Traps out to protect birds

Hakatere residents Dennis Gant and Robert Mann with signs to be used when the new predator control season starts.

Three residents from the coastal settlement of Hakatere are keeping predator numbers down and doing their bit to protect nesting endangered birds along a stretch of the Ashburton River.

For the past five years Kaylene Donaldson, her partner Dennis Gant and neighbour Robert Mann have been part of a trapping programme aimed at protecting and boosting rare bird numbers.

Traps are usually laid in September and near nesting grounds along the river bank favoured by birds like the black-billed gull, banded dotterel and black fronted dotterel.

They are in place until March, or until chicks are fledged and leave the river bed.

Traps are laid on the north side and up from the river mouth and along a two kilometre stretch to Croys Road.

Some 70 per cent of the predators caught are hedgehogs, says Ms Donaldson. “Over this last season we had 30 traps out and caught 88 hedgehogs, 42 rats, seven stoats, one possum and five feral cats.

“The season before there were 105 hedgehogs, 11 rats, two ferrets, 10 feral cats ad two possums.”

Ms Donaldson said at the start of each season signs were put out at all access points along the trapping area to warn the public.

The traps and bait are supplied by Environment Canterbury (ECan), which supports the trapping programme.

Forest & Bird and others are involved in trapping on the opposite bank of the river mouth and other traps are laid further upstream and near the State Highway 1 bridge.

Mr Mann said Hakatere residents were behind the trapping operation and effort to boost bird numbers.

The location of the traps were depended by where birds were nesting, he said.

Traps were set 100m apart, inspected twice weekly and also emptied when “people told you there was something in them”.

The trapping volunteers are informed of monthly bird numbers counted in the area and share the facts in a community newsletter.

Ms Donaldson said there was a lot of bird life near the river mouth and the volunteers believed supporting the endangered nesting birds and other birds was a worthwhile thing to do.

The Hakatere trio will join representatives from ECan, Forest & Bird, Fish & Game, DOC, the Mid Canterbury 4WD Club and local landowners at river mouth update and strategy meeting later this month.

The meeting will be taken by Donna Field from ECan and will discuss the upcoming, managed predator trapping programme.

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