Archives For Traps

We’ve been trapping rats and mice for quite a while now here at DOC, so we know a thing or two about how to catch them. Here are our top tips for backyard trapping.

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It’s Conservation Week from the 14th – 22nd of October. You can get involved by protecting the native species in your neighborhood with a backyard trap.

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Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Nic Gorman, Research Technician based in Hamilton.

At work

Some things I do in my job include… acting as a link between our field team scattered around the country, and the project leader sitting at the desk beside mine. So that mainly entails getting traps and other equipment to where they’re needed, collating and auditing the data coming in, and doing what I can to keep the people at both ends of the equation happy.

Unfortunately we went and hired a very capable group for our field team, so it’s not that often that I get dragged out of the office to help them out in person.

Nic holding a falcon at Wingspan in Rotorua.

In my ‘happy place’, meeting Atareta at the Wingspan Trust, Rotorua

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… keeping the Department up to pace with the latest developments in pest control technology, figuring out if these things are of use to us and if so in what scenarios, and further extending the range of tools we have available to us in the battle against the pests.

The best bit about my job is… being involved when what could potentially be the next big step-up in ground-based predator control hits the ground. It is pretty exciting (and a thought that helps me get through the most stressful days). Also, getting to know the great bunch of people who have been out there doing the groundwork for us, both the current team and their various predecessors.

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… any time spent sitting under a pair of kōkako singing at full blast is right up there.

One time that particularly sticks in my memory is a morning I had a volunteer in tow. A few minutes into the song peak he pulled out his phone, rang his disabled sister, and just quietly said, “listen to this”.

I’m glad to have been part of someone experiencing something that she probably would never be able to otherwise. Actually I’m choking up a bit just remembering that….

(This, by the way, is not an open invitation for anyone to ever ring me at that time of the morning, whatever it is that you’re listening to at the time!)

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… this is the hard one, when just about everyone I’ve met through work has been inspirational in some way. But someone who personifies all the great things about the people who work for the Department is Pete Livingstone, over at Opotiki. He’s someone who has all the knowledge and field nous you’d expect of someone who’s spent a big chunk of their life in the forest, is always keen to upskill with the latest science-driven field techniques, just quietly gets things done whatever life and the environment throws in the way… and so damn humble that he’ll be hating me for singling him out like this!

Nic impersonating a pirate at the Benneydale Research Station.

Working at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station duties included nest-finding, 4WD testing, rat control and even pirate impersonation

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is Buffalo by the Phoenix Foundation, the bounciness of the song more than makes up for the slight biological inaccuracy of the lyrics. Actually pretty much anything by those guys will do the trick.

My best ever holiday was probably my most recent one, an all-too-short trip to New Caledonia late last year, avoiding resorts and trying to get a bit more face-to-face with the place. I got to indulge in all my favourite things, good food, wildlife spotting, orienteering, and while I arrived with little or no expectations, by the time I left I was starting to plot my next visit.

My greatest sporting moment? There’s a handful of age-class national orienteering titles I could point to, but I’m actually prouder of the few years I somehow got myself fit enough to race against the big boys at the elite level (note that I don’t say ‘compete’ at the elite level) and gained a whole new appreciation of just how quick these guys are in the terrain.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be a kākā. Anything that flies would be good, but I’ve always had the impression watching our parrots, that more so than any other birds they’re fully aware just how cool it is being airborne. They have fun with it! And I’m more of a forest guy than a mountain guy, so kākā it is.

Nic face to face with a kagu bird.

Face to face with the kagu, Parc Riviere Bleue, New Caledonia

Before working at DOC in this role, there were many years on the conservation biology contracting circuit working for DOC, regional councils, universities and the like, in mostly, but not always, field-based roles. Everything from operating traplines in the Mackenzie Country, hauling sugar water up Kapiti Island for the benefit of hihi, editing Regional Park resource documents, and most recently running the field operations of a Massey University research programme looking into the ecology of forest remnants in an otherwise modified landscape. It’s fascinating every Friday reading of the different pathways people have taken to DOC, and I feel a bit dull by comparison, but I guess I’m lucky to have almost always been doing what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is “You cannot reason somebody out of a position they did not reason themselves into” – Mark Twain, I believe. It’s almost as if he anticipated the internet as a forum for ‘debate’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is that sometimes it’s a good idea to pay attention when people are handing out advice. Unfortunately I can’t attribute this to anyone in particular, I just have this vague sense that somebody has probably told me this at some point.

