The Possum Control Team - One Man's Story

Tony’s bait line runs from the lakes near the Cannons Creek shops, up through the flax gathering area, then up the stream bed of Cannons Creek itself.

Photo 1

When Tony gets ready to walk the bait line, he dons his gumboots, takes a jacket for the weather, gloves for handling the bait and gear, and puts everything in his backpack.

Photo 2

Bait pellets are supplied in 10kg bags; far too much for one bait line in one trip.

Photo 3

Tony takes smaller quantities with him on his bait line, as well as rubbish bags to contain any unused bait removed from the bait stations before they are re-stocked.

Photo 4

Bait stations look like a piece of black 'down-pipe' with a cap at one end and a dispensing 'hole' at the other.  Each station has an identity code marked on it.

Photo 5

Well chewed - by rats?

Photo 6

Cap to stop the water getting in; and removable for refilling the tube.

Photo 7

A bracket for a bait station is attached to the trunk of a tree, quite high up, definitely above head-height. The bait station then slides up/down this bracket.

Photo 8

The old unused bait pellets are removed, placed in a rubbish bag for later disposal.

Photo 9

The bait station is refilled, and replaced in its bracket.

Photo 10

As an additional incentive, a powdered lure is spread on the tree trunk below the bait station. Here's what's left from last time.

Photo 11

The lure is the 'icing on the bait cakes' - it is made of a mixture of flour and icing sugar.  Some people add nutmeg or cinnamon to increase the smell. Here Tony has tipped some lure onto his hand, and then spread it / dusted it down the tree trunk.
		Note the pink-blue marker on the tree to help locate bait stations, though these days Tony uses GPS to find his 8 stations.

Photo 12

According to Tony: 'That stream up there is the real Cannons Creek.'

Photo 13

According to Tony: 'That stream up there is the real Cannons Creek.'

Photo 14

The work done by the Possum Control team is every bit as important as planting trees.

Before the Maara Roa project started, the bush in this valley was dying from the combined effects of gorse fires and possum depredation.  Now after years of pest control our bush is abundant with berries, young trees are springing up everywhere, and the birds are returning.

Tony is one of the volunteers who make sure we kill all the possums (and maybe, just some of the rats, too!) that enter our restoration area.  If we don’t kill the possums, they would eventually kill the bush, and the birds would die too.  The Friends have over 50 bait stations to check every 6 – 8 weeks all year round.

Working a bait line should always be done in pairs for safety reasons.  One of the volunteers should be a recognised member of the Possum Control team.

Tony’s bait line runs from the lakes near the Cannons Creek shops, up through the flax gathering area, then up the stream bed of Cannons Creek itself, which he wades – that's why gumboots are essential for his bait line (click on photo 1).

"That stream up there is the real Cannons Creek."

When Tony gets ready to walk the bait line, he dons his gumboots, takes a jacket for the weather, gloves for handling the bait and gear, and puts everything in his backpack (photo 2).

For safety reasons, Tony should always take someone with him.  This particular day, photographer Cheng joined Tony.

Also for safety reasons, Tony always leaves word with a responsible person - they know where he is going and how long he expects to be - so they will pull the emergency cord if he doesn't return in a sensible time.

Bait pellets are supplied in 10kg bags, far too much for one bait line in one trip.  The bait is called Brodifacoum, and is supplied by Greater Wellington Regional Council (photo 3).  Tony takes smaller quantities with him on his bait line, as well as rubbish bags to contain any unused bait removed from the bait stations before they are re-stocked (photo 4).

Bait stations look like a piece of black "down-pipe", with a cap on one end and a dispensing "hole" at the other. Each station has an identity code marked on it (photo 5).  Well chewed - by rats? (photo 6).  The cap stops the water getting in; it's removable for refilling the tube (photo 7).

A bracket for a bait station is attached to the trunk of a tree, quite high up, definitely above head-height.  The bait station then slides up/down this bracket.  The result is that the bait station is securely attached but can be easily lifted off for refilling (photo 8).

The old unused bait pellets are removed, and placed in a rubbish bag for later disposal (photo 9).  The bait station is refilled, and replaced in its bracket (photo 10).

As an additional incentive, a powdered lure is spread on the tree trunk below the bait station.  Here's what's left from last time (photo 11).  The lure is the 'icing on the bait cakes' - it is made of a mixture of flour and icing sugar.  Some people add nutmeg or cinnamon to increase the smell.  Here Tony has tipped some lure onto his hand, and then spread it / dusted it down the tree trunk (photo 12).  Note the pink-blue marker on the tree to help locate bait stations, though these days Tony uses GPS to find his 8 stations.

What Tony hates about the job:

Patches of gorse and blackberry that he has to contend with, and he isn't too thrilled about the occasional small patch of stinging nettles, either.

What Tony enjoys about it:

Walking up that stream.  Enjoying the dappled green bush cover, the bird life and the sound of the water - it's incredibly restful.

Finding bait stations that are empty - that means a furry pest has eaten some bait and isn't long for this world - yes!!

Finding bait stations that are full - means pest numbers are under control - yes!!

Watching the planting areas develop, noticing the changes as he passes through.

The chance to do his bit in the community, and put something back.

In Tony's own words:

"That stream up there, that's the real Cannons Creek.

"It's an area really worth looking after, and it is beautiful. 

"It's the reason I keep doing this, actually. 

"Those with green thumbs are more interested in the planting areas above the stream of course, and I agree that's the end game – but my reward on each trip, it's that stream bed." (see photos 13 & 14)



Job 4 U?   Possum Control Team wants more members

We need more people to look after our bait station lines.

Are you interested?

Tony or another volunteer will take any new people around to show them what it's like and help them get started.

If you're interested, please email info@MaaraRoa.org.nz