Date: 09 September 2016
The Department of Conservation has today started its Battle for our Birds predator control in Kahurangi National Park to protect native wildlife from rats and stoats.
The predator control is aimed at protecting populations of whio/blue duck, great spotted kiwi, kea, kākā, rock wren/tuke, Powelliphanta snails and long-tailed bats/pekapeka.
Monitoring has shown rat numbers at high levels over much of Kahurangi due to beech seedfall providing more food. With more rodents to feed on, stoat numbers then surge.
Aerial 1080 predator control will target rats to knock down their numbers. Stoat numbers are reduced through their eating poisoned rodent carcasses. Possums will also be targeted in some western areas.
The Kahurangi predator control is the largest operation in DOC’s 2016 national Battle for our Birds programme and is planned to cover approximately 295,000 hectares of the park and other conservation land. The pest control will be carried out in stages across the operational area as weather conditions allow.
It begins with aerial application of non-toxic baits to encourage rats and possums to eat baits containing biodegradable 1080 pesticide that will be aerially-applied some days later.
DOC Motueka Operations Manager Chris Golding said the pest control was being timed to prevent increased predator attacks on nesting native birds so more chicks could survive to increase their populations.
“Monitoring has shown rock wren and kea in Kahurangi National Park had greater nesting success following aerial 1080 predator control in 2014 compared to areas without it. Pest control that year was also carried out to curb rat and stoat plagues following a heavy beech seed fall.”
In the 2014-15 breeding season, monitored rock wren at two pest control sites raised three times more chicks than at a comparison site in the park with no pest control. The following breeding season, 2015-16, the rock wren in the 1080 area produced five times more offspring than the birds in the comparison area.
In the 2015-16 breeding season, 27% of monitored kea nests in the pest control area were successful in fledging chicks. This can be compared to monitoring of kea nests in areas without pest control from 2009 to 2014 which found only 2% of the nests were successful.
At the request of the New Zealander Deerstalkers’ Association and Game Animal Council, deer repellent will be used in 1080 cereal baits in part of the park that is a valued hunting area. It includes part of the Cobb Valley and the Peat Valley, Deep Creek, Tableland and Lower Junction areas.
When aerial 1080 bait application takes place in an area of the park, some track and road closures will occur in that area. Sections of track in the pest control area, including parts of the Heaphy Track, will be closed for half to a full day and will reopen after DOC staff have cleared baits from tracks. Road closures will occur on the Cobb Road, Wangapeka River Road and McCallums Mill Road during bait distribution in those areas of the park.
DOC’s national Battle for our Birds programme will see rodents, stoats and possums controlled by aerially-applied 1080 baits over 24 priority conservation areas over about 810,000 hectares. This will be supported by ground control methods such as traps and poison bait stations over about 70,000 hectares.
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