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Possum control operation on Flagstaff

Dunedin’s native wildlife will soon reap the rewards of pest control close to the city with OSPRI’s TBfree programme possum control work around Flagstaff beginning next month.

There are currently two bovine TB infected herds in the area and the disease was traced back to local possums. A 2130-hectare Flagstaff possum control operation will add to the 16,000 possums already removed from around Mount Cargill and is essential to the eradication of bovine TB from New Zealand. No 1080 will be used.

Contractors will begin work on 4 March in an area that includes Swampy Ridge, Pineapple Track, Flagstaff and Nicols Falls.

"We measured possum numbers and found them to be very high," says OSPRI Programme Manager Eric Chagnon. "We know the area is popular for walkers, we frequently use it ourselves and we’ve taken great care to mitigate risks to pets while still performing effective and essential possum control."

A combination of trapping, Feratox and brodifacoum will be used and dogs should be kept on a lead in the operation area while warning signs are in place.

The toxins being used pose an extremely low secondary poisoning risk to pets. Bait will be in bait stations or bags, placed no lower than head height, and there will be no toxins or traps within 30 metres or in sight of tracks.

Due to the use of toxins, dog owners should keep their dogs on lead in the area until warning signs come down. It is likely this will be at least early 2020. Ground possum control methods will be repeated in the Flagstaff area over the next two years, with future methods to be decided.

Robert West, Parks and Recreation Group Manager for the Dunedin City Council, says "We’ve worked with OSPRI to reduce the impact this work will have for the public. We know it will be frustrating for some dog owners to have their dogs on lead, but this pest control will have important benefits for our native wildlife and will enhance the area longer term. There are other places people can walk their dogs off lead in Dunedin while this operation is underway."

While the TB infection is bad news, the pest control operation will bring biodiversity gains for Predator Free Dunedin, a collaboration which includes OSPRI.

The OSPRI possum knockdown provides a unique opportunity to dramatically lower the possum population over a short time frame. Following the Flagstaff Operation, Predator Free Dunedin and the Halo Predator Free project will implement a possum control programme to maintain the gains and further lower the possum population over time.

Rhys Millar, Project Manager for the Halo Predator Free project, says "OSPRI’s work to control possums is providing not only a benefit to the agricultural sector but also enormous benefits to our biodiversity. Coordinating the efforts of the Halo Project and OSPRI ensures effective landscape control that crosses both urban and rural areas, benefiting our communities and our wildlife."

A drop-in information event will be held on 21 February from 4.30-7.30pm at the Balmacewen Golf Club. People are invited to come along to find out more about the Flagstaff possum control work or to receive free advice on how to control pests in their own backyards.

See more at www.ospri.co.nz/dunedin

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