Archives For rodent dogs

For winning What Now’s Ranger for a day prize, Christchurch’s ten year old Louis Harris got to go up to Auckland for the ultimate DOC experience.

Their feathers feel like hair with too much gel in it!

The adventure begins

Louis and his father Graham, met Biodiversity Ranger Hazel Speed and I at Auckland airport bright and early to begin the adventure.

The two-day trip involved a ride out to Motuora Island to help release three kiwi chicks with the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust; a night at Sandspit Holiday Park; and a day tracking takahē, checking up on tīeke eggs, and playing with rodent dogs on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands.

One cute chick!

It was a well-rounded ranger experience; there was some disappointment (not being able to find a takahē signal), some success (finding Motutapu Island’s first tīeke eggs), and some gross bits (having to put wet socks and shoes back on and trek through swampy grass). But it was all part of being a ranger!

Day one on Motuora was spent with members of the Motuora Restoration Society, exploring the island and learning about all the hard work that goes into keeping it safe and suitable for the kiwi (who were ultra cute and very well behaved). It had been pouring with rain (but had luckily stopped by the time we’d arrived) so the ground was a bit of a mess—this is where the gross bit fits in. Because of the 5 am start to get to Auckland in time, we were all exhausted by mid-afternoon.

From left to right, rangers Nick, Louis, Andrew and Hazel

On day two we ferried out to Rangitoto. “Welcome to my office,” Hazel told us when we arrived. All the tourists started walking and wandering around but, as rangers, we were met by Rangitoto staff Andrew and Nick, who had a DOC ute waiting for us. We were super-confused when Hazel said we were going to Motutapu (not knowing how close it was), and then amazed as we crossed the small bridge to a completely different landscape!

Andrew gave us a safety briefing and then away we went. Takahē hunting, track walking, hill climbing, trap checking, bush slipping, egg finding, photo taking—we did it all. And then it was time for lunch at the house with John Neilsen and his three rodent dogs (the first hedgehog dogs in New Zealand, and possibly the world!).

Trying hard to find a signal

Meeting the dogs

Louis, who’s always wanted to be a DOC ranger, thought at the start that he’d like to be a mountaineering/biodiversity ranger (with a focus on kea, his favourite native bird). However, after meeting John and his furry friends Tui, Polly and Iti toa (the four month old pup), he might be re-thinking his career aspirations.

“I think the highlight of the trip for Louis was the interaction with John’s dogs,” said Graham.

Peanut butter?

“Even though he has his own dog at home, there was something special about Johns’, especially [Iti] Toa,” he said.

After lunch (and a few games of catch) we crossed back to Rangitoto (about 10 degrees hotter because of the black scoria) and walked to the summit. Toa and John came too, while Hazel followed a tīeke pair around the crater to listen to their dialect.

Graham, Louis and I at the summit of Rangitoto

“Both Hazel and John’s passion and knowledge of their jobs was clear to see and we really enjoyed the time spent with them,” said Graham.

The competition was run by TV2’s What Now show and DOC during Conservation Week. To enter, children had to say why they loved New Zealand. Louis’ entry—the only video submission—stood out, with a lot of effort clearly involved.

It was a whirlwind couple of days out in the field (Louis even fell asleep halfway through day one!) but the little guy was up for anything and everything. With his enthusiasm and effort, he’d make a great future addition to the team as DOC’s first dog handling, mountaineering, kea specialist ranger!

Tui, Louis and Toa having a laugh

Every Monday 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.

This week we look at kiwi ranger and rodent dog handler, Miriam Ritchie:

At work:

Miriam Ritchie holding a kiwi

Name:  Miriam Robin Deans Ritchie

Job:  Kiwi ranger and rodent dog handler, Whangarei Area Office

Describe your role

I have two part-time roles: I monitor kiwi in the Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary to gather data for a long-term study of Northern North Island Brown Kiwi, and do some predator trapping within the sanctuary. I also do surveillance and monitoring of New Zealand’s offshore islands and rodent-free mainland sites with my certified rodent dog, Occi. 

Miriam with rodent dog, Occi

What kind of work /projects are you currently involved in?

I am currently removing transmitters from most of our adult kiwi sample as our project is undergoing a major change from intensive kiwi monitoring to a community relations/kiwi vs. dog advocacy campaign. I am also spending a bit of time with my dogs in the Bay of Islands working on Project Island Song, hunting down a trickle of invading rats that are threatening the potential rat-free status of the islands.

What led you to your current role in DOC?

Hard work, Raoul Island, persistence and taking opportunities.

Taking a helicopter ride to Three Kings Island

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Bush
  2. Coast 
  3. Freedom

Three pet peeves

  1. Injuries
  2. Being late
  3. People trying to run me over on my bike

Miriam and Occi

Getting personal:

What three things do you always have in your refrigerator?

  1. Some greenery
  2. Cooked rice
  3. A half-eaten avocado

What was your favourite birthday present as a kid?

My first pony—her name was Kindy, and I had her ’til she died at 27 years old.

Tell us about your 15 minutes of fame

Hah, I think that’s yet to come.

Miriam with 'rodent dog'

What is your dream holiday location or activity?

A chunk of swimmable coast, some hills to sweat up and some dogs to chase.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Plant things, garden, ride my bike and explore with my dogs.  

What was the most useful thing that somebody once told you?

I don’t think anyone told me this but with hard work and the will, you can do anything.

Name a book and movie you would recommend: 

Wouldn’t presume to be able to do that, people vary too much in what they like! Although…

Occi staying safe in his high visibility outfit

Book: John Salmon’s Native Trees of New Zealand, despite being a bit out of date now, is a great reference book for anyone who loves the bush. Movie: The Flying Scotsman. 

If there was a competition for best place in New Zealand where would get your vote?

North Cape, Cape Reinga, Cape Maria Van Diemen—the tippy top of Northland.

And if there was one native species that ruled them all, what would be your pick?

Maybe the Kauri, being from Northland and all. They are pretty awesome in every sense!