Being predator free by 2050 will require a huge amount of work by everyone involved.
We’ve pulled together four key steps to help ensure that the work you do is as efficient, effective and humane as possible.
1. IDENTIFY what predators you are targeting (and which ones you aren’t) and why?
It may seem like a silly statement but it’s important to ensure you are clear on which predators you are targeting so that you can choose the best method for that predator.
Start by asking:
What do you want to achieve by doing predator control? This might be to rid your compost bin of rats, to see more birds nesting, to save your rose garden and fruit trees from being eaten by pesky possums, for forest regeneration, or to hear more birdsong. Whatever your reason or motivation, it’s important to identify this at the outset.
- Consider which predators you need to control to achieve your goal? The Predator Free NZ Trust has identified rats, possums, stoats, ferrets & weasels as key mammals to target in making NZ predator free by 2050.
How will you know if you have been successful in your efforts? It may be that the number of target predator species have decreased since you started your control, there’s lots more fruit on your fruit trees, there’s more native wildlife present and/or more native plant growth.
2. USE traps/devices that are humane
Introduced predators don’t belong here – but it is important to remove them in a humane way that avoids or minimises pain, suffering and distress – both to target and non-target animals.
Find out which traps to use for which predators and where to buy them.
3. RECORD what you are doing
It’s important to record what you are doing so that you have information to refer back to if you decide to change how you do things. Good record-keeping will also help your volunteer group if you need to hand responsibility for predator control over to others. If your predator control operation is successful, your notes are a record of what works in your situation.
It can be as simple as having a notebook and jotting down a few basic sentences that describe what you did. The Kiwis for kiwi Trust has developed some simple worksheets you can use:
- Bait station filling recording form
- Possum and rodent density monitoring – Basic form
- Tracking tunnel – Basic form
- Trapping data recording form
Or you can go high-tech and try out these online data collection tools.
- What predator control method and equipment you are using eg trapping versus toxins or a mixture of both
- Where you’ve placed your equipment
- How often you check, clear and reset/rebait your equipment
- What lures/baits you are using.
If any of this changes through a season or year, record when, how and why.
4. MEASURE results
To know if your predator control programme is successful you need to measure the results of your control operation and the conservation effects it has had.
As well as counting the number of predators killed, it is important to know how many remain alive at the end of the control.
We’ve outlined below some simple things you can do to measure the success of your predator control:
- Rats — use tracking cards and tunnels before and after your control programme, observe any rat sign on large seeds and nuts and complete regular birdcounts. Birdcounts help monitor populations over time. You can also look out for fledged broods of fantails. Young fantails are darker than adults and will remain in a family group for several weeks. Seeing such groups is an excellent indicator of effective ship rat control.
- Mustelids (stoats, ferrets & weasels) — take part in the annual Kiwi Call Count Survey and complete regular birdcounts.
- Possums — use chew tags or wax blocks, annual observations of possum browse and complete regular birdcounts.
Technology allowing the remote monitoring of traps is being used in landscape scale projects throughout the country.