Keeping your backyard predator free is reasonably straightforward; you can buy, set and check an inexpensive trap, with limited investment needed on your side.
Keeping a large land area like a farm, orchard or public reserve predator free can be a little more complex, as it generally involves multiple traps or toxins, different predator and more people.
We worked with top predator control experts to identify four key factors to consider to ensure the work you do is as efficient, effective and humane as possible.
1. Identify your goal
The first step in any predator control program should be defining a goal or purpose.
Try making a clear statement of what you want to achieve; is it that you want to see more native birds in your local parks by 2020? Do you want to save your orchard or roses from possums? Would you like to hear more birdsong in your backyard? Each goal will be unique to the area you are trapping in.
Once you know what you want to achieve, then consider which predators you need to control so you can choose the best method for that predator. Rats, possums, feral cats, hedgehogs, stoats, ferrets & weasels are key predators that impact our native wildlife. Use chew cards or tracking tunnels to identify what predators are present.
Think about and define how will you know if you have been successful in your efforts. It may be that the number of predators 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. Select the most effective and humane trap
Once you know what predators you are targeting, you can check out our best practice guide to find out which traps to use, and how many you may need.
Even though introduced predators don’t belong here it is important to remove them, both target and non-target animals, in a humane way that avoids or minimises pain, suffering and distress.
That’s why all the traps we sell on our shop have passed NAWAC trap testing guidelines.
3. Record what you are doing
Recording your predator-free activities can be as simple as jotting down a few things on a notebook or a spreadsheet. It just means that everything is documented in case the leadership of your group changes, or if you want to look back to see what bait or locations worked best.
The things you should record are:
- 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, reset and rebait your equipment
- What lures/baits you are using
- If any of this changes record when, how and why
- What you are catching and in which traps
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
- Voluntary contribution records
Or you can go high-tech and try out these online data collection tools.
4. MEASURE results
It is important to take measurements regularly to see if your program is achieving its goal or not. Define how you will measure your success early on.
As well as counting the number of predators killed, it is important to know how many remain alive at the end of the control.
Here are some of the ways you can do this:
- Use tracking cards and tunnels before and after your control programme and record the differences
- Complete regular bird counts to 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
- Complete regular bird counts.
- Use chew tags or wax blocks before and after your program and record the differences
- Annual observations of possum
- Complete regular bird counts
- Monitor fruit trees for fewer bite marks