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Possums hit in Whitehall

Possum operations on Whitehall farmland over the winter have achieved excellent results, Environment Waikato says.

Te Tapui Reserve bounds the eastern side of the farmland area and was a continuing source of possum reinvasion into the scheme area, operations manager Peter Russell said. In two aerial 1080 operations, contractors Epro Ltd of Taupo successfully reduced possum numbers, comparable to the Whitehall result.

Between August and November this year EcoFX Pest Solutions Ltd staff from Otorohanga established a network of over 1,850 bait stations throughout the operational area, targeting prime possum habitat. The operation also killed rats, which also eat the poison, and stoats and ferrets which eat rats and scavenge on dead possums.

“This combined pest attack has already had a significant impact on bird numbers. One farmer reported seeing a family of 12 quail chicks for the first time and another reported up to 20 kereru in one bush area adjacent to Te Tapui Reserve.”

Independent monitoring was carried out in early December and showed a better result than the target. A comprehensive bait station infrastructure is now in place across the area, making future control work easier and cheaper.

Possums have not been totally eradicated from the area and farmers are encouraged to keep pressure on any remaining possums by night shooting and targeting bait stations if any fresh sign or activity is seen around them. Numbers would be monitored again in late summer or early Autumn next year to assess follow-up work, Mr Russell said.

Environment Waikato will call a landowners meeting next year to discuss the future of the scheme.

In late January 2005 EcoFX will complete possum control in Maungakawa Reserve and some adjoining properties, work which was deferred to allow Landcare Research to finish some important tui research.

“Last year the 2,400 ha Te Tapui Reserve harboured considerable possum numbers. An aerial baiting programme using 1080 poison bait was carried out in July and October to lower possum numbers after an unsuccessful ground control effort over the previous seven months.”

A Waikato deerstalkers’ group and farmers adjoining the Reserve supported the aerial operation, provided the unique fallow deer herd in the bush and local water supplies were not adversely affected. A new deer repellent was used to deter deer from eating the bait but which still attracted possums.

No dead deer were found and water samples taken for analysis were clear, with no trace of 1080.

“This is the first time in New Zealand where a regional council, a deer stalkers lobby group, local landowners and Department of Conservation staff were united on a single outcome,” Mr Russell said.

A rate paid by landowners to Environment Waikato collected one third of the total cost of the job and the rest was paid by Environment Waikato General Rate and reserves from the previous operation.

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