A day in the life of a DOC ranger

Department of Conservation —  25/08/2015

By Michelle Crouchley, Partnerships Ranger in Te Anau.

On a wet winter’s day, 33 hardy students from Fiordland College set out to discover what a day in the life of a DOC ranger in Fiordland might entail.

Fiordland College students being briefed by DOC rangers.

Students being briefed by DOC rangers

Ten students headed off to the Kepler Track to learn the art of track maintenance. Needless to say, this group came back covered in mud, but they had large smiles and some good stories to tell.

Another group spent the day at the Burwood Takahē Breeding Centre. They fed takahē in the morning then spent the afternoon furiously planting tussock in an attempt to outpace a looming storm.

Planting tussock at the Burwood Takahē Breeding Centre under gathering storm clouds.

Planting tussock at the Burwood Takahē Breeding Centre

Four other students joined the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary Ranger in making enrichment toys for the sanctuary’s family of kākā.

In the afternoon, the group headed out to the Wilderness Scientific Reserve to undertake wilding pine control. This quickly turned into a competition of who could spot the most pine saplings!

DOC ranger Pete McMurtrie led a group setting up a self-setting trap network and checking the cat traps in the Kepler area. They didn’t find any cats and, unfortunately, the cat that had been prepared for dissection earlier had failed to defrost enough. Such dissections are useful to understand a feral cat’s diet.

Replacement of stoat traps in the Eglinton Valley was the task tackled by ranger John Carter and four keen young men. The group worked hard but still managed to find time to take some hero shots along the way.

Fiordland College students in the Eglinton Valley.

Hero shot in the Eglinton Valley

Another group carried out social impact assessments at sites along the Milford Road. The Humboldt Falls were pumping as the group assessed the potential impacts on the site.

Some hearty debates were had in the car travelling between sites. These were not only on the management of the National Park, but also the impact the ranger’s tuna sandwiches were having on the students forced to eat lunch inside the car because of the rainy weather!

Another group, that started the day as muggles (non-geocachers), quickly learnt what geocaching was and tracked down some of the caches in the Te Anau area. They then headed along the Kepler Track, searching for spots to hide their own caches.

The innovative caches they created will be part of a National Geocaching Challenge being set up for this year’s Conservation Week.

Fiordland College students holding geocaches.

Finding the “Pull your boots on (Fiordland)” geocache

A group of student reporters were tasked with documenting the day’s activities. They spent their day chasing after the other groups who had dispersed to every corner of the Te Anau Basin, interviewing and photographing the rangers and students at work. They then wrote up an article for the local newspaper. There was lots of laughter at some comical moments caught on camera and an impromptu re-enactment of a student’s first time removing a dead rat from a trap.

In all, the day was a great success. One student, Emma Bell, said “This brilliant opportunity has completely opened a new world for me. I would definitely consider working for DOC in the future because I found track maintenance intriguing.”


The Ranger for a Day initiative was set up in 2012 by Caroline Carter to give senior students involved in Kids Restore the Kepler a chance to see what it takes to manage New Zealand’s largest National Park.