Deerhunters angered by 1080 deaths
Hundreds of carcasses reported after Molesworth drop to fight tuberculosis
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.