Maz Taylor-Gregory shares with us a recent hunting adventure in the Kaweka Forest Park with her dad Mark.Continue Reading...
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Hunting for the Environment demonstrates that hunters and DOC often have the same goals and values in caring for and appreciating the environment.Continue Reading...
Greg Van Der Lee started life in DOC as a goat hunter. He now works in Hauraki as a Partnerships Ranger—engaging more people in conservation. Come behind the scenes and into Greg’s world…Continue Reading...
By Andy Thompson, Technical Advisor Recreation, Christchurch
As a passionate hunter I love exploring our backcountry—so much country, so little time!
The backcountry—its huts and tracks—are our inheritance.
For me, the places where I first took my kids on an overnight tramp, and where they shot their first deer or chamois, are ingrained into my character and our family’s folklore. It’s a legacy I want my grandkids and their grandkids to have.
I’m also one of the lucky DOC staff working with the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium, who are keen to look after and maintain New Zealand’s backcountry facilities.
My heroes are the people that go on major missions, who use these places and then choose, in their spare time, to put something back.
This isn’t about DOC shedding its responsibilities to look after backcountry huts, this is about doing more and looking after the places where many of us spend our holidays and weekends and enrich our lives.
So, if you’re a tramper, hunter, mountain biker, 4WDer, horse rider, caver, kayaker, mountaineer or more, and want to find out what we’re up to come check out the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium website.
by Kim Dawick
“Golly—that’s one huge chunk of Forest!’’ (Well, truth be told, I may have used a slightly different adjective, but you get the idea).
My view from the helicopter was daunting, but the idea of hunting this block entirely on foot was starting to hurt my knees just thinking about it. Luckily I knew I had a good team behind me willing to do their fair share…. You know that old saying “many hands make light work?’’ or something like that. I had to now convince myself the task was achievable and not let on to the hunters that we were in for a big job given the timeframe available.
Whareorino Forest lies 30 kilometres southwest of Te Kuiti and is the largest and one of the most significant forested areas in the western King Country. When you see it from the air it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by its size. It is dominated by the Herangi Range, a bluff system that would make most people produce an evil taste in their own mouth if faced with the challenge of climbing its sheer walls of loose flaky vertical rock and deceptive trees that give way as you use them to try to haul yourself up.
Whareorino features tawa, hinau, kamahi, rewarewa as well as podocarps and is particularly special for its range of vegetation—from coastal and lowland vegetation types to subalpine and montane. And it had a large number of goats eating everything they could!
To succeed in reducing goat numbers, over the past years various innovations have been progressively introduced by the PMs to gain any edge possible, enlisting technology not often associated with primal activities like hunting. Tools like GPS and GIS mapping allow the tracking and recording of the hunters and their kills, and when overlaid on a map it’s a very powerful tool which can show trends, check for gaps and identify hot spots to focus on more intently. But unfortunately, no matter how high-tech we get inside the office, the goats aren’t going to remove themselves from the forest. To do this we enlist our DOC rangers and contractors to ground hunt the area with dogs.
The hunters operate in the remote back country, often staying out there for 10 days at a time in order to get right back to those hard to reach places. If you want to catch a mountain goat, you’ve gotta be fitter than one! And our hunting team/s sure know how to do the hard yards!
So why are goats such a problem? Early on, European sailors chose to release small numbers of goats onto islands within the Pacific and this included New Zealand. This was done as a future food source for sailors in case they became ship wrecked, or decided to relocate there, as many of these islands had no mammals to eat. You could say that their thinking was quite ahead of its time (you could use a buzz word like “future proofing” or something like that to describe it), but in those days it was all about survival. There was no regard given for environmental effects and as you can see from the below photos of the same area before and after goat control, there certainly is an environmental cost to pay when there are goats in a forest.
But why did the sailors release goats—why not dairy cows or sheep? If you focus on the reason why goats were chosen, then you’ll soon start to understand the problem we face when trying to get rid of them. Goats are hardy, intelligent animals that can adapt to any extreme (deserts, jungles, mountains or islands). Goats are prolific breeders and will do so at an alarming rate—approximately a 40% net increase in population per year i.e. 20 goats will become 107 goats in the space of just five years if left uncontrolled!
If we were to look at Whareorino (one of six blocks hunted in 2012 by our Waikato staff hunters), 3,420 goats were shot. If no control was done, those 3,420 goats could have potentially become 18,393 goats after just five years! You can now see why the sailors released the small handfuls of goats they did eh? But food (native plants in our forests) is the governing factor, so it’s more likely that we’d end up with about half that number of goats as food starts to run out—but it would come at the cost of an absolutely denuded forest.
