Unwelcome visitors begone
The art of being a good guest is to know when to leave.
This wise advice from the late Prince Philip was not being heeded by our Australian houseguest. Night after night he climbed the large silver birch tree by our house and danced loudly on our bedroom roof.
He also took pleasure in terrorising those sleeping elsewhere in our house with thudding footfalls that could easily be assumed to be an intruder in steel-capped boots with violent intentions.
My patience with the nightly visits of our “guest” finally wore thin so I sought advice from a friend and neighbour Phil, who has successfully “dealt” with 150 of these obnoxious visitors to his garden on Bridge Hill over the past few years.
The solution he suggested was a bright yellow Timms trap baited with some juicy pieces of apple.
A few nights later there was a loud thwack under the silver birch and my uninvited guest was duly dug into the vege garden to ensure we have a good crop of garlic next summer.
Our Australian houseguest was a common brushtail possum, introduced to New Zealand by European settlers from Victoria and Tasmania in the 1850s to establish a source for food and fur pelts.
The arrival of possums to New Zealand was yet another disastrous introduction of an introduced species to islands which have been geologically isolated from the rest of the world for 85million years.
Possums number more than 30million here now and they have proven to be vectors for bovine tuberculosis, a major threat to our dairy, beef and deer industries.
They have also had a significant impact on our natural ecosystems, preying on eggs and chicks of native birds and insects, and they do significant damage to our native forests.
New Zealand has an ambitious vision to be predator-free by 2050, focusing on the complete removal of our five most damaging predators; rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and possums.
At a local level some schools, with the guidance of Central Otago REAP’s Enviroschools co-ordinator, have initiated programmes to have predator traps in each household in their communities.
If you have had the privilege of visiting somewhere like the Routeburn Valley where there is a well-established trapping programme, you will catch a glimpse of what our southern forest was like before the arrival of introduced predators.
You may be treated to a glimpse of a kaka, kakariki/yellow-crowned parakeet, mohua/yellowhead, toutouwai/robin and above the bushline a karearea/falcon.
Closer to home I have noticed in Clyde an increasingly healthy population of bellbird/korimako and tui due to local trapping and native planting initiatives.
Predator Free 2050 New Zealand provides an exciting vision for restoring and maintaining our natural treasures and sounds a warning to our introduced predators that they’ve outstayed their welcome.