1080 drop dependent on rat numbers rising

RACHAEL KELLY
Last updated 05:00 15/07/2014
Morris Smith
RACHAEL KELLY/Fairfax NZ
ANTI 1080: Piano Flat crib-owner Morris Smith.

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A planned aerial 1080 drop in the Waikaia Forest in Northern Southland will go ahead only if rat numbers increase - and it looks likely to happen.

Department of Conservation conservation services manager Roz Cole said it would monitor the rat population until the end of the month and then decide whether to carry out poisoning.

"They [rat numbers] are tracking upwards," Cole said.

DOC's planned 1080 drop was met with opposition from Waikaia Valley residents and Piano Flat crib holders at a public meeting on Sunday.

DOC said if the drop went ahead it was likely to be in late August or early September.

The 6-gram 1080 baits would be applied at a rate of 1 kilogram per hectare, which was "quite a low sow".

However, the area would be pre-fed before the toxin was applied, Cole said. "Rats don't like new things in their environment so to get a good kill rate we pre-feed."

The increase in rat numbers was due to an abundance of food in the beech forest, which flowered and dropped seeds during the winter months.

With plenty of food available, rats continued to breed during the winter months and turned to eating birds eggs when the seeds ran out, she said.

"That's why we get a big crash in species."

DOC would be using deer repellent during the drop to control by-kill, when other species such as deer were poisoned.

"We've identified that Piano Flat and the Waikaia Forest is a high value hunting area so that's why we're using repellent."

Piano Flat crib owner Morris Smith, who called the public meeting on Sunday to oppose the aerial drop, said the news that the drop would be determined by rat numbers was "a relief".

"We want to have the rat numbers monitored in about five or six places up the river - it's a huge area and you could get an increase in some areas but not in others."

Smith would continue to circulate his petition for a total 1080 ban in the Waikaia Valley.

"If they do what they say they're going to do and can get an independent group to verify their figures, then we'll have to go with that," he said.

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