Ducks Unlimited
Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:45

Pest problem – A24 helps

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.

 

 

Published in Issue 157
Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:42

The traps Department of Conservation uses

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.

However modern self setting trap are effective and designed to avoid harming native birds if correctly operated. DoC maintains a network of over 180,000 traps and spends more than $5 million per annum on stoat and rat trapping. DoC also supports possum fur recovery in a number of regions. But even with high fur prices, consistently high numbers of possums are needed to make trapping economic. Also, to ensure the protection of native species,  possum numbers must be driven down to very low levels , this in turn is uneconomic for a fur industry.

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.

 

 

 

Published in Issue 157
Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:40

Pests best dead

Trapping is the name of the game.

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.

Published in Issue 157
Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:35

Predating the predators

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.

 

 

Published in Issue 157
Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:27

Kahikatea wetland at Motu

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
 

 

Published in Issue 157
Monday, 22 July 2019 02:47

Trapline volunteers

Eleven volunteers from the New Plymouth branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers spent a day out of the office as they helped replace over 90 stoat traps along the Curtis Falls Track in the Egmont National Park.

The old traps came out of the boxes and new stainless steel ones went in. Replacing a line like this can take a couple of weeks so the volunteers really made a difference. With each person carrying six traps in and another six out as well as some tough climbs along the way, it was a big day.

This trap line protects the whio living along streams and rivers such as the Maketawa and they form a network that covers around 7000 hectares. Last year was a record year for whio ducklings in the Park with 33 ducklings hatching in the wild.
 
Another volunteer, Ian Street enjoys the Onaero Domain where he spends a lot of time at his Onaero beach batch and helps out by looking after a trapline and keeping an eye on weeds in the local reserve.
A whitefaced heron also enjoys the Onaero Domain and batch dwellers say he’s been around for about 14 years. “He had a mate,”said Ian, “but she died some time ago.

Recently though he’s found another.” 
 
The heron seems to know when Ian’s at home. He walks up to the front door and taps on the door. “He visits regularly,” said Ian. “I give him a little bit of fresh mince sometimes and away he goes.”

Whitefaced herons are New Zealand’s most common heron. They arrived from Australia in the 1940s so they’re considered native. This one’s been around long enough to be called a local.
 

 

Published in Issue 159
Thursday, 04 April 2019 10:43

Trapping at Boggy/Wairio

Trapping at Boggy/Wairio in April by Steve Playle resulted in the following critters recorded - 4 cats, 1 ferret, 9 rats, 3 mice, 1 magpie and 17 hedgehogs. 

The grand total came to 15 cats, 36 ferrets, 1 stoat, 9 weasels, 130 hedgehogs, 46 rats, 21 mice, 3 magpies, 1 harrier hawk and 1 rabbit.

Steve also saw a Bittern in Boggy Pond down where the culvert pipes are beside the Boggy stop bank. That photo is on the front cover.

Steve has since put in other trap sites along the new track to the viewing hide out by the spillway.

Published in Issue 160
Friday, 23 February 2018 07:12

Pukaha Mt Bruce ups the anti on Predators

New self re-setting traps for Pukaha

Pukaha has been looking at a wider range of options for predator control in the reserve and the surrounding buffer zone. Then thanks to a generous donation from Pub Charity, they were able to purchase a number of A24 self resetting stoat and rat traps.

You can check them out at www.goodnature.co.nz

The initial consignment of traps are for their buffer zone provided by the Greater Wellington Regional Council and are also near the aviaries at the Visitor Centre. This February they will be rolling out these devices into their ‘front face’ to supplement the current DoC 250 traps.

The total number of rats caught in the 12 month period September 2014 - September 2015 in both the reserve and buffer zone was 1530. The number of mustelids (weasels, stoats and ferrets) was 104.

Pukaha are continuing to look at innovative predator control techniques and will keep supporters updated on progress.

Picture:

Concrete, concrete and more concrete was the order of the day when the footing was laid for the  new free flight aviary. The construction was underway thanks to the teams at Rigg-Zschokke Ltd and Higgins Contractors, The team at Puckaha Mt Bruce were hoping that all going to plan they are aiming for an opening date in late February 2016.

Published in Issue 166
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 02:37

The need for continual predator control

I run a yearly total as at November 30 each year as part of the excellent initiative of the ‘Swamp Comp’.

For the year ending November 2015 from 6 DoC 200 traps placed around the margins of my wetlands, the list was 11 Weasels, 1 Stoat, 2 Ferrets, 33 Hedgehogs and 7 Rats.

So for the 2016 year where 2 more traps were added in February, with the total of 4 Weasels, and Stoats, 1 Ferret, 12 Hedgehogs and 16 Rats it seemed that we were making a great inroad.

It may seem now that the inroad thought was rather premature, with just under 5 months of the current year run, the total sits at 20 Weasels, 3 Stoats, 7 Hedgehogs and 9 Rats.

The other point is that I have one trap [See photo, note there is an egg, I also bait with the juice from Sardines in spring-water] that is generally located in a central position, with the other traps generally outside of it.

That trap known as Cabbage Tree, has accounted for 15 of the Weasels, 2 Stoats, and 4 Rats, the last one as of April 25.

