Te Manahuna Aoraki recently celebrated its first anniversary, and has so far nabbed 431 hedgehogs, 350 mustelids, 172 feral cats, 83 rats and 34 possums, through traditional trapping methods.
Te Manahuna Aoraki project manager Simone Cleland said more than 2200 kill traps had been set in the Godley, Cass and Macaulay river valleys.
“We’ve extended the trapping range from 23,000 hectares to 60,000 ha, so logistically it’s been a huge challenge for us,” Cleland said.
It is hoped over the next two months, the trapping area will extend into the high altitude lines of the Tasman Valley.
Cleland said this would require significant input from volunteers and Department of Conservation (DOC) workers and would need to be done once the avalanche season finishes (usually early December).
“It’s a really labour intensive job, but it’s going to have a massive effect on predator numbers in the area,” she said.
Cleland said she was not sure what the 1000th predator caught in the traps was, but “it’s a fair guess to say it could have been a hedgehog in the Cass Valley as that is where we are getting a lot of our trap catches, and hedgehogs are the predator we are catching the most of at the moment”.
“We’re not surprised by the number of hedgehogs, they’re very common and they predate on the eggs of braided river birds,” she said.
Cleland said ferrets and feral cats were common in areas with high rabbit populations.
“Our next goal is to look at and research how to bring numbers of feral cats and ferrets down to zero in certain command areas,” she said.
“But it’s not just about what we trap, it’s about what we protect. The area is home to our rarest braided river bird, the black stilt/kaki, and true success will be the increase in population of those birds.”