Nic robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station.

Robin tracking at the Massey University Benneydale Research Station

In work and life I am motivated by the idea of making a difference.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is to get out there in amongst nature, discover what we’ve got, and the chances are you’ll enjoy it enough that you’ll then want to look into how you can contribute to keeping it.

Ahuriri Valley.

Whenever I start feeling desk-bound and thinking about the things I miss about fieldwork, those delightful spring afternoons in the Ahuriri Valley are usually up near the top of the list

Question of the week…

If you had to be a comic character, which one would you be and why?

As long as there was always a supply of magic potion handy, then sign me up as one of the Gauls from Asterix. Just a shame that if we could make that happen, the powers-that-be would probably decide that the best fit for me would be Cacofonix, the bard.

To celebrate Whio Awareness Month, Auckland Zoo held two Whio family fun days last weekend at the new whio enclosure. Communications & Engagement Advisor Robyn Orchard recounts the ‘whiotastic weekend’:

Raising awareness of whio and their importance to our environment was the objective of the whio family fun weekend at the Auckland Zoo at the weekend. And as Captain Whio, Andy Glaser, would say it was ‘whiotastic’!

Andy Glaser and his team before the zoo opened for the day.

Captain Whio (Andy Glaser) and his team before the zoo opened for the day

Over 7,000 people came through the Auckland Zoo gates over the weekend and my guess is that more than half of these came to see the new whio enclosure, take part in the Blue Duck Race, get their faces painted, talk to DOC and Genesis Energy staff, and get their photo taken in front of the giant $10 note whio billboard (check out the good looking DOC models above).

The weekend kicked off early Friday morning with the official unveiling of the new exhibit material in the enclosure. For me and my Genesis Energy colleague, Jenny Burke, it was an early start to get everything ready for the guests. At 6.30 am it’s still dark and a little spooky at the zoo; there are some weird noises with all those animals waking. I am sure I heard the lion or tiger roaring for breakfast – I was just praying that they were still well locked up.

Emily shows children how traps help to protect whio.

Emily showing some of the children how the DOC 200s work

Daylight was peeking through when the guests arrived at the new whio enclosure. The enclosure’s whio information was a collaboration between Auckland Zoo, Genesis Energy, and DOC. Jonathan Wilcken, Director at Auckland Zoo, welcomed more than 50 guests to the zoo for the breakfast launch. He thanked Genesis and DOC for working with the zoo staff in getting the whio information ready for opening.

Ali helps children colour in whio images at Auckland Zoo.

Ali explains the whio colours to some of the colouring kids

DOC Director General Al Morrison spoke about the importance of building on the partnerships DOC have with Genesis and extending the relationship DOC has with the zoo. He said that with Genesis Energy’s commitment, DOC’s expertise and Auckland Zoo’s engagement we would be able to spread the whio message far and wide.

High fives at the end of the rubber duck race.

High fives all round at the end of the whio race

The first 500 people visiting the zoo on both Saturday and Sunday received numbered blue duck ticket for the 11.30 am blue duck race. By 10 am, on both days, the blue duck tickets had been given out.

Captain Whio and his ranger team are used to getting wet when catching whio in the wild so they all donned gumboots and rubber gloves and took to the stream that ran through the zoo. Two of the rangers had the job of tipping the 500 rubber blue ducks off the bridge and into the stream when Captain Whio and the crowd completed the countdown.

The blue (rubber) ducks race at Auckland Zoo.

Racing the blue ducks are off and Mithuna is hurrying the stragglers along

The whio family fun weekend at Auckland Zoo was an awesome experience and an amazing opportunity to get the whio message out. One of the highlights for me had to be on Sunday morning when I went to get breakfast before the zoo opened, walking up to the café I was met by four zoo keepers taking the cheetahs out for their morning walk.

