Predator Control

Whilst we have always trapped possums and hunted other predators here at the Flying Fox, we are currently working with DOC to set up a more comprehensive predator control programme. Locally found predators include: Possums, rats and mice, stoats, pigs, deer and wild cats.

Mungo the mouse catcher inspecting a trap for stoats and rats

At present, our main target is possums and you will see two different types of possum traps along with bait stations. On the ground you will see live capture cages which we bait with fruit for possums (or occasionally with meat for wild cats). On the trees you will see white “Sentennial” traps in which we use a cinnamon lure and if you take a walk in the bush you may see white plastic bait stations which contain ‘Brodifacoum’ in the form of pellets.

PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH ANY OF THE TRAPS

A cage trap
A Sentennial trap
A bait station

Why Possums?

Many people view possums as ‘cute’ and think they only eat plants. However, it was in 1993 that possums were first filmed eating the eggs and chicks of kōkako. Since then it has been proven that they also consume the eggs, chicks and even adults of many other native birds including kererū, kiwi, harrier hawk, fantail, muttonbird, and tūī. They do also eat plants and can destroy leaves, nectar and berries that are important food sources for our native birds.

Possum eating Kererū egg. Image credit Nga Manu.

Possums are nocturnal and can live almost anywhere. However, their main habitat is forest, and possum densities can be particularly high in areas where there are podocarp and broadleaf trees. Areas where the bush meets pasture can support very high populations of possum as they will also eat pasture and crops. In fact, the damage done by possums is estimated to cost NZ farmers about $35 million annually. Possums pose an additional threat to cattle as they spread a disease called bovine Tb (tuberculosis).

Possums were first introduced to New Zealand in 1837 by settlers who were hoping to establish a fur industry. The first attempts were unsuccessful but by 1858 a possum population was established in Southland. This first colony quickly spread and in 1921 the Government banned possum imports, however it was too late to get the population under control and in 1946, possums were officially declared a pest. By 1950 it is estimated possums were established in over half of New Zealand and the population has continued to grow. Unfortunately, natural predators such as feral cats, do not have much effect on controlling possum population size and they are now widespread throughout the country. 

Possum spread from 1850 – 1990 in New Zealand. Image credit Landcare Research Ltd.

The government has set a target to eliminate possums, rats and stoats from NZ by 2050. This is thought by many to be an ambitious target, however the awareness this target and the subsequent publicity has raised is encouraging organisations both large and small to make an effort to reduce numbers and therefore the harm these predators cause.

As you can see the Flying Fox is an ideal location for possums – we have the bush and cultivated land meeting, providing endless supplies of food and a preferred habitat.  The possums damage our fruit trees such as apples, avocado, walnuts and citrus. The also eat the leaves and berries of numerous native trees damaging the habitat for birds. We have a high number of native bird species in the locality including kiwi in the bush not far from our site and we are keen to protect these birds, their home and their eggs.

If you would like any more information, please don’t hesitate to chat to us or check out the following websites as a starting point for more about predators in NZ.