Two specially trained Department of Conservation (DOC) rodent dogs are working to help keep the pest-free islands of the eastern Bay of Islands clear of rats and mice.
Rodent dogs, Neela and Cody
Cody, a Fox terrier/ Border terrier X, who is a fully certified rodent dog, and Neela, a Blue Heeler in training on interim certification, are both part of DOC’s Conservation Dogs Programme. Both dogs and their handlers have been working on the pest-free islands from Urupukapuka to Motuarohia (Roberton Island) throughout the winter.
DOC Ranger Angela Newport (Cody’s handler) says, “Cody and Neela (handled by Andrew Blanshard, DOC Ranger) really earn their keep. Cody recently flushed out a female Norway rat that had either swum or stowed away in a boat and made it out to Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. The rat was later caught in a trap.”
Angela Newport (DOC rodent dog
handler) with Cody inspecting bags on
Otehei Bay wharf, Urupukapuka Island
Angela says, “Between January and September 2011 five Norway rats, two ship rats and one mouse have been caught on the islands. It’s really important that all the rats are trapped. We have a Norway rat DNA database against which we check the DNA of Norway rats we catch. This gives us some idea of where these animals are coming from. So far it appears that they are coming from somewhere along the eastern part of the mainland facing the islands. Knowing this helps us to concentrate our biosecurity efforts in that part of the Bay.”
Fleur Corbett (Chair, Guardians of the Bay of Islands, the community group behind Project Island Song) is full of praise for the rodent dogs. “Cody and Neela are a vital part of the islands’ defences. They are active across the islands as well as on the mainland. Their work ranges from checking boats and gear for rats to working with groups of party-goers going to concerts at Otehei Bay, as well as checking stores and supplies for the café in Otehei Bay. ExploreNZ has also got involved by having the dogs check out their vessels in the run-up to the new season.”
The public can help pests stay away from the islands too. Helen Ough Dealy (DOC Biosecurity Advocacy Ranger) says, “Before leaving the mainland, the public can help restore the islands by checking their gear and boat for stowaways - rats, mice and ants. And, when out in the Bay or on the islands having fun, keeping a good lookout. If any suspicious looking tracks on the beaches are seen, give DOC a call on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).”