Kids step up surveillance on unwelcome cats
Unwelcome furry trampers on the Kepler Track that are killing native birds will be closely watched by Te Anau students this summer.
The Kids Restore the Kepler project, managed by the Fiordland Conservation Trust, is planning to carry out an extensive surveillance operation to determine the extent of the cat problem in the national park.
The project follows on from the group using night vision cameras in May to spot cats entering Fiordland National Park and putting native wildlife at risk.
Kids Restore the Kepler education co-ordinator Jo Marsh said the next phase of monitoring would hopefully allow the group to determine how big a problem cats were on the Kepler Track and in the national park.
The young conservationists would spend a month keeping tabs on the cats.
Several cats had been caught in 12 cat traps set up in the project area near the Te Anau control gates and Rainbow Reach entrances to the Kepler Track.
All the cats trapped had been feral, Mrs Marsh said.
It was difficult to determine how many cats remained in the national park, exactly how far they were ranging or what impact they may be having, she said.
However, there was evidence the cats were killing birds in the area.
"We definitely know there are cats on the Kepler because we have found cat poo," Mrs Marsh said. "From the cat poo samples it was fairly obvious quite a few had bird feathers."
The summer project would help decide if control options were needed and what they would be, she said.
Cats were a sensitive issue and a cat communications team made up of students from Te Anau primary schools and Fiordland College had been set up to inform residents about the project, Mrs Marsh said.
"We are not telling everyone they can't have cats but we can look at what can be done in the township to prevent any further migration of cats into the Kepler area."
Te Anau Department of Conservation ranger Caroline Carter said the monitoring programme would help give a better understanding of how the cats were entering the national park.
Dr Yolanda van Heezik, University of Otago senior lecturer in zoology, spoke with the students yesterday.
Her research includes the impacts of cats and other predators on urban wildlife and she has supported economist Gareth Morgan's campaign to control cats.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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