Deer­hunters an­gered by 1080 deaths

Hun­dreds of car­casses re­ported af­ter Molesworth drop to fight tu­ber­cu­lo­sis

Weekend Herald - - News - Kurt Bayer

A 1080 poi­son op­er­a­tion tar­get­ing pos­sums on New Zealand’s largest farm has an­gered hunters who fear it has need­lessly killed hun­dreds of red deer.

Deer hunters or­gan­ised an aerial sur­vey to count just how many of the deer were killed af­ter a 1080 drop in late Oc­to­ber to con­trol pos­sums on the his­toric 180,000- hectare Molesworth Sta­tion.

While the Marl­bor­ough branch of the New Zealand Deer­stalk­ers As­so­ci­a­tion said the data was still be­ing col­lated, with a fi­nal re­port still a month away, on­line hunt­ing fo­rums sug­gest as many as 345 red deer have been spot­ted ly­ing dead.

“There were cer­tainly dead deer seen,” said Wayne Smith, a com­mit­tee mem­ber of Deer­stalk­ers’ Marl­bor­ough branch, “and, from ob­ser­va­tions, not as many live deer run­ning around the hills as we would’ve ex­pected.”

The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, which owns the sta­tion and leases it to Land­corp Farm­ing Ltd, said it gave the gov­ern­ment- in­dus­try joint ven­ture Ospri per­mis­sion for the pest con­trol op­er­a­tions on pub­lic con­ser­va­tion land un­der its TBfree pro­gramme, which is de­signed to erad­i­cate bovine tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. Molesworth has a long his­tory with tu­ber­cu­lo­sis in­fec­tion in its cattle herd and wildlife, dat­ing to the 1960s.

Eight he­li­copters dropped toxic bait af­ter “sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment”, Ospri said.

“The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for pos­sum con­trol was com­pelling and also car­ried sig­nif­i­cant con­ser­va­tion ben­e­fits,” a spokesman said. “Ospri recog­nises that there is al­ways a risk of deer bykill as a re­sult of 1080 ap­pli­ca­tion for pest con­trol and i s com­mit­ted to work­ing with hunt­ing groups to min­imise the im­pacts on these pop­u­la­tions through tar­geted use of deer re­pel­lent.

“Al­though pos­sums are the main source of wildlife in­fec­tion, it is dif­fi­cult and costly to di­rectly de­tect TB in the pos­sum pop­u­la­tion it­self, be­cause the dis­ease of­ten only oc­curs in small pop­u­la­tion clus­ters.”

Of­fers by lo­cal hunters to shoot as many deer as pos­si­ble be­fore the 1080 drop were not taken up by the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, the Her­ald un­der­stands.

Ex­pe­ri­enced he­li­copter pi­lot Bill Hales, who has 40 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence as a wild an­i­mal re­cov­ery op­er­a­tor, was dis­ap­pointed by a “cry­ing shame of a wasted re­source”.

“Why not let us guys in there for three months be­fore you have a poi­son drop and har­vest the prod­uct? Why waste the re­source?” said Hales, who op­er­ates Alpine Springs He­li­copters from Han­mer Springs, a 3- minute flight from Molesworth.

“I un­der­stand the TB side of it, and the emo­tive side too, but com­mon­sense would be to say to us guys, ‘ Come and clean the deer up be­fore we poi­son them’. And they would get a full record of any TB in the deer be­cause they’re all pro­cessed.”

An­i­mal rights groups are op­posed to the use of 1080.

The Molesworth poi­son drop has also an­gered hunters on on­line fo­rums.

“345 dead deer counted plus a quan­tity of pigs & goats,” one poster wrote on the Fish­nHunt. co. nz fo­rum. “Ab­so­lutely crim­i­nal. To­tal waste of our prime game an­i­mals,” an­other replied. “Bloody dis­gust­ing to think that a prime red deer herd with the tro­phy po­ten­tial I’ve seen first hand will be all but wiped out,” said an­other.

The Deer­stalk­ers’ aerial sur­vey was car­ried out across two week­ends last month us­ing he­li­copters.

Smith said Molesworth was home to a sig­nif­i­cant red deer tro­phy herd.

“Af­ter 1080 poi­son drops, there’s a lot of anec­do­tal com­ment about how many deer have been killed, or not, and we thought it was time we stumped up and got a proper sci­en­tific sur­vey un­der­taken so we can ac­tu­ally talk with some author­ity on it once the re­sults are in,” Smith said.

The sur­vey i s ex­pected to cost NZDA Marl­bor­ough around $ 20,000.

Red deer can in­gest 1080 poi­son laid to erad­i­cate pos­sums.

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