Community groups and individuals around Aotearoa are innovating and experimenting with predator control to improve outcomes in their area. We’ve pulled together some general tips and tricks to share with you. Let us know what you think. See also specific tips on how to handle possums, stoats, ferrets, and rats.
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Every location is different
Every location is different, so consider what’s in your area. If you’ve got special non-target species like kiwi, kea and weka, you need to take this into account to prevent them getting harmed.
Introduced species such as pigs or wallabies can interfere with your equipment, so trap placement and securing your traps will be important.
Trap location tips
- Introduced predators are driven by food, social interactions and mating, fighting and fear, so you can use all of this to your advantage in your predator control. For example: if you have a low density of possums then finding a mate will be high on their agenda and they will travel further than usual.
- When placing a trap or bait station, look for areas that introduced predators are likely to visit, including linear paths such as fence lines, tracks, paths, ridges, rivers and bridges.
- Look for well-worn areas where animals are travelling through, also known as pad runs, or where the bush or trees have signs of possum damage (e.g. bite barks on bark etc).
- Installing multiple devices at one site can make it more attractive for introduced predators and also makes it easier for servicing. For example, place a stoat/rat trap and a possum trap at the same site.
- Don’t place traps in cool, wet or damp places, like gullies, as most animals won’t visit these places. Instead, place traps in sunny, dry locations, like spurs and ridges, or even just up a little on a dry terrace.
- Ferrets are often found along roads as they like to scavenge road kill. Try placing traps in verges and culverts along road edges. Ferrets often thrive along the edges of farmland due to rabbits, so protect bush blocks by placing devices along the boundary between farmland and bush. (Read more about ferrets.)
- Possums love pine pollen catkins on old Pinus Radiata trees, so these make great trap sites in the spring.
- Don’t underestimate scent trails – lots of animals will travel along the same path in the bush. Once one animal starts to visit a location they leave a scent trail and other predators are attracted to the same place to have a look. So if you are targeting stoats then rats, possums and hedgehogs visiting a site will create interest for the stoat.
- Make sure traps are placed parallel to trails and that introduced predators have a clear line of sight through the trap (mesh at both ends of the trap allow this).
- If your trapping isn’t working, mix up your methods and move your traps to a better spot (watch the video).
Preparing your trap/bait station site
- Make the site really appealing to introduced predators and make your trap or bait station easy for a predator to interact with. Most catches occur in the first few days after they’re serviced, when the bait is fresh.
- Scuffing the ground around a trap or bait station site creates interest and will encourage introduced predators to spend time investigating your site.
- Clear around the trap entrance and remove grass from around bait stations to prevent bait going mouldy.
- Use logs, ferns or similar to create a line to direct animals to the entrance of your trap or bait station.
- Creating a ramp up to possum traps can make them effective by giving the possum a place to perch while they investigate the trap. For Philproof bait stations, attaching a rope to the front of the bait station makes it easier for rats to access the bait. Approximately 85% of rats use the rope when it is present. The added benefit of this is that the rats don’t chew through the plastic trying to get the bait.
- Make sure traps are solidly bedded down to minimise movement (and accidental firing). Level the trap location with a small spade in the shape of the box, push the box back and forth into soil, then stand on top of them to push it down well. A large rock on top of the trap helps weigh it down too. You can use a reinforcing bar to secure traps to the ground to make them stable and is useful if you have pigs visiting your area. However, it does make traps difficult to move in the future.
- Leave a few tasty treats, such as crumbs of mutton fat or dollops of peanut butter, outside your trap entrance as this will entice predators to investigate further.
- Create a possum hotspot (think of it as a nightclub!) by turning traps off for a while and pre-feeding. Feed them regularly over 7 to 10 days (longer where populations are low, shorter when populations are high). Once possums are clearly visiting the site and eating the pre-feed (horse cereal, carrots, etc.), set the traps. This is particularly useful for possums during the mating season in March/April and again in September/October. Christmas cake mix with crystallised ginger is a good pre-feed if you are then going to use feratox, as the feratox is also a bit crunchy.
- Blaze (put a line along a branch or trunk) scented flour up trees as a visual lure (white flour is really easy to see in the bush at night) and throw flour around the trap site to create interest and attract predators to the area. Introduced predators then take the scent away on their paws, in their fur and on their breath, communicating the food source to others. We’ve got an effective recipe for possum sweet flour paste you can use.