So you can clearly see that when it comes to goat control, doing nothing isn’t an option, but thankfully the Department of Conservation has several teams throughout New Zealand keeping things under control. After all there wouldn’t be much point carrying out any other conservation activities if there isn’t a forest for our icon species to inhabit.
It’s wallaby time of year again in South Canterbury! The 22nd annual South Canterbury Recreational Sportsmans Club wallaby hunt was held 16 – 18 March.
The club has run an annual wallaby hunt since 1991. Waimate is known as the wallaby capital, but entrants in the SCRSC wallaby hunting competition hunt throughout the Hunters Hills and Mount Dobson area. 2008 was a particularly bumper year for the competition, with 2000 wallabies shot over one weekend. How many were shot in 2012? We don’t know yet, but we’d love to hear from you if you were there! What was your tally?
A tale (tail) of three wallaby
Before people arrived in New Zealand, the only native mammals were three species of bat and eight species of seal and sea lion. Our first peoples brought kiore (Pacific rats) and kurī (Polynesian dogs). European settlers introduced a huge range of creatures, including seven species of wallaby.
The Waimate kind – red necked (or Bennett’s) wallaby – were brought here by Michael Studholme, the first European settler in the district in the early 1870s. He released two females and one male, which in 1874 bounced off into the Hunters Hills, where their descendants have been breeding ever since.
On occasion, they have extended their range into areas south of the Waitaki River and into the Mackenzie Basin. International tourists have been known to report being surprised to see a ‘giant rat’ on the Two Thumb Range! Wallaby have even become a bit of a road hazard around the place as they look for their next meal. You may see their distinctive calling card on the hillsides (and we don’t just mean the chewed up vegetation!)
Unfortunately, they cause a lot of damage on public and private land, so they are in the sights of landowners, the regional council and DOC! So it is great to see recreational hunters actively targeting wallabies through this event.
If you missed the competition, there’s always next year. But in the meantime, you can still set your sights our way.
Some ‘hot spots’ for red-neck ‘roos are:
- The headwaters of the Pareora Catchment, Kaumira Conservation Area
- Hook and Gunn’s Bush
- Firewood Stream, Mt Dobson Conservation Area
Don’t forget to:
- Check out the DOC website for other places to hunt wallaby
- Get your hunting permit online
- Contact the Raukapuka Area Office if you have any questions
P.S. Tried the famous Waimate wallaby pie?
Want to venture further into culinary wilderness? Here’s links to three recipes for mouth-watering wallaby:
Every Friday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.
Today we profile Opotiki ranger James (Hemi) Barsdell…
Name: James (Hemi) Barsdell
Position: Biodiversity Assets Ranger (with a bit of other stuff too!).
What kind of things do you do in your role?
Monitor weka, enhance shorebird breeding, work with the many dedicated community groups in the eastern Bay of Plenty, compliance work, fire fighting and whatever else needs doing.
What is the best part about your job?
The people and the environment.
What is the hardest part about your job?
Although I haven’t done this for a wee while now (as my increasing waist line can attest), lumping loads of gear throughout the hills. Oh and dealing with irate whitebaiters.
What was your highlight from the month just gone?
An acknowledgement for the ‘Volunteer Smoko’ I helped organise with the local and regional councils to thank the eastern Bay of Plenty conservation volunteers for their great efforts in the past year. The event gave each group a chance to show case what they do and to network with each other. From the feedback we received it sounds like it might become an annual event!
The rule of three…
Three pet peeves
- Being late
- Forgetting stuff
- “Gonnas” (if you don’t know what this means, someone else will)
Three things always in your fridge
Not very exciting here…
- The one year old half-eaten jar of pickles
Three favourite places in New Zealand
Favourite movie, album, book
- Movie – The Shawshank Redemption
- Album – The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
- Book – Pack and Rifle by Phillip Holden
Deep and meaningful…
What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?
Think smart and slow down. Faster is not necessarily better.
Who or what inspires you and why?
People who, against all odds, become successful or break the mould; and sunset or sunrise viewed from on top of a high hill.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A helicopter pilot.
And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?
If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?
A New Zealand falcon, so I could enjoy the rush of tearing through the air at unbelievable speeds chasing prey.
What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?
Get active and get involved. New Zealand’s native flora and fauna is a big part of what sets us apart from other countries—it is part of our identity. We need to ensure we maintain our heritage for the future.