There are many New Zealanders who will most likely never get the chance to see a whio in the wild. But here in the new whio enclosure, the zoo has brought the High Country to Auckland, making it possible for thousands of people each week to learn about the whio and see them close-up.

By Jane Dobson, Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy

Fresh to the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy, I heard about the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project in the Ruahines and an inspired volunteer team led by Janet Wilson. Needing to know more I contacted Janet and invited myself along on the January trap line check and rebait.

Oroua volunteers getting ready to head off.

Oroua volunteers with coordinator extraordinaire Janet Wilson: Jen James, Janet, myself, Henry Milne and Thierry Stokkermans

Janet arranged to meet us all at the Oroua River car park with equipment, advice and a refresh on DOC 200 traps. As beacons, maps, eggs and rabbit bait were split between packs, Janet told us about the previous weeks training where a man ‘just blanked’ and let his free hand slip and set off a trap. “That’s never happened before, he was lucky to get away with grazed knuckles. “Have fun and look after each other up there,” Janet looked at me. Apparently matching people with similar fitness levels is one of her many challenges.

Jen the Crossfit trainer, Henry the anaesthetist, and team leader/ mechanical engineer Thierry set off with me in tow. We planned to get to Iron Gate, split into teams to reach the Ngamoku Ridge tops and Triangle Hut, return to Iron Gate, then walk out the river line on Sunday. I reassured myself that I was fitter than I looked – for ‘a lady from the Wellington office.’ They’d been warned.

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops.

Jen and I headed up the ridge. The thought of an evening swim in the Oroua’s emerald pools propelled us from trap to trap. Before long we had an efficient leapfrog system. The beech trees, lime green crown ferns, glorious leatherwood and tussock covered tops made up for any squeamish moments with the stoat and rat carcasses. I even imagined rabbit ‘jerkey’ could be tempting if you were in a tight spot.

Thierry and Henry walked upriver spotting several trout AND a whio/blue duck perched on top of a DOC 200 trap in the river, with three young ducks nearby. Was this cheeky whio mocking the stoats from its macabre pedestal, or alerting Henry and Thierry to the missing trap.

The girls didn’t see any whio but were rewarded nonetheless with Guiness at dinner (fantastic leadership Thierry) and choice bombs on Sunday. The low river, blue sky and cool and clear  river made for a stunning walk out.

Total count: 13 stoats, 13 rats. 

January 2013, Team Oroua in action.

January 2013, Team Oroua in action

Meanwhile, Janet spent her Sunday checking the self-resetting traps up the Tunupo Stream, a tributary of the Oroua. In May 2012 volunteers helped install 37 of these new A24 traps made by NZ company Good Nature. They were bought with funding from the He Tini Trust and Horizons Regional Council. These traps don’t need to be checked as regularly as DOC 200’s, but need re-gassing every six months or so. A down side is there is no clear pest count – the dead critter tends to breakdown or disappear from under the trap.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats

Due to Janet’s nightly phone calls, training trips, constant advocacy and more, the project’s volunteer base is ‘committed and developing.’ Enthusiastic people are needed to prevent the situation the Manawatu Deerstalkers found themselves facing in 2011 with the same few people doing all the work. The coordination takes ‘AGES,’ Janet told me. ‘The Palmerston North tramping club is a great help, Manawatu Deerstalkers still help, the DOC newsletter Keep Tracking On advertises for volunteers. I also put notices in the huts with tear off numbers. We’ve got a committed but developing volunteer base. I’m investing in the training weekends, hoping it will pay off.’

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap.

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap

Janet won the 2012 Individual Manawatū Rangitīkei area Conservation Award, which recognised her on-going commitment to protecting wildlife through stoat control in the Te Potae o Awarua project, the Manawatu Gorge, and for rescuing the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project from folding in 2011.

You’re an inspiration Janet Wilson – volunteer coordinator extraordinaire.

Click here to find out how to get involved.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream