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Problem rabbits take the bait

Donated quadbikes are a vital tool to the programme. PHOTO/GEORGE SHIERS.

Poisoned carrots are the top tool in Pukaha’s rabbit control operations, as the wildlife centre works hard to eradicate the pest and protect native birds.

An estimated 3000 rabbits were killed using pindone around the centre’s buffer zone, a poison left on food that builds up in the body of the rabbit over several days.

Rabbit programme manager Bevan “Harry” Harris said the pindone was the number one tool in the operation.

“[Pindone] builds up causing haemorrhaging in the vital organs after the rabbit consumes a lethal dose.

“A lethal dose is about 180 grams over four or five days.

“We’ve been pretty blown away by how effective a tool that is.”

Thermal scopes were also used to shoot rabbits, netting the hunting team another 1716 rabbits so far.

They had also shot 48 feral cats, four ferrets and one stoat.

Harris said rabbits were easy prey and attracted predators to the area, which in turn hunted the native birds living at the sanctuary.

Rabbits were also a pest in their own right; chewing the bottom of native plants damaged foliage, and digging caused erosion.

“A successful rabbit programme in this area is not a sprint. It’s an endurance event.

“We’ve got to bring [rabbit populations] down at a level so predators don’t switch to birds.

“Ultimately, if we are going out on a shoot and coming back with single-figure hides, we’d consider that a success.”

Another tool used was Magtoxin, a pellet that has magnesium phosphide. The pellets were dropped down into burrows, which were then dampened to release a poisonous gas.

“It’s a pretty volatile substance. If you put too much water on it, it will actually explode.

“So we’ve had to be very careful. You can’t use it when it rains, for obvious reasons.

“At the moment Magtoxin is a tool for the later stages of the programme.”

The buffer zone around Pukaha was about 3200 hectares, and about 85 to 90 per cent of landowners had signed up to the pest control programme. Some blocks in the buffer zone had seen a reduction in rabbit populations of as much as 69 per cent.

The focus for the next 12 months was to increase pindone usage to about five tonnes by the end of the year, and there was a big push on night shoots before the breeding season.

Harris said they were hoping to have shot 3000 rabbits by the end of July.

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George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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