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Possum numbers down in Mahoenui

Possums in bush in Mahoenui near Awakino have been hit hard by a recent Tb control operation and work undertaken by landowners involved in a community possum control scheme.

The combined schemes cover 34,000 ha and includes about 40 landowners. The Tb operation re-treated bush areas in the upper Awakino catchment and the area now has no herds on movement control.

Before the operation began in 1998 more than 56 possums were caught for every 100 traps set, and in some cases 70-80 possums per 100 traps. That number was reduced to about six possums per 100 traps after the operation, allowing the bush to regenerate, and landowners were encouraged to continue control measures.

Environment Waikato Programme Manager of Biosecurity Operations Peter Russell said annual monitoring had been undertaken since 1998. In the last three years there had been an obvious decline in possum numbers observed through trapping results.

Monitoring last month showed the best result achieved so far in the scheme. The rate had dropped to 7.2 percent – below the goal of 10 percent or less, and down from 18 percent and 11.5 percent achieved in the previous two years.

Monitoring using the residual trap catch method in the aerially treated bush areas gave a result of 3.8 percent, which should give continued Tb clear status for the area long term.

The monitoring showed a great result for the community scheme, he said. Monitoring methods helped give landowners some much needed feedback as to how they are doing in the fight against possums and the group was enthusiastic and committed to achieving results.

“Pest control contractors, EcoFx Pest Solutions Ltd carry out one-on-one training and mentoring of each landowner to that they can carry on with the work confident that they can do a good job.”

“Now that possum numbers have been brought right down, it is vital that landowners continue the good work. The results will be seen in flourishing bush and the return of native bird populations to the area. The target for this year in the Whareorino Tb control area is two percent residual trap catch.

“The Mahoenui community possum control scheme is an excellent example of Environment Waikato, Animal Health Board and landowners working together to achieve a common goal,” he said.

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