Introduction

DOC has ‘kea proofed’ hundreds of boxed stoat traps in the Murchison Mountains this summer following an unusual spate of kea interference with traps there.

Date:  05 February 2016

Routine checks over recent months have revealed a new level of kea damage to traps in the southern part of the takahē management area. This included kea breaking into a number of boxes and resulted in seven birds being killed in stoat traps. 

DOC senior ranger George Ledgard says the traps are housed in solid wooden boxes to deter kea but some birds gouged out the lid screws and prised the lids open to get to the egg and meat bait inside. 

The birds also dug up the trap footings and rolled traps downhill, sometimes over bluffs and into lake Te Anau. 

“Kea are naturally inquisitive and have meddled with traps in the Murchison Mountains before but this type of damage is new.

“We’ve modified the traps previously but these incidents have required us to design and fit a new bracket to stop the trap boxes from being opened,” says George Ledgard. 

Over summer about 700 traps have been upgraded with longer screws and a specially designed bracket to keep the lids in place.  

A wider trap check throughout the management area completed in past weeks confirmed no other kea had been caught in traps. 

“It appears that young kea in this particular area worked out how to prise open the traps with unfortunate consequences,” says George Ledgard.  

“However, we’re confident the upgraded boxes will now keep kea out of the traps.” 

With more groups doing pest control in areas where kea live, DOC and the Kea Conservation Trust are keen to hear from anyone using traps where kea damage has been an issue or where kea have been inadvertently caught or killed. 

Kea Conservation Trust Chairperson Tamsin Orr-Walker says: “It’s important that people are vigilant in reporting kea injuries and deaths in traps so we can better understand risks to kea and share the latest ‘kea proofing’ advice and developments."

The Murchison Mountain trap network protects New Zealand’s only remnant wild population of takahē from stoats and consists of 3,500 double trap boxes over the 50,000-hectare area. This was extended by a third in the 2014 Battle for our Birds programme in response to a stoat plague and since then no monitored takahē have been killed by stoats. 

An observed increase of young kea within the takahē management area in recent years indicates kea are also benefitting from stoat protection.

Background information 

Kea are a mountain parrot found in alpine and forest areas throughout the South Island. The size of the population is unknown but is estimated at between 1,000 and 5,000 and its conservation status is ‘at risk’. Kea nest on the ground and are particularly vulnerable to being preyed on by stoats and possums.

Kea have interfered with trap boxes in the Murchison Mountains and other areas in the past and the occasional bird has been killed. DOC has made a number of modifications to trap boxes over the years to keep kea safe including adding stamped stainless steel ends, reinforcing bar footings and features to prevent kea from getting through the holes for stoats. 

Report any kea injuries or deaths in traps to your local DOC office or the Kea Conservation Trust:

Contact

For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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