The number of whio in the Tongariro catchment is growing, thanks to a recovery plan run by the Department
of Conservation from 2009 to 2019 and groups of volunteers who monitor hundreds of traps in the region.
Two Taupō Fishing Club members and dedicated trappers Chris Pritt – the sister of DU Patron Di Pritt – and Lesley Hosking are been doing their bit on the upper reaches of the Hinemaiaia River. Lesley says, "We have trapped mostly rats and other predators on the upper Hinemaiaia River for more than two years, starting in August 2018 with only eight trap stations. We now check 42 traps every week – these are 36 box traps with DOC 200 trap mechanisms and 8 Goodnature A12 or A24 gas operated traps.
"We took over this part of the river to assist and free up David Cade (aka Didymo Dave) who started the trapping with the aim of getting the native birdlife to flourish again. He now traps further upstream on a regular basis while we patrol the well-worn fishing tracks and three car parks."
Didymo Dave has been trapping on the Hinemaiaia for 10 years and in 2019 caught his 1000th rat. "To date we have trapped 328 predators which include hundreds of rats and mice, four weasels, two stoats, and one possum, which was in the DOC 200 trap," Lesley says.
Pic's Peanut Butter is their bait of choice and they use about 5kg every six weeks. The peanut butter is waste from the Pic's factory which sells it at a reduced price on the Predator Free website. It is not edible as it has a greenish additive.
"By trapping so rigorously, we now have the reward of seeing North Island robin, tomtits, kereru, fantails, tui, bellbirds, whiteheads, and two whio have moved in near Car Park 3; we hope they will mate and there will be more whio. The pair seem overly friendly and we think perhaps they have originated from the Tūrangi whio raising enclosure," Lesley says.
Lesley and Chris are unsure if the whio nested this season but say they have taken up residence on the far side of the river where there are no fishing tracks.
The Taupō Fishing Club originally became involved in vermin trapping because its members were sick of rats chewing newly caught trout laid out on the riverbank while they continued fishing.
The two women fish two or three days a week on Flaxy Lakes, the Tongariro River and river delta, Waimarino River mouth, and in summer, they boat fish on Lake Taupō.
In January, their volunteer work was nationally recognised by the New Zealand Sports Fishing Council which awarded Lesley and Chris its 2020 Volunteers of the Year award.
As well as their trapping work, the pair worked together to save the Taupō Fishing Club when it was facing physical, financial and administrative collapse.
Club president Shirley Fraser says, “Our clubrooms were in desperate need of maintenance after having been neglected for years. Extensive rat damage had resulted in major water damage."
The building was collapsing and needed repainting, the roof needed repairing and guttering, wiring, and plumbing needed replacing.
“Not only did they do much of the prep work, painting, cleaning and so on, they organised quotes, oversaw the tradesmen and brought the project in under budget. Now the rooms are a pleasure to call ours.”
Lesley and Chris also took on the job of implementing a new administration system and overhauling the club finances and reporting systems.
Not an exact science – but getting better.
It never ceases to amaze me a the continuing number of predators/pests that are dispatched on a yearly basis at “The Patch”, a western coastal wetland an dune property, southern North Island where I have lived for 27 years.
For a number of years we did not record the numbers dispatched, albeit with one Tims trap early on we did account for around 35 ferrets over three years.
However in February of 2008, a record was started. To date that list, which is compiled from mainly pests that my dogs find with others like the hares that keen hunters dispatch and me on a wasp run over the summers read like this: 301 hedgehogs, 131 hares, 37 possums, 40 wasp nests, 4 stoats/weasels, 1 ferret and 10 “others” mice, rats etc. I also run five bait stations for rats/mice.
In May 2009, with the appreciated assistance of Greater Wellington Regional Council, a number of DoC 200 traps were provided to me and other adjacent wetland owners. I have six of the traps here, located mainly around the wetland areas of the property. In the time since they have accounted for an additional 75 hedgehogs, 80 stoats/weasels, with weasels being the predominate catch, 2 ferrets, 46 rats, 15 mice, a grand total since February 2008 of 742 ‘items’.
Of note, we have not found/shot a possum for over three years, albeit recently during an ‘agency’ initiative three were accounted for on a neighbouring property. What we have found though is that after a run of catching mustelids, the rat numbers go up for a bit an lately the hare count has been high, 17 in four weeks and eight on the run sighted on afternoon. We do consider that bird number, particularly pheasants have increased over recent years. With the ducks it is harder to make a comparison as water levels also pay a very important part in their survival due to hawks and pukeko.
For my traps I use the juice from Sardines in spring water. I have a small sealed container kept in the fridge, when I have about three to four lots combined it is enough to do a round, once every three months is enough. It is easy to drip into the trap box. I aim for under the treadle plate or down the side of the box past the treadle plate, no need to open the trap as it can be tilted up.
The lead into the traps is bare, I have found that keeping this sprayed is best, and also the area around the trap as I consider it allows the breeze to whisk the smell away over the wider area. Note the trap with the hedgehog is has been used extensively by blackbirds to crack snail shells on. Snail juice stains the trap top and snail shells litter the surrounds. One negative of this is that activity by the blackbirds sometimes sets the trap off.
While we now trap very few ferrets, one - an albino is in the photo, also had another earlier in the year. I keep the traps located just inside a fenced margin, firstly just far enough in so that inquisitive stock don’t set it off, but I also consider that the mustelids do run the margins so the traps are located in that zone. I did widen out the mesh openings to the traps from 3 x 3 squares to 4 x 4 as I found we were not catching big hedgehogs – which we do now.
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.
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.
No 1: Velvertleaf.
As of Wednesday April 20, Velvetleaf had been confirmed on 196 properties in 11 regions of New Zealand. This number is expected to increase as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) continue to visit properties in Otago and Southland known to have planted the Kyros or Bangor fodder beet varieties.
More and more unwanted problems and pests are invading out lovely country. We need to be alert and make sure caring people like Ducks Unlimited members keep a look out for problems.
Velvetleaf is one of the world’s worst cropping weeds and it is just about everywhere fodder beet has been planted this season.
Velvertleaf is an annual board leafed herb that grows up to 2.5m tall. It has large heart shaped leaves, velverty to the touch. It flowers from spring through to autumn with yellow flowers about 3cm across.
It crows in crops, if you think it might be on your place contact Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) 0800 08 99 66. Advice it not to pull up the plants but contact MPI.
No 2: Honeybees.
Our little helpers are in danger of memory deficits and learning. Even low levels of pesticide can harm the bees. It means they lose the ability to recall odours and worse they lose their odour-learning abilities.
Bees rely on memory to target flowers, but exposure to various sprays appears to be stunting their effectiveness as nectar foragers and pollinators.
Researchers at Otago University tested bees from 51 hives at 17 sites in Otago and tested their pesticide chlorphyrifos levels. Low levels of the pesticide were found in bees at three ofthe sites.
In 2013 the team from Otago’s Department of Chemistry showed chlorpyrifos was detectable in air, water and plant samples, and even in non-sprayed areas as it had a high ability to volatilise and travel great distances.
Most uses of the chemical have been banned in Britain since April 1 this year.
No 3: Blackgrass.
Now there is Blackgrass. It was detected during routine sampling of rye grass seed in Canterbury in February.
It seems to be an isolated incident, but farmers should stay alert and are urged that a thorough investigation should be undertaken to trace all potentially contaminated material.
Blackgrass is an invasive plant that is difficult to contain once it spreads. It competes with winter crops for light, nutrients, space and water, resulting in yield loss and increased cultivation costs that could be potentially devastating to the New Zealand Arable Industry.