperse upriver toward the Ark.
Check it out at www.forestandbird.org.nz/habitattehenga
In late November Steve Playle did a trap run at Boggy Pond and Wairio. The count was 1 ferret, 1 rat and 10 hedgehogs.
“The ferret was a big bugger and was caught along the stop bank between Mathews and Boggy. This took the total predator count to 23 ferrets, 1 stoat, 2 weasels, 4 cats, 5 rats and 14 hedgehogs.” said Steve.
Rampant growth of grass and weeds along with warm weather meant extra time cleaning around trap sites. Steve also put out another seven DoC250 traps on the Wairio Restoration Block along with two more timms traps along a pine belt where cats have been seen.
Stock tends to interfere with the traps in the Wairio Restoration Block. “We have to live with that unfortunately,” said Steve.
Mice also play havoc with baits with most traps stripped of meat if they have not had a kill in them. Steve said he knows it’s mostly mice because the DoC traps have mouse droppings in them. He has seen mice in the timms traps too. “With only one ferret for this check it could mean their numbers and getting down or maybe they are feasting on mice or even frogs as the place is alive with them at the moment,” said Steve.
Steve has seen and heard bitterns and another was heard at Mathews pond.
Trapping is ongoing.