Pest Control Group meeting

The pest control group met recently to review the first 6 months of pest control. This control is carried out by WETA, a pest control company and is funded by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council with support from the Poutiri Project.

The aim of the control programme is to control the high level pests, ferrets, stoats and cats which are the main predators of the native birds and insects. We are fortunate that other agencies or groups are controlling possums, goats, deer and pigs.

A major driver is to devise and test a pest control programme that is effective over the range of land use that is within the project’s pest control footprint and by that we mean; sheep and beef farming, production forestry, dairying as well as conservation lands. This control must work in synergy with the land use operations as well as be effective and affordable. No small challenge.

An initial area of 8000 hectares was laid out with over 800 kill traps and has been in operation since December 2011.  However other adjoining landowners have asked if they can be involved and the area has already grown by another 800 hectares. To date we have killed 61 ferrets, 35 stoats 40 feral cats and rather surprisingly 248 hedgehogs

One of the other drivers was to be innovative and test new initiatives as well as seek ways of reducing the cost per hectare to a point where it would become feasible for interested landowners to replicate.

The biggest single cost of ongoing pest control is the labour required to check the traps and therefore a focus of the programme has been to seek ways of reducing the labour content.

Strange as it may seem one option was to compare baited with unbaited traps. Other trapping programmes around the country have indicated that stoats and ferrets can be attracted to traps in tunnels without bait. However over the past 6 months the indication is that we are 3 times more likely to catch cats in baited traps. The figures for stoats and ferrets were not as conclusive but the data is clear that baited is best.

So with out of the way we are now considering trialling a long life lure that comes in liquid form and slowly drips from a container emitting a smell that will attract pests and will last for up to  12 months. The advantage of this is we won’t have to keep rebaiting with the usual bait of fresh meat and eggs.

We will have every second trap baited with conventional baits while the others with the new experimental lure. Because we have such a high number of bait stations we can demonstrate statistical difference in a comparatively short time. Other innovations being considered also include audio and visual lures but more about them later on.

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