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Reprise of the rat census

Monday 19 March 2018

Reprise of the rat census

The second census of rats and stoats on the Miramar Peninsula gets under way today (19 March) as volunteer groups work with Greater Wellington Regional Council to place 281 chew cards on one day throughout the peninsula.

The chew cards are being laid to follow up last year’s study into the scale of rat and stoat populations on the peninsula, which has been possum-free since 2006. Members of Conservation Volunteers will place the cards on a grid at 200m x 200m intervals to cover the entirety of the peninsula, including the airport.

“The cards use peanut butter to attract the animals and will stay in place for three nights. They will record chewing by pests, which will identify rats as well as stoats and other native bird predators,” says Dr Philippa Crisp from Environmental Science at Greater Wellington.

“Last year’s study found that rat populations tended to be higher on the coast, perhaps because of the greater abundance of food there. We’re hoping this repeat study will provide more insight into population size and location.”

The data will be reported to the Predator Free Wellington Technical Advice Group and will feed into decisions on how the local community should target its trapping and other control techniques.

“Forewarned is forearmed,” says Dr Crisp. “The better our knowledge of predator populations the more effective will be our approach to eradicating them.”

In the year since the last predator census, backyard predator trapping in Miramar and around Wellington City, has exploded.

“More and more people are getting on board and establishing trapping groups,” says Predator Free Wellington project director James Willcocks. “At last count we had some 23 backyard groups throughout Wellington, which shows phenomenal interest in making us the first predator free capital. There may well be more we don’t know of.

“There are also some 40 community groups actively trapping in the city’s reserves and about 80 community groups are working in the broader ecological restoration space, in reserves throughout the city, getting involved in predator control.

“A very positive critical mass is no doubt developing as people take control of what’s happening in their own backyards. Participation is remarkable, we estimate around 12,000 people are involved.”

Wellington City Council is partnering with NEXT Foundation, Greater Wellington Regional Council and the community to make Wellington the first predator-free capital city. Their initial focus is on eradicating rats and stoats from Miramar Peninsula, with a plan to extend the strategy to the eradicating introduced predators of native birds across the entire Wellington City area.


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