Trainer Adriana Theobald has been working with Slick since he was a puppy. He can now work in the national park and joins former hunting dog Julius as part of a trial to test whether feral cats can be completely removed from the Tasman Valley.
While conservation dogs that sniff out protected species like kiwi or whio/blue duck are relatively common, there are only a handful of dogs in New Zealand that are trained to detect feral cats.
Adriana says different dogs have different strengths and she will be fine tuning how best to utilise the dogs alongside other predator control tools. “Slick is really good at indicating scat and the presence of feral cat scent while Julius is better at ‘track and bail’, due to his hunting experience,” she says.
The project will be using baited motion activated cameras to indicate the presence of feral cats and when they are detected Adriana will deploy the conservation dogs at different times of the day to track the feral cats.
Adriana says she’s enjoying working with the dogs in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. “People are really positive when they see the dogs, and it’s nice to be able to talk to visitors about how we’re using the conservation dogs to protect threatened species.”
Feral cats prey indiscriminately on all species, including birds, invertebrates and lizards.
Photos Adriana Theobald