Possibly the high number may be attributed to the very wet Summer-Autumn where the wetland core which is generally only damp under the Harakeke, Coprosma and Toe Toe associations is this year very wet, so perhaps there is a concentration moving around the dryer margins, however that is only a possible theory as equally the food abundance could be another contributing factor.

Ian Jensen.

Published in Issue 172
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 02:28

Trapping Vermin and Brexit

For those of us with access to habitat, trapping is one very positive way we can tip the odds in the favor of native birds. So why would Britain’s Brexit have anything to do with such important work?

The EU along with Russia and Canada signed up to AIHTS, the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. This binds all member states and Britain was, until Brexit, one of those. The AIHTS agreement is only based on commercial fur-bearing species, and none of the small vermin trapped by British gamekeepers has a commercial value. However stoats in some of those colder signatory countries are commercial when their pelts turn white in winter. These are then known as ermine. This fur has long been used to trim expensive royal robes and similar. While British stoats, (and their NZ descendants), will sometimes turn white, often it is usually only a partial change. So this species has little or no commercial value in Britain which has always imported the ermine it needs. However this collective AIHTS agreement means that Fenn and also body-grip traps, (known in NZ as Conibears), will shortly no longer be approved to catch stoats in the UK. They’re still perfectly legal for weasels and rats, but how do you keep a stoat out of a trapping tunnel set for one of the other species?

The AIHTS agreement might have already put paid to the Fenn and body-grip traps in the UK but Britain successfully negotiated a two year extension, (expiring July 2018), to allow authorities there to find and test suitable alternatives. Brexit also raises the possibility that common sense may again apply. Interestingly the DoC and Goodnature traps made here in NZ are among alternatives, albeit the weight, bulk and expense of these means they are not a direct replacement. But why would the Fenn trap, which has been the gold standard since 1959, fail to meet the new requirements?

Fenn traps work by breaking the backbone of an animal whereas DoC traps inflict a blow to the head. The latter is more or less instant death but the Fenn is sometimes less instant depending on how the animal is caught. In early Fenn trap trials inventor Alan Fenn determined that tunnel height is critical. The animal must not be thrown clear of the trap but must hit the roof and be held there while the traps closes on it. Nor can the tunnel be too low or the trap will expend its energy hitting the tunnel itself, (keeping in mind that the traps tends to jump perhaps 20mm when sprung off). Traps must be recessed and level with the ground and also snugged into the soil, so the animal enters the stable trap straight-on. If used in a wooden trap, the floor needs to be built up level with the trap plate to achieve the same direct animal orientation over the plate. Universal black plastic trap covers in NZ have always been made to fit the larger Mr6 Fenn, not the Mk4. So they are not at all ideal in any critical test. Lastly Fenn traps should be set fine not hard. It is not clear if any of these requirements were factored in to NZ humane trap testing. If just 1 in 20 animals fails to die instantly and takes a minute or so to clinically expire in a Fenn trap, the new standard is breeched. But were all 20 out of 20 traps set wrong?

In this country the stoat was introduced from the UK and also has no commercial value. It is however associated with the decline of many of our iconic native bird species including kiwi especially and also waterfowl. Brown teal, for instance, walk directly to their nest, (rather than fly), which soon leaves a trail that no stoat walking around a pond could miss. This species was one of our most common waterfowl in NZ but soon after the arrival of mustelids, (stoats, weasels and ferrets), their populations collapsed. To this must also be added the destruction of habitat and other factors, but clearly the welfare of stoats in NZ is probably not our highest priority. Or is it?

DoC have recently withdrawn all their thousands of Fenn traps from the field and replaced these with DoC 200, 250 and similar traps to meet new humane standards. Yet DoC use aerial 1080 poison in NZ on a massive scale. This can take up to 18 hours to kill a stoat even in ideal laboratory conditions, so it seems very odd that we should be concerned that 1 in 20 stoats might take a minute to be clinically dead in a steel trap. Perhaps being terribly concerned with traps is a way of offsetting apparent indifference about the wide scale use of aerial poisoning?

What all this means to us kiwis is that the future supply of Fenn traps from the UK is far from assured. This author has spoken to the manufacturer of them in Redditch, who obviously is a worried man. So it would seem that the NZ Government’s goal of a Predator Free NZ in 2050 is off to a very bad start if the standard tool of the British gamekeeper is about to become consigned to museums.

Whether the new DoC and Goodnature traps can be made to do the same job as the Fenn remains to be seen. But if using DoC traps, can I suggest that, if you want to keep playing the piano with a full compliment of fingers, be extremely careful and use the correct safety that should be supplied. At least one Department of Conservation worker was allegedly rushed to hospital having nearly bled-out but for the quick thinking of their work companion.

A tasty morsel.

It is reputed that the cook on Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ had a deal going with the ships cat. He’d let it in the ships hold to catch the rats there, which the chef would cook and eat the rear part of, the cat got the rest. On long voyages, this would have been the only fresh meat available and apparently he thought that with some pepper it tasted quite OK. So there’s an option… if meat is scarce.

John Dyer

Published in Issue 172
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