Trap­pers kill 784 pest an­i­mals

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS - MAR­JORIE COOK

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.

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