24th April 2023
My name is Sean Robertson I’m originally from the southwest of England, I have been in NZ for 13 years and just over 12 in Queenstown.
For the last 12 years, I have been working out near Jacks Point for NZONE Skydive as a Parachute Packer. When I can I like to get out and about in nature, Hiking and Fishing, and I guess this is where I first started to notice all the trap lines across different parts of the country. This was difficult to ignore as it was something I wasn’t used to seeing on my usual trips out, back in the UK, and like most visitors over for the first time, I would get down and see if I could see what they were for. This intrigued me and as such, I did a little bit of research to find out what the purpose was behind them all.
And to be honest, that’s as far as my initial interest went. The launch of “Predator Free 2050” in 2016, did raise the issue again in the public eye and made me more aware of the bigger picture that the NZ government was trying to pursue. Sometime later on watched the amazing Documentary “Fight for the Wild” on TVNZ that again sparked my interest, but it was not until Covid hit and my work duties changed to include the upkeep and maintenance of our grounds and I actually started to see Stoats and Ferrets at work, that I finally decided to try and help and set up my own line at work. With the help of the Whakatipu Wildlife Trust, I gathered some information about setting up a line, covering things like trap choice and placement. I was also lucky enough to be given trap boxes made by local schools, some did need a bit of a tweak here and ther, but we got them up and running. Eventually ending up with a line of 20, Doc 200s aimed at Mustilids, Rats, and Hedgehogs and 4 Timms traps aimed at Possums.
Our area is a plot of land squeezed between Jacks Point Golf Course and the main highway heading south. It is mostly short-kept grass that we use for our Parachute Landing area and our Runway. It is surrounded on all sides by farmland used for both crops and grazing. Unfortunately, this type of grassy area is very pleasing to Rabbits who are not only a constant problem with their digging but also a constant source of food for the local Mustilid population which is why I believe I see them so often in the area. I also believe the surrounding land has a direct effect on the line, as when the surrounding land is cultivated and ploughed over, giving less cover up to our boundary the hits seem to drop. The Doc 200s are usually baited with eggs (when available) and frozen rabbit meat from the local collection freezer. These were quiet to start with, but there was a lot of human contact initially with the boxes and the fields were ploughed shortly after set up, but once the weather had been at them and the fields grew back we started to see results. The Timms traps have been baited with a few different options, Apples, Carrots, and Possum Dough often with some Peanut butter and Cinnamon added. These seemed to hit straight away but not with the possums they were aimed at but with Hedgehogs! In fact, Hedgehogs are our most common find in all the traps. We have recently had a bigger hit with the Ferrets and If I had not been on holiday and the traps had been checked and reset, I believe could have been a much higher number of results. Since I set up the line in October we have hit all our target species, Ferrets, Stoats, Weasels, Rats, Hedgehogs, and Possums. With also a few unexpected results including Rabbits, Starlings, a feral Cat, and most surprisingly to me, a Magpie in a Timms Trap!
At the moment I am the only member of staff interested in running the line and have unfortunately even had other staff members feeding feral Cats and Hedgehogs on site. I am trying to explain and change the perspective of others around me and I do understand how they feel. I grew up in the countryside and went out with friends who owned and raised Ferrets for hunting Rabbits, also the Hedgehog is a much loved and increasingly rarer animal in the UK. so suddenly targeting them did feel unnatural at first to me. So that’s also why I believe trying to educate and change opinions is also a big part of the plan moving forward for everyone in NZ.
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