The Department of Conservation’s Battle for our Birds pest control operation in the Waikaia Forest begins today.
The Waikaia operation in northern Southland is one of 22 confirmed operations that will use aerially applied 1080 over about 600,000 hectares of conservation land to knock down rising predator numbers fuelled by unusually heavy seeding in South Island beech forests.
The coordinated Battle for our Birds pest control programme is targeted to protect the most at-risk populations of mōhua/yellowhead, kākāriki/parakeet, kiwi, whio/blue duck, kea, kākā, rock wren, giant land snails and native bats at sites across the South Island.
The Waikaia operation will protect threatened mōhua populations along with long-tailed bats/pekapeka, robins/kakaruai, yellow-crowned parakeet/kākāriki, hectors tree daisy, large land snails and peripatis/velvet worms over just under 7000 hectares in the forest.
DOC Catlins services ranger Cheryl Pullar said monitoring results show significant silver beech seed-fall in the area and rapidly rising rat and mice numbers.
“Rodent numbers are already tracking towards levels that will trigger a stoat plague in the next few months—just as our most vulnerable species are nesting and trying to raise their young.
“If we don’t act now to knock back these predators, we could lose species such as mōhua and long-tailed bat from Waikaia.”
Today non-toxic cereal pellets laced will be applied to the treatment area, which encourages the pests to more readily eat the pellets. The toxic pellets, laced with the biodegradable poison 1080, will be spread across the target area during the next spell of clear weather.
Planning for about 30 Battle for our Birds pest control operations covering about 700,000 hectares of public conservation land, mostly in the South Island, has been underway since January following the prediction of a once in 15-20 year beech seeding event.
A close watch is being kept on six other target beech forest areas in South Westland, Southland and Fiordland to see whether rodent thresholds are also reached over the coming months and a pest control response is also required.
- The Waikaia pest control area has significant stands of beech forest and is home to a number of vulnerable species.
- The cereal baits will be sown at a rate of 1 kilogram per hectare using GPS-guided feeder systems. The poison content of the bait is about 1.5 grams per hectare.
- Aerial 1080 is an effective method of knocking down plague levels of rats and stoats (by secondary poisoning) following a beech mast (seeding), and also possums, before they overwhelm native birds and bats, which are particularly vulnerable during the breeding season and when roosting in holes in trees.
- Signs with information on the operation and public safety will be in place at the main entrance points to Piano Flat domain, the boundary of the treatment area, and private huts adjoining the Waikaia Forest Conservation Area. DOC staff will check tracks and huts in the area and will clear baits off tracks at the time of the 1080 operation.