Two trappers are promising places in a fight they know they can win.
West Otago farmer Ken Munro took responsibility for protecting native birds by laying pest traps on two Tapanui tracks six years ago with the help of Blue Mountain College (BMC).
‘‘We catch 50 to 60 stoats and mainly rats per year and the odd ferret,’’ Mr Munro said.
‘‘We’re seeing more tui, bellbirds, kereru, riflemen, shining cuckoo, yellowheads, grey warbler, and there may be bats and kaka up here. Every predator we remove helps them.
‘‘We manage a trap about every 200m along Whisky Gully (10 traps, 2km), and Black Gully (14 traps, 2.4km). It takes two or three hours to check a trap-line in the fresh air and beautiful scenery, so it’s a great exercise for anyone and especially useful to young people who might be doing a programme like the Duke of Edinburgh awards.’’
Bird and cat-proof box-traps with spring loaded, instant-kill devices are baited with eggs and blood-mix and only need to be checked once a fortnight.
Trappers hold a permit from the Department of Conservation (Doc) and supply almost all their own traps.
‘‘A new trap can cost $90, but we have enough due to generous support (from local businesses and organisations) and a fundraising quiz that makes up to $700 every year,’’ Mr Munro said.
He has had help from 10 BMC students over the years and was joined by friend Craig Tomsett this year.
‘‘We know it works because if you go somewhere like Hollyford or Hokonui that’s been trapping for 20 years, the native birdlife has exploded.
‘‘The morning birdsong is incredible, almost deafening,’’ Mr Tomsett said.
‘‘I’d really like to hear that here and see the birds spill over into Tapanui.’’
Doc’s goal of ‘‘predator free NZ by 2050’’ is counting on developing drone and genetic technology, but traditional trappers are at the frontline, and the fight for native bird species can always use more volunteers.
‘‘Most of our student-helpers used the experience to get Duke of Edinburgh gold awards, but this is something healthy and constructive anybody can get involved in,’’ Mr Munro said.
‘‘All you have to do is contact a local Information Centre or Doc and they can tell you where to join in or make a start.’’