Possum traps found in public places

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009
DEREK FLYNN/The Marlborough Express
DEADLY: Department of Conservation programme manager for threats, Phil Clerke, with a possum trap which is putting native wildlife at risk because trappers are setting them on the ground. According to DOC regulations, traps must be set at least 700mm off the ground.

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A hunter who found the deadly poison cyanide on a public roadside has alerted the Department of Conservation to rogue possum hunters whose badly-placed traps and cyanide are putting people and wildlife at risk.

Possum hunting has taken off since the price of fur recently rocketed to a record-breaking $105 per kilogram.

Department of Conservation programme manager for threats, Phil Clerke, said more complaints about possum traps and cyanide had been received during the last two months than he had ever experienced in his six years in Picton.

"There is a direct correlation between the price of fur and the number of complaints," he said.

Mr Clerke said the reported cyanide was found on a road verge at Cullen Point, near Havelock, which was popular with locals and hunters.

The hunter who found it feared for the safety of his young son and his dog, who could have easily touched or eaten the pea-sized balls of poison, Mr Clerke said.

DOC staff immediately removed the poison but Mr Clerke said the area remained contaminated and warning signs had been put up.

Mr Clerke said complaints included traps on the ground, which put wildlife such as weka at risk, although humans would only suffer bruising if they sprung a trap.

According to DOC regulations, traps on DOC land must be set at least 700mm off the ground or be placed on trees using nails or brackets.

Cyanide must also be placed 700mm from the ground, with signage, and should not be laid close to tracks or roads.

Anyone using cyanide must have a controlled substance licence.

Although no reports of trapped weka had been received this year, Mr Clerke said in the past eight weka had been caught by a person setting traps near the Queen Charlotte Track.

"We fear that was just the tip of the iceberg," Mr Clerke said.

"We encourage (possum trapping) but we want to see responsible killing of possums - the more caught, the better but it has to be done without killing other wildlife."

Any wildlife caught must be cared for and handed into DOC as soon as possible, alive or dead, Mr Clerke said.

An annual possum trapping permit is free from DOC but does not allow trapping on private land, including forestry blocks.

Lisa Pearce, a Marlborough agent for possum fur traders Basically Bush said the price would remain at $105 until the end of the year, when it would be revised. She could not say if it would increase or drop. Mrs Pearce said that 20-25 years ago, a skin would fetch $20-$25. She was receiving 500kg of fur a month and said some people were bending the rules and even stealing traps.

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"(Possum hunting) is not as easy as it used to be. We need to try and stop people putting traps where they shouldn't be - they need to consider the long term effects for the professional hunters, who all get tarred with the same brush."

- The Marlborough Express

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