Pest control “Up the Valley”
Rabbits, possums and goats all feed on native flora while cats and mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels) are by choice, fauna feeders. There is little point in attempting a restoration project without controlling these pests.
We are fortunate that at the present time there is a monitoring programme in place within the reserve for some of these pests. Unfortunately animals do not recognize boundaries but roam in the search for food over a considerable distance. It is believed that cats will cover up to 15 km in a night!
For this reason we need to recognize the work in pest reduction that is carried out by private land owners and “neighbours” from up the valley in helping to protect Mangemangeroa Reserve.
Simon and Morag Fordham and Linden and Mike Johnson are two families who take an active role in this pest control. Morag assures me it is Mike who is the motivator!
Linden in 1998 recognised that there was a huge problem and with her family began a serious attempt to reduce pests. She recounted how in 1998, in a tree in the Upper Mangemangeroa valley they counted 23 possums! A little further along, they spotted 2 stoats up one tree. At this stage the family were keen shooters with daughter, Anthea being an excellent shot. They begun “hunting possums”.
The following year they approached Bruce Frazer, from ARC. Bruce proved an excellent guide with a wealth of knowledge on “pest habits”. According to Bruce (as retold by Linden) possums leave their burrow “early evening, toilet, eat and for 2/3 of the night spend their time grooming their fur” They are extremely fussy about the condition of their fur, and will go to great lengths to keep it clean. Therefore, they prefer to travel along ridges, and clear paths, rather than venturing along the valley bottoms. Being lazy climbers they use their two front teeth, as well as their claws to help pull themselves up the tree trunks, leaving a distinctive pattern of marks. Bruce showed Linden and her family how to recognize the signs of possum activity. Linden’s enthusiasm for pest eradication was such that she was thrilled when husband Mike presented her with her Christmas present, a Timms trap!
Since 1998 over 1000 possums have been shot and trapped and an unknown number poisoned in a pest eradication campaign. All have been ‘silver greys’ which were introduced from NSW, Australia.
Goats too have been a problem, in particular the King fern in the valley was heavily attacked. Morag recalled that in the 2001/2002 season six goats were shot from her bedroom window. Bruce and his team later did a marvelous job eradicating more feral goats from this area.
Probably the most significant change seen by the landowners was when the rats (both Norwegian and black) were poisoned and thousands of seedlings erupted from the forest duff. To maintain low rat populations, Linden and Mike have nineteen bait stations and use six traps in strategic locations set in the upper Mangemangeroa valley. These are rebaited every month from approximately September to February when rats and mice are breeding rapidly. After the very first baiting the smell from dead rats along the stream bed was stifling. Now that spring is here and the rats are “on the move” these bait stations will be laid again.
Two ferrets have been caught in the lower part of the valley and one in the upper part. Because of the country atmosphere at the top of the valley unwanted animals such as cats, rabbits and poultry are dumped by uncaring owners. Included in this list are two roosters who maintain court on the roadside.
At present the rabbit population remains in the head of the valley, but their numbers are increasing.
Lastly mynah, magpies and rooks are about. The ARC would like to eradicate the pair of rooks. If you see them please report the sighting to the ARC. If unsure about identification use: http://www.nzbirds.com/Rook.html