This autumn has been a busy time for a number of trapping groups in the city. A new group that has been set up in the Mangakotukutuku area has been catching Norway and Ship rats every day in the last few weeks. And what’s more, something has been eating our fresh rat catches. This could be stoats and if it is that is a big problem as the Mangakotukutuku Gully is a important bat habitat and stoats are responsible for a great deal of predation of bat roosts throughout the country.
In other areas of the city we are also having great success. Along the river there is a major project along the edge of Hamilton East, at Hayes Paddock which has been catching rats and possums. They have caught 158 pest mammals in the last year and they continue to record possum catches near the river and numerous rat catches along the main river bank.
And finally, I have recently had a update from our newly established project at Hamilton Boys High School where students have been managing the traps in the school’s gully area. They have been trapping for the last 8 months and have been catching rats, mice, and hedgehogs regularly in t-rex traps originally donated by Predator Free Hamilton.
As we continue to grow projects in Predator Free Hamilton, we are going to be looking for volunteers to manage trap lines, as well as schools and organizations to take control of trap lines in and around gullies throughout the city.
If you are interested in helping out you can contact Predator Free Hamilton directly, and we will put you in touch with the right group in the area of the city you want to be involved with and you can start helping us catch the predators that put our taonga species at risk.
With the beginning of April comes the end of the Kirikiriroa City-Wide bat survey. There have been 70 monitors out and about in the city; in the gullies, at the university and all around every suburb in town. These surveys happen every year and are an important way we can gauge the activity of pekapeka-tou-rou in our city and how their population is getting along. You can find the latest surveys on the WRC website, along with recordings of bat calls to hear – https://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/environment/biodiversity/bats/
But what can you do to help protect the taoga species in the city? the first and foremost anyone can do is buy a rat traps from Go Eco in Frankton for your backyard. You can achieve numerous things at one time; rat populations in your home can be managed, your compost will not become a house for rats, wires wont be chewed as often, but most importantly you can help provide safe places for birds, bats, and lizards to inhabit.
Rats are a real problem for all our native species, but in the case of bats they are very troublesome as they breed very qucikly, live in large populations and reside in simliar habitats to our bats. Pekapekatou-roa prefer knot holes in mature trees as roost sites in and around the city. there are some that use artificial bat boxes as roosts but these are few in number and the current thinking is that where there is available native foliage suitable for roosts pekapeka will not use artificial bat boxes. that means that when rats take over mature trees as homes, then bats are pushed out and put under more presssure.
Please consider trapping rats in your home for setting out bait if your prefer, to help our species survive. this is most important now, as rats are hungry and looking for food in the form of birds and bats. The aim of Predator Free Hamilton is to achieve a biodiverse city where predator numbers are low so it would be great if everyone who can help is trapping in their backyard.
The first day of March is also considered the first day of autumn in Aotearoa New Zealand. But it might as well be considered the first day of the rat season. Major conservation projects in places such as Pureora Forest and Fiordland are informed by the Autumn seasons as that is when most rats are active after a summer feeding on surplus seed. Rats are then looking for something else to eat. One of the major problems for our native taonga species such as pekapeka-tou-roa which are found right here in Kirikiriroa is that when there is a lot of seeds for rats to eat there over summer is a increase of Rattus rattus, or ship rats which compete for the habitat of bats as well as eating native birds and birds eggs.
Those rats will also venture into your barns, garages, and houses or woodpiles as place to keep warm throughout the winter. As a result, The landscape is at risk of being overrun by rats in the autumn season. The Autumn season in the city is just as important as the species which live within the city limits are at risk of being predated or out competed by rats as well.
Every resident can help with the predator control project by joining up to the Predator Free Hamilton Facebook Page, buying a trap from Go Eco in Frankton for their home, or joining one of the many community groups in and around the city. One rat trap in every five houses will help us reach the goal of a predator proof city and support the larger projects which are going on up and down the Waikato River and surrounding basin in Ngaruawahia, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Tamahere, and Pirongia.
