Shut your trap!

Shut your trap!

The Oamaru Urban Trapping project has lots to talk about

Following on from other successful trapping schemes in the region the Topflite team is delighted to back the arrival of the Oamaru Urban Trapping Project.

Driven by DOC Oamaru Ranger Andy Powazynski, and supported by the Oamaru’s Waitaki Menzshed, the project aims to replicate the successes of others in the region such as Predator Free Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group and The Halo Project surrounding the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

Andy Powazynski has been a Community Ranger in Oamaru since 2013. He says the urban trapping project has been “brewing a long while.” He points to the outstanding success on the Otago Peninsula, where community trapping initially started at the albatross colony and now stretches the full length of the peninsula. “They’ve virtually wiped out every predator.”

“You’re never more than approximately five feet from a rat at any one time… it’s just that you hardly ever see them.” 

Which predators are at the top of the Oamaru Urban Trapping Project’s hitlist? Rats. Despite trapping a stoat in his friend’s backyard just last week, Andy maintains that stoats are “not the big players in urban Oamaru. Nor are possums even though they are present. That’s why we’re picking a target species – and in this case, it’s rats.”

“You’re never more than five feet from a rat,” he affirms, “it’s just that you hardly ever see them. People see predators as predominantly possums because they’re more visible.” 

But by trapping consistently we can interrupt the predator plague cycle followed by rat and mice populations. Andy explains the cycle begins with a strong masting season - like that of 2021.

“The trees and shrubs flower and go to seed. The seed becomes abundant on the ground and rat and mice populations grow. Winter sets in and mustelids – stoats, ferrets, weasels – their population grows like you wouldn’t believe because of more vermin. Come summertime, everything has been either eaten, starting to grow or has rotted away. That’s when the three species of rats we have here in New Zealand and mice look towards other food sources such as chicks and fledglings.”

The Project does plan to target other species in time but for now the focus is on getting as many traps into backyards as possible. 

“We’ve got to get people involved and then sustain the drive for backyard trapping,” he says. “The goal right now is to get everyone to have a go.”

And, gauging from the enthusiasm at the first community meeting, gaining momentum in Oamaru shouldn’t be hard. Conservation of the outdoors is in the locals’ nature. Many people have begun trapping at home and excellent work is already being done by the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony in reducing rat and mustelid predators around kororā nesting sites. Another local success story is Gemmells Crossing, where a community-based group focused on a medium-sized piece of Conservation Land. Thanks to their trapping and planting efforts, they have made a remarkable impact on regenerating native flora and fauna.

What species of birds are likely to benefit from reduced rat numbers in urban Oamaru? While there aren’t many of Aotearoa’s “shinier” birds like the kea or takahē  (“Yet,” says Andy) Oamaru will begin to see more of the smaller, more elusive species. 

“The pīwakawaka, tūī, bellbird and Little Owl (or German Owl as it’s also known) will benefit,” Andy says. He has also noted an increase in the number of birdcalls since he’s been trapping and planting natives on his section. “My neighbour even has a couple of grey herons nesting in the trees on his property.”

“You can’t win a war as an individual. You win it as a team.”

As bird-lovers we know too well how much damage these pests cause to New Zealand’s unique wildlife. Which is why Topflite is supporting this great initiative. 

However, the goal is an ambitious one. More help is needed. For Oamaru and the rest of New Zealand to be truly “Predator Free” by 2050 requires a shared effort from the whole community. As many people as possible need to be on the prowl for predators in backyards, parks and other public spaces around town.

Andy favours an old military metaphor to describe his vision. “You can’t win a war as an individual. You win it as a team.”

The local Oamaru Waitaki Menzshed have already thrown their weight behind the project with free labour and a plan to build 50 traps by the end of May. These will form a “trap library”, whereby the traps are borrowed by locals to get the predator-pouncing underway.

It was a no-brainer for Topflite to get behind this essential project. Our SOAR Initiative was established for this very purpose. Aotearoa is blessed with absolutely precious native flora and fauna and we regard it as an honour and a responsibility to support those working on regeneration efforts.

We hope that many more local companies and individuals will join us in championing the work of the Oamaru Urban Trapping Project. Here are some ways locals can help:

  • Join up and build boxes with the Menzshed
  • Make a donation to purchase traps
  • Donate materials such as timber and tools
  • Sponsor the construction of a trap or two  
  • Put traps on your premises - both work and home
  • Set up a trapping leaderboard with family or colleagues
  • Connect with neighbours to set up a trapline or grid around your properties
  • Companies could run a team-building event (with added wellbeing benefits) to get out and check and clear your business sponsored traplines 

It’s a nation-wide team effort to eradicate predators successfully by 2050. Every little bit helps.