Trappers kill 784 pest animals
Matukituki Trust volunteers removed 784 pest animals from the West Matukituki Valley, in the Mt Aspiring National Park near Wanaka, in the 2016-17 trapping season ending in May.
The mostly Wanaka-based volunteers caught 95 stoats, 117 possums, two ferrets, 222 hedgohogs, 196 mice, 10 rabbits and 130 rats.
Twelve feral cats were also included in the count, according to the trust’s winter 2017 newsletter and report released on July 26.
The trust has 657 traps in the valley and because it was the first time volunteers had caught so many cats, the trust will install 40 cat-specific traps in the 2017-18 season.
‘‘Most [cats] are caught in standard live catch traps that have to be cleared every day. They are destroyed humanely with a 22, in the cage. That is the most humane way,’’ trust project manager Paul Hellebrekers said.
A Department of Conservation cat survey in May recorded low levels of feral cats in the valley but control was recommended.
The trust also helped the Department of Conservation with several projects, including installing a rab- bit proof fence near Cascade Hut.
The trust was established by Christchurch conservationists Gillian and Derek Crombie in 2013 and it is supported by several Wanakabased businesses.
The volunteers are now four years into a long term plan to restore the habitat and increase native flora and fauna in the valley.
They are clearing traps up to the snow line every six weeks over the winter, in preparation for the next trapping season.
‘‘There are some lines at the head of the valley we can’t do because they are covered in snow or too high to get to. We will do those in November,’’ Hellebrekers said.
In October, 100 traps of various types will be set near the Hells Gates, near the Otago Boys High School Lodge, to create a barrier to the entrance to the valley.
The trust is also supporting bird monitoring projects by Mainly Fauna Ltd, the Kea Conservation Trust and the Department of Conservation.
The trust has spent $100,000 on traps to date. It spent $37,000 on the project in the last season.
Volunteers donated more than 2600 hours to the trust last season and more than 5000 hours in total.