1080 blitz against pest plague begins
A war on pests is set to launch in Fiordland as part of a national offensive to save the country's endangered native wildlife.
The first operation in the Department of Conservation's Battle for our Birds pest control programme starts with an operation in the Iris Burn valley in Fiordland National Park tomorrow.
The Iris Burn operation is one of 22 confirmed operations that will use aerially applied 1080 over about 600,000 hectares of conservation land to knock down rising predator numbers fuelled by unusually heavy seeding in South Island beech forests.
Critically endangered long-tailed bat populations along with whio, mohua, Fiordland tokoeka kiwi, kea and kaka over 11,200 hectares in the Iris Burn valley and adjacent areas, including alongside Lake Manapouri, will be protected.
DOC Fiordland Conservation Services manager Lindsay Wilson said monitoring results showed significant silver beech seed-fall in the area and rapidly rising rat and mice numbers.
"Rodent numbers are already tracking towards levels that will trigger a stoat plague in the next few months - just as our most vulnerable species are nesting and trying to raise their young," he said.
"If we don't act now to knock back these predators, we could lose species such as long-tailed bat and mohua from the Iris Burn."
Tomorrow, non-toxic cereal bait pellets will be spread across the target area.
This "pre-feeding" technique would encourage rats to eat the biodegradable poison-laced cereal pellets, which would follow when weather conditions allowed, Wilson said.
Ground-based poison bait stations had also been set up over 550 hectares in the Iris Burn valley around long-tailed bat roosts but would not protect bats from predation by rats and stoats on their own, said Wilson.
"Stoat trapping along the Kepler Track by the Kepler Challenge Committee also complements the aerial operation."
A close watch was being kept on six other target beech forest areas in South Westland, Southland and Fiordland to see whether rodent thresholds would also be reached over the coming months and a pest control response was also required, he said.
The pest control operation has two separate phases – the sowing of non toxic "pre-feed" bait, followed by biodegradable poison 1080-laced cereal baits on a separate day. The 1080-laced cereal baits will be sown at a rate of 2 kilograms per hectare.
The poison content of this bait is 3 grams per hectare. Stringent safety procedures will be in place for the aerial 1080 operation and buffer zones will be in place around significant waterways and other non-target areas. Signs with information on the operation and public safety will be in place at the main entrance points to the Kepler Track, the boundary of the treatment area, boat ramps at Manapouri, Supply Bay and Queens Reach, and boat landing sites along Lake Manapouri.
Safety around poison baits The pesticides are poisonous to humans and domestic animals. Carcasses remain poisonous until they are completely decomposed and dogs in particular are highly susceptible to 1080.
Those risks can be eliminated by following these simple rules:
Do not touch bait
Watch children at all times
Do not eat animals from those areas
Source: Department of Conservation
The Southland Times