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Snells Beach Pest Free programme goes from strength to strength

By Alan France

Since my last blog at the end of January 2023, Snells Pest Free programme has both increased in size and impact.

Firstly, it is important to recognise the support of Predator Free New Zealand. They were so impressed with the success of our programme during 2022, within Snells Shoreline Conservation Community, that they awarded us another $1,500 to buy more traps. Now we have even more traps to give away.

Increased Snells Beach community involvement

In February 2023, Alan, Jan and Lyn from the trapping team visited a Snells Beach Neighbourhood Support street co-ordinators meeting to introduce the programme and to ask if local streets were willing to be involved in having traps. We suggested there might be people in a street that would be willing to monitor a small number of traps or alternatively individual residents who might be willing to have a trap in their own backyard.

From the meeting, we had a great response, and a number of street co-ordinators got in touch and became involved. One Snells Beach street, that holds a street event every season, invited us join them and bring some traps. People were unsure if they had rats in their neighbourhood but three people took a trap and one of them caught three rats in the first three days. Other co-ordinators shared our contacts with their streets, and more Snells Beach residents contacted us. In a number of cases this has seen some streets have two or three traps being set up and run by households.

By the end of March 2023, we have 43 new traps set up in the backyards of Snells Beach neighbourhoods. This is amazing and shows that there is great support for the programme – thank you Snells Beach and thank you to the street co-ordinators. If your street would be interested please get in touch. Drop us an email. We are keen to keep the programme growing.

A new Snells Beach trap line

Another spin off from the Snells Beach Neighbourhood Support meeting was that one street co-ordinator enquired about the possibility of trapping on an Auckland Council reserve near their home on the west side of Mahurangi East Road. The area backs onto several larger lifestyle blocks and by chance, their street co-ordinator had also been in touch saying several local people had expressed interest in having traps on their properties.

After a discussion with Auckland Parks, we gained permission to set up a trap line. Residents agreed to manage it and we have offered training, support and resources to help them.

Tracking cards showing pest prints
Tracking tunnels are set overnight. There is an ink pad in the middle so that the animal leaves prints. It is usually lured with peanut butter. They were placed where Snells Shoreline Conservation Community trappers thought rats and mice would pass.

Before we set out the traps we undertook an investigation to see what predators they had and where they frequent. Above are five of the 10 tracking cards that we placed around the site. As you can see we found lots of activity.

The large prints that look like handprints are hedgehogs and the small ones are rats. Interestingly, we seemed to have a lot of rats coming in and out to eat the peanut butter. The evidence reassured us that having traps on this site would be effective but also helped us position the traps in places where they could have the greatest impact.

Altogether this new trap line will have more than 15 large DOC200s. We are also setting a number of possum traps on the reserve and on the private property (see picture below) as there are clearly possums living in the local bush. Now we have three large trap lines at Snells Beach with more than 45 large traps and around six possum traps.

Possum traps on outdoor table
The yellow box is a Timms trap, and the white box is a Trapinator. Both are usually put in a tree and set with fruit lures, such as apple coated in cinnamon.

Predator catch numbers at Snells Beach

Geo map image of trap locations
Picture from TrapNZ database where Snells Shoreline Conservation Community volunteers collect and record all trapping data.

Unsurprisingly, the number of traps has increased. Also, our coverage is spreading across all of Snells Beach and the number of catches is increasing.

Snells Shoreline Conservation Community’s recent figures show that since the start of the programme in December 2021 we have recorded 575 catches.

In the first 12 months we recorded just over 300 catches. In the last four month period from 1 December 2022 until 31 March 2023 we caught 275 – almost the same amount as in the whole year previously.

Interestingly, more than 68 of these catches were through our backyard programme. That said, we believe it is likely there have been more catches than those recorded with us, which is why we encourage people to go to our website and report their catches.

These are great results and show we are making a big impact on Snells Beach predators although it is important to recognise that rats, hedgehogs, weasels and mice are far more active in the summer months. Catches may start to decrease during the winter. Our ambition is to reach 1,000 catches by the end of the year – what an achievement that would be.

If you live in Snells Beach and would like a free trap for your backyard, please email us.

You can also fill in the online request form for a trap. We will get back to you and organise delivery.

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