The Milson Scout Troop of Palmerston North are on board with the Predator Free 2050 challenge. The group of Scouts, aged 10-14, are getting stuck in to ridding invasive predators from the Manawatu Gorge.
Early last year the Scout Troop were awarded DOC Community Funding to start a predator trapping project in the Northern Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve. The Manawatu Gorge is dramatically divided into two by the Manawatu River; and in the past the majority of animal pest control has been focused on the Southern side of the Gorge. The Scouts saw an opportunity to not only rid the Northern Manawatu Gorge of animal pests, thereby helping protect the bird and insect populations, but also to get more young people involved in conservation and connected with their environment.
The funding the Scouts received was for $5,000. They brought thirty DOC 200 stoat traps, five A24 rat traps, five A12 possum traps, and with that the 20 hectare Predator Free 2050 Northern Manawatu Gorge Predator Trapping Project came into existence. Twelve months, 94 rats, 14 stoats, a few possums and a couple of hedgehogs later is a great time to reflect on the success of this project thus far.
There is no public access to Northern side of the Gorge, so when the project started Scout Troop leader Andrew Mercer was excited to show the Scouts a different area to what they’d experience from the walking tracks (all on the Southern side of the Gorge). Twenty-seven Scouts and their families have now been involved in deploying and checking traps.
The Scouts are encouraged to lead the work, which is a great way for them to learn. Doing the traps isn’t a “walk in the park”, the traps are all off trail; the Scouts navigate their way between them without the aid of cut tracks. There have been some minor scrapes, tumbles, and scratches, with undulating terrain, bush lawyer and stinging nettle being the main culprits. A wasp nest at one trap set everyone scrambling in different directions, with a few stings to compare from the experience.
They have had some help along the way; the Manawatu Menz Shed built the tunnels for their traps, and the project could not have started without the encouragement of landowner Graeme Bolton, whose farm the Scouts cross to access their traps.
In December the Scouts deployed several acoustic recording devices across the block for one week. They will use this data as a base line for what birds were present around the start of their project. They can compare this with recordings in the future. While it was deployed, rats so severely chewed one recorder it needed to be sent to Wellington for replacement parts; this certainly highlighted the need for rat trapping in this area!
The Scouts have also put out six wētā motels. Having wētā present in the hotels will help inform them that their trapping is working. No wētā have been spotted yet but the Scouts reckon it’s just a matter of time until they are.
In the six months the traps have been in place they’ve caught a lot of rats (94). They also recently started catching stoats, with the May 2018 trap check totaling nine stoats!
With their efforts evident in the results, the Milson Scout Troop have started as they mean to continue. They plan to keep up their diligent monthly checking and clearing of the traps. They have applied to Horizons Regional Council for funds to add more DOC 200 traps to increase their project area. And of course, they’ll continue to look forward to a well-earned ice cream stop on the way home.
Predator Free 2050
Predator Free 2050 is an ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators — possums, stoats and rats. Going predator free will bring us a huge range of environmental, cultural, social and economic benefits. Find out more on our website.