By Matthew Littlewood, Timaru Herald
Te Manahuna Aoraki, a multi-agency organisation with the aspiration of turning a 300,000ha area of the Mackenzie Basin into a predator-free zone, recently received the findings of research into predator movements in high-altitude areas of the basin.
Te Manahuna Aoraki project manager Simone Smits said the research, which found that hedgehogs were found as high as 2000 metres up in the mountains, “really provided a groundwork” for the next stage of its project.
“We have a real opportunity to do something quite unique here,” Smits said.
“We’re in the feasibility stage for the project, but using the information we now have on the movement of predators, we will be able to know where best to deploy the traps and other mechanisms.”
The hedgehog elimination programme will officially begin in July this year with a target to finish it by July 2022.
The animal is one of the most common predators in the basin, with hundreds caught in the Mackenzie Basin every year through Department of Conservation (DOC) trapping programmes.
Nick Foster, who co-wrote the research paper, said hedgehogs were a very successful invasive species in the dryland zones of New Zealand for a few reasons.
“There is an abundance of food resources, dry nesting sites are plentiful, and there are virtually no predators that moderate their populations,” Foster said.