Feral cats target of trust’s trapping

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The days of feral cats in the Matukituki Valley may be numbered, as the Matukituki Charitable Trust prepares for a busy year of targeted trapping.

Project manager Paul Hellebrekers said although the trust had been trapping cats alongside the Department of Conservation for the past three years, the programme had mostly focused on eradicating stoats.

But cats were becoming a big concern nationally, he said, and their larger range meant they could have a serious impact on native birds and lizards.

The trust now planned to set up an additional 40 cage traps to target cats in the valley this autumn, he said.

The concentrated effort would involve two lots of trapping, in April and May. Traps would be checked daily over five days.

The Department of Conservation had carried out surveys to identify prime habitat for the predators, and the trust was able to plan its projects to ensure the most effective trapping regime, he said.

The trust has gone from having 10 traps in 2013 to 750, which requires an ongoing efforts from volunteers along with guidance from the Doc.

Trustee Gillian Crombie said there was a database of 20 volunteers, of whom about 10 were active.

“For a lot of them it’s about getting out into the valley and doing something worthwhile.

“The feedback we’re getting is that people are noticing a difference.”

Along with volunteers, the trust also relied on co-operation from landowners and was also in contact with other community-led trapping programmes in the wider Matukituki area.

The trust is also working with Doc to seek funding for a sizing study to link other trapping programmes, across the Southern Lakes.

Department of Conservation ranger Chris Hankin said connecting trapping programmes across the district would help to prevent predator re-infestation.

Community-led trapping programmes were under way from the Makarora Valley across to the Routeburn, but co-ordination would be key in eradicating predators long term, he said.

“Trapping the gaps” would help to keep areas predator free, he said.

“If we don’t all win, no-one wins.

“All the work helps each other.”