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Possum cull to stop bovine TB spread

An aerial operation involving 1080 toxin is scheduled within the next month – dependent on suitable weather – In the northern Remutaka Range to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis [TB].

Bovine TB, which is fatal for the possums that carry it, compromises the immune systems of cattle and deer and causes clinical disease in these animals.

However, dogs are particularly vulnerable to 1080, whether in bait or poisoned carcasses, and an extensive network of warning signs have been placed at access points to areas that will be impacted by the TB control.

According to Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC], dog walking and hunting will be prohibited in the Remutaka Cycle Trail area, Mt Climie, and parts of Tunnel Gully for a period of time as a result of the 1080 operation [when warning signs indicating that pesticide residues may still be present in baits or carcasses are removed, normal activities will be able to resume in the area].

“Do not handle any bait or allow children to wander unsupervised,” GWRC stated.

Hunters are advised not to hunt or take game from within a two-kilometre radius.

Normal activities in the area can be resumed when the signs are officially removed.

According to GWRC, “We face a choice: let predators reach out of control numbers, or manage them to protect our native species, primary production sector and social wellbeing.”

This latest predator-control programme covers about 24,898 hectares in the Pākuratahi Forest and Wainuiomata Regional Park, and is run by OSPRI.

It began on May 20 with the application of non-toxic pre-feed pellets, which give “possums a taste for the pellets and overcomes bait shyness”, according to an OSPRI information sheet about the operation.

The second phase, which is weather dependent, will involve an aerial distribution of green-coloured pellets that contain the 1080 toxin.

Possum control efforts have managed to dramatically reduce the number of infected herds in the Northern Remutaka region since the last such operation in 2018.

“To control TB, possum numbers need to be kept extremely low, around one to two animals every 10 hectares, for at least five years in this location,” according to OSPRI.

“Advanced GPS navigational equipment will ensure the pellets are accurately kept within the boundary of the operation and exclusion zones are avoided.

“To reduce by-kill of deer populations, we intend to use a deer repellent on bait on some public land, where consultation and consent conditions allow.

“We’ll also use this repellent on private land, where requested.”

This programme is consented by GWRC, the Department of Conservation, and the Ministry of Health.

For suspected poisonings contact your local hospital or doctor, or dial 111 National Poisons Centre0800 POISON [764 766]. If a domestic animal is poisoned, contact a local veterinarian.

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