If you have a trap already or are wondering what is the best way to trap them. Go Eco has Victor Modified Traps and T-Rex Traps which are perfectly suited for the job. Rats love peanut butter, Nutella, or egg based mayonnaise, so everyone will likely have something they can use as bait around the house. Mixing up the baits you use is always a good idea so use peanut butter for a few weeks, and then switch to a Nutella-like spread for a while and then back again. You can even leave a dead rat in the trap as rats love the smell of rats, and it will stop it smelling like humans.
March is also a busy month for bat enthusiasts as the Kirirkiriroa City-Wide Bat survey commences. There are a total of 80 Acoustic Bat Monitors being deployed across the city, with many being on private land and therefore lots of residents have agreed to be involved. The most recently crowned ‘bird’ of the year has become more popular with people in recent months, but may be declining within the city limits.
The survey is conducted by Project Echo and Go Eco, with the support of WRC, HCC and DOC, so that there is an accurate picture of how bats use the city and where they are most densely populated. The previous survey found the most bat activity in the southern portion of the city, in and around the Mangakotukutuku and Mangaonua gullies as well as the Peacockes area south of the currently developed parts of the city. With that in mind and the fact that the Peacocke area is currently being developed, predator control is all the more important, because as the bat habitat in the city is declining the pressure put on pekapeka, or long-tailed bats, by predators increases. The aim of the current project survey is to show the broad nature of bat use of the city landscape to better understand how we can protect them. But one of the already obvious ways we can help is by increasing the number of residents trapping their own backyard and by trapping in the gully systems. One way you can help is to buy a trap from Go Eco in Frankton and place it in your backyard or nearby park.
The city is not always the place that people associate with nature, biodiversity, and birdsong. But in the past year Predator Free Hamilton has been involved in projects that help protect ornate skinks, a rare species of skink not thought to be in Hamilton any longer and found recently by passionate members of the community. Projects have also help secure the future of pekapeka-tou-roa in the city, in support of Project Echo and the surveying work they conduct each year. Other projects involve protecting precious kotukutuku from possums which can pull trees apart and ruin forests.
All these efforts are important for the welfare of the city, its waterways, wild places, and the people who live and enjoy life in the city. Recent studies have confirmed what has already been documented; that spending time in nature is good for people’s health and wellbeing.
The aim of the council is to achieve 10% native canopy coverage in the city. At the moment we are languishing at around 2%. The objective is to provide habitats for native birds and bats to enter the city or expand their populations across the urban landscape. The goal is admirable, and to achieve the desired outcome we also need to continue working towards making Hamilton predator free. Rats and stoats can be managed by using traps in traps boxes – to keep childrens’ hands and pets paws away from the snap, and possums can be caught using a tree mounted possum trap like the Trapinator or Flipping Timmy.
The way we live in the city is affected by the surrounding environment, gullies, parks and street side plants. If those areas are overrun by predators, then the chance of the city having a thriving and balanced ecosystem is limited. So, whatever baits people use; peanut butter, dried meat, an egg, Nutella (or cheaper alternative), or egg-based mayonnaise, the aim should be to trap the predators which halt native biodiversity, and every predator caught means we are step closer to achieving the city’s environmental goals.
This year’s bird of the year winner has been controversial, not least because bats are not birds. However, pekapeka-tou-roa is a fascinating little creature, which is one of two native bats in Aotearoa New Zealand. The other species in Aotearoa is the pekapeka-tou-poto, or lesser short-tailed bat. Both species live in the Waikato, although the pekapeka-tou-poto can only be found in the Pureora Forest in South Waikato.
Pekapeka-tou-roa are resident in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. They live in the ecological highways in the city, the Waikato River and the gullies which feed into the river. Its incredible that one of two native species of bat make their home in Kirikiriroa, and even more bat recordings have been made in the surrounding area. pekapeka-tou-roa are Nationally Threatened and their population is likely declining in some areas. Their populations are threatened by deofrestation and habitat loss as well as predation from invasive mammals; stoats, rats and cats.
