Operation pulverises possum population

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 14:27 08/08/2014
possums
FAIRFAX NZ
HELLO, POSSUMS: There will be less furry fiends like this critter in the King Country following a successful elimination programme by the Waikato Regional Council.

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''Very solid results'' have been achieved in a major Waikato Regional Council possum control operation carried out recently over 18,000 hectares south of Te Kuiti.

The $230,000 operation on private and public land employed ground-based methods to eliminate the furry pests, including poisonous brodifacoum pellets placed in bait stations, cyanide and trapping.

Possum numbers recorded after the operation showed the contractors met their performance targets, said biosecurity officer Paul Quinn.

''It's a very satisfactory result all round, and this operation will further help protect native bush and the productivity of farmland by keeping on top of possum numbers in the area. It will also help prevent the spread by possums of bovine Tb.''

The regional council was unable to provide details of how many possums were in the area and how many had been killed, however.

''We work to a measure known as Residual Trap Catch method (RTC) only,'' senior media adviser Stephen Ward said.

''This is expressed as a percentage, representing the number of possums caught per 100 traps set.  The lower the RTC the better. Our target is to get it below five possums caught per 100 traps, or 5 per cent. This is a nationally recognised measure of possum population. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate into a number of possums killed per operation.''

The work was carried out in the Aria and Piopio East priority possum control areas (PPCAs), which are part of the wider, 76,000-hectare central King Country possum control project.

The Piopio East PPCA covers about 12,800 hectares of rolling to steep hill country containing patches of bush and involves about 175 landowners; while the Aria PPCA is around 5500 hectares of similar country, has one Department of Conservation reserve, and involves about 66 landowners.

Both areas are mostly taken up by sheep and beef farms, with some dairying.

Post-treatment monitoring showed average RTC scores of 3.07 for Aria and 1.44 for Piopio East.

Quinn said the landowners were crucial in making the operation a success.

''We always aim to work closely with landowners when carrying out control and we've had great co-operation with this recent work.''

More possum operations are planned to take place in the coming years.

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- Waikato Times

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