Safe dogs are happy dogs when poison is about
Dog-loving trampers Dianna and Jonathan regularly head into the Tararua Ranges.
It might be a day walk with ridgebacks Gambit and Blitz into the beech forest around Otaki Forks on the Kapiti Coast side of the range, or a two-night loop on the Mt Holdsworth-Jumbo circuit on the Wairarapa side. Any time in the bush is special, says Dianna.
“Getting away from technology, and getting out into the forest is a joy,” says Dianna, but with aerial 1080 operations coming up in the Northern Remutaka, keeping dogs clear of operational areas is really important.
Keeping dogs safe is particularly important this winter as possum control operations take place in the region to combat the spread of bovine TB between wildlife and domestic cattle and deer. The Northern Remutaka TBfree aerial 1080 operation is planned for July across 24,000 hectares of rugged country between the Hutt Valley and the southern Wairarapa.
Aerial operations comprise only 10 percent of OSPRI's possum control work, 90 percent is managed with ground-based operations. Aerials are only employed where the terrain and scale of the job make it necessary.
“Both our dogs are trained not to scavenge,” says Jonathan, a Kapiti resident of 27 years who walks the dogs daily and hits the bush tracks regularly. “We check where drops have occurred and will avoid areas with recent drops, or keep the dogs leashed.”
Dianna says: "For brodificaum inbait sations I keep my dogs well away from the stations, We have trained out dogs not to scavenge, but I don't rely on that entirely. It may mean keeping them on a leash and close to heel, but we don't want them to touch any bait."
The native forest and bird life are recovering where pest control operations have reduced predators in the southern North Island’s bush and farmland, Dianna says. “I am looking forward to seeing more bird life recovering -- I recently saw a rifleman near the Donnelly Flat kaka protection area, and I hope to see that effect on the Kapiti side of the Tararuas one day.”
“It’s really important that we control all mammalian predators in our native forests – possums, rats, ferrets, stoats, mice and hedgehogs all cause issues for our native birds,” says Diana.
In large areas of steep native forest like the hills around Wellington, that usually means aerially distributing biodegradable 1080 laced cereal baits, which kill 99 per cent of the target species – possums – on the first night of an operation.
“All pest control methods are unpleasant, but unfortunately we can’t do a ‘pied piper’ and lead all the pests away. There is no way to effectively trap or catch such large areas with such difficult terrain, so the only viable option is aerial drops.”
Dianna and Jonathan say we have to keep our eye on the ultimate goal: protecting birdlife and the environment it depends on. “As we are protecting birds, a mammal-specific poison is essential,” they say.
TBfree operations to eradicate bovine TB work in with operations run by DOC in the Battle for Our Birds in the area. Over the past two years, operations in Southern Remutaka and the Aorangi Forest, south Wairarapa, have knocked down large numbers of possums and other predators.
Apart from taking possum numbers so low that TB dies out, the control operations have terrific biodiversity benefits that are already becoming obvious -- far fewer possums and rats are contributing to the regrowth of habitat and noticeable increases in native bird activity.
To help make sure dogs are as safe as possible during and after operations, free muzzles in all sizes are also available from TBfree and there’s plenty of good advice in OSPRI’s Keep Your Dog Safe brochure, available at Park Headquarters, DOC visitor centres and road-ends ahead of any possum control activity.