While you will not be able to hear pekapeka-tou-roa as they fly by, there are a few ways you can get to know these amazing creatures – one paper suggests that each pekapeka-tou-roa can eat 1000 insects in a night. Head over to https://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/environment/biodiversity/bats/ to see the annual reports and surveys of pekapeka-tou-roa in the region, tell your friends that these gorgeous little mammals live in the city, learn about bat friend tree management, or join one of the Waikato Museum Bat Tours which are held in the summer months (outside of covid-19 restrictions).
But Perhaps the best thing anyone can do is set up a trap in their back yard or nearby park. Rats compete for bat habitat and eat bats, and stoats are veracious bat predators. Set up a rat trap tunnel in your local area and you will be helping the population of pekapeka-tou-roa survive in Kirikiriroa survive.
Those of us fortunate enough to have lived in Hamilton for a long time will know that for many years we only occasionally saw tūī and they were visitors outside the nesting season – but now they are back. A recent paper in Notornis (1), the Ornithological Society’s journal, has put some numbers around this and tracked the hugely beneficial effect of predator control in bush near Hamilton.
Starting in 2004 Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research scientists captured and banded 51 adult tūī and fitted radio transmitters to 41 in and near Hamilton, Cambridge, and Te Awamutu so they could follow their movements. They found that tūī moved 5–23 km from urban areas to surrounding native forests to nest, but only four (29%) of 14 nests that were not protected by predator control fledged young. The main reason was predation by ship rats, kāhu/swamp harriers and possums.
With this information as a baseline, the Waikato Regional Council’s Hamilton Halo project was implemented, carrying out effective pest mammal control in bush areas within tūī flying distance of Hamilton.
Meanwhile a number of community groups and the City Council have carried out environmental restoration and predator control in the city, which provides increased and safe habitat for the growing tūī population to move into.
The research has confirmed greatly increased year-round tūī abundance and nesting in Hamilton. The results confirm previous findings that tūī move widely in winter; that they readily cross pasture in the absence of continuous forest corridors; and that they will permanently inhabit urban areas.
Provided adequate food is available, effective control of ship rats and possums can rapidly (1–4 years) increase tūī visits and nesting within 20 km of managed sites, enabling re-colonisation of nearby urban habitats by tūī, despite previous evidence that tūī tend to live and nest close to where they were hatched.
1. Increasing urban abundance of tūī (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) by pest mammal control in surrounding forests; Neil Fitzgerald, John Innes, Corinne Watts, Danny Thornburrow, Scott Bartlam, Notornis, 2021, Vol. 68: 93-107.
This month as been great for groups in Hamilton City, who have been finding species they didn’t know were their neighbours. residents in Hamilton found this skink in the area where they have recently started predator control to supplement their plantings.
It is a copper skink (Oligosoma aeneum), one of the many native reptiles in Aotearoa New Zealand. Predator control is a crucial way of protecting these species in urban environments, where rats are abundant.
Another great piece of news is that Hamilton East School officially blessed and opened their newly restored planting area, Te Ara o Te Ngahere, on the school grounds. Predator Free Hamilton donated several traps to the project and they have been a great success. The school has recorded numerous catches.
Lets hope that there will be further plans to expand the project as natural areas are such a great education tool.
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research are running their Biodiversity Bonanza this month. The programme will run from May 24 – May 28. Each day there will be webinars about the recent updates from weed and predator control research.
There are sessions on predator control and the diseases transmitted through predators to our native wildlife, as well as sessions on weed biocontrol systems and wallaby management. Sessions are free to sign up to and will be well worth viewing.
The official programme schedule is available on the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research website.
PFH is having a tunnel box making workshop this Saturday 10th April 8:30am – 12:30pm at Fairfield College. We need help making hundreds of boxes for residents and community groups in Kirikiriroa. The tunnel boxes are easy and fun to make and a great activity for families.
Come along and make some boxes and you can take one home (plus a rat trap), for your property, or free.
Come to the Fairfield College main entrance, park in the carpark and the workshop is right next to the carpark. Look for the PFH flag. See you then!