Join us on Facebook
Sign in



Peter Neale, Chairperson, Arthur’s Pass Wildlife Trust with Cassandra Herbert, Orion, delivering the new traps

Orion provides APWT with 130 new stoat traps

Rats and stoats are on borrowed time as the Arthur's Pass Wildlife Trust prepares to set more than 130 new traps, donated by Orion, the local power lines company.

Native bird life is being threatened by these voracious predators which have grown in large numbers over autumn, thanks to a mega mast season that provided abundant food in the form of mice and prompted increased breeding.

The Trust’s Chairperson, Peter Neale says the traps are vital to stem rampant local predator population growth that is threatening native birds such as kiwi, kea and rock wren.

“When the predator’s food source dries up they turn to native birds and lizards. Our native species are not well adapted to these predators and have poor defenses against them.

“Native bird eggs and chicks could be eaten in large numbers this year. It’s possible we’ll see entire local populations decimated, unless we take drastic action.”

The traps are being laid in the Mt Aicken, Bealey, Mingha and Edwards River valley areas of Arthur’s Pass National Park, and will be cleared and reset by Trust members and volunteers.

The new traps will boost trap numbers in the area by 15 per cent.

Once they lose their pine-fresh smell and acclimatise, over spring the new traps are expected to catch more than 100 predators a month, and significantly slow their growth in numbers.

Orion Sustainability and Business Improvement Lead, Cassandra Herbert, says the traps enable the company to support the only national park in its distribution region and gives Orion people the chance to use their construction skills.

“Rather than get the traps ready-made, our staff offered to assemble them from kit-sets, which meant we could provide more of them.

“It was a great project for the weekend, and a very practical way we could help the sustainability of an important part of our region.”

Rats and mice are in huge numbers

Beech mast leads to rat & mouse population explosion

The Arthur's Pass Wildlife Trust maintains 383 stoat traps in the Bealey Valley. Since the beginning of winter they have been running hot with rats with 207 captures, only 11 were captured in the same period last year. The Beech mast (full seeding) of 2018/19 is driving a marked increase in rat numbers after residual populations survived the mild winter. Further to this mice are now exploding in population as they hoover up the beech seed. Rats eat mice, but Stoats eat mice & rats, so the apex predator of the forest will also see a huge increase in population.

The problem lies in that it is extremely difficult to capture stoats in traps when so much other more attractive food is in plentiful supply. Come next Autumn, the mice numbers will subside naturally into winter, leaving a ravenous load of predators; the stoats will continue to clean up the rat population, but will then turn their attention to the native bird-life in Spring when their breeding season gets underway. All ground nesting birds and their eggs (Kea, Kiwi, Whio, Weka) are literal sitting ducks for the stoats, and tree nestors won't fair much better.

With climate change the beech forest is masting much more frequent than its normal 3-5 year cycle, as it gets stressed by drought and other weather related events. Hopefully we avoid another mast in the 2019/20 season.

New Kea sign at Viaduct lookout

New Kea signs at busy tourist lookouts

The Arthur's Pass Wildlife Trust has erected two new signs at the Viaduct and Rock Shelter lookouts. These were donated by Signlink Graphics in Hokitika. There has been ongoing issues of people feeding Kea at both these lookouts and subsequent injuries or death as the Kea are too distracted by the food and get run over by vehicles.

Oscar high on the slopes of Temple Basin

Oscar gets killed on Highway 73

A very sad day for Arthur's Pass. Oscar, a Great Spotted Kiwi, we have known since February 2008, was found dead on Highway 73 last night by the NZ Post transport driver. Oscar had been struck by a vehicle only moments earlier, but had un-survivable injuries.

Oscar was one of the earliest Juveniles discovered in 2008 when the Wildlife Trust commenced its Kiwi study. We followed Oscar, and his eventual partner, Dagmar, for 6 years. In that time seeing him father several successful chicks, and a couple of failed incubations,

Oscar's "territory" unfortunately had always crossed the highway & the Bealey River, being one of the largest at 100Ha, and he had been witnessed having close shaves with vehicles in the past. Kiwi in this valley are recruiting juveniles at just under 10% p.a., so it is very likely that the territory may get "sub-divided" by incoming sub-adults.

We have always presumed Dagmar to be quite an older female, so it is very unclear whether she would find a new mate, or even bother.

Copyright © 2020 by Arthur's Pass Wildlife Trust. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. v1.75 (19/09/2020)