A record number of stoat trappings in the Ruahine Range has perplexed Manawatu conservationists, who are unable to explain the spike.
From mid-2008 to mid-2011, 101 stoats were caught in traps near Tunupo.
Last year, however, 102 were captured, including 41 in November and 34 in December.
Janet Wilson, a volunteer who co-ordinates the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Programme, said the stoat traps had been checked as often as in 2011. "I think there's far more stoats up there than in 2011, and I'm at a loss to understand why," she said. "Seeing the increase in November and December is a bit odd."
Stoats are one of the key predators of the endangered whio, or blue duck, and are known to eat the birds and their eggs. The trappings usually peak in February, when the kits come out from their burrows.
It was important for stoats to be eradicated from that area, or they could migrate to previously stoat-free areas, Department of Conservation biodiversity programme manager Nikki Pindur said.
"Because we have community groups that are dedicating their weekends to emptying the traps, it means we can hopefully rebuild the whio over time. However, because of these fluctuations, we still need help," she said. "To do that we need the community's involvement."
The Manawatu Tramping Club regularly helps out, but Mrs Wilson said that anyone with tramping experience could be given training to help clear the traps.
Hapaitia Kohanga Reo raised $367 for the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Programme from door sales when the television show It's In The Bag visited Feilding earlier this month.
It costs around $1000 a year to keep the eradication programme going, including bait and trap costs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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