Feral cat and cage trap
Friends of Rotoiti Feral Cat Control.
It is important to distinguish between Feral and Domestic/Pet cats. Feral cats have been living in our district since early releases by farmers trying to control the rabbit population. These releases began in the early farming days and carried on until approximately 20 years ago. These cats have very successfully colonised our area, as they have with much of NZ’s remote farmland and wilderness. They are truly wild and successful predators, arguably our apex imported predator. Google any of the web sites under “Feral Cats NZ” for further information.
Feral cats have been trapped by a sub-group of FOR, (Friends of Rotoiti) over the past 9 years. In 2013 FOR began a more organised program of feral cat trapping by purchasing 24 live cage traps and distributed them to local residents who wished to join the cat trapping program. Live cage traps are used as occasionally weka and hawks are caught and these can then be released unharmed. Ferrets, stoats, weasels and hedgehogs are also caught.
Until recently all trapping has been carried out on private land. In June 2016, after discussions with local DOC rangers, 12 traps were set in the Park and monitored daily by 5 FOR members. During June and part of July 6 feral cats, 14 possums (they enjoy rabbit bait as well!) 1 stoat and 3 weka were caught. The weak were released unharmed. The highest cat caught was at over 1000m above sea level.
20 residents currently operate FOR cat traps and during March, April and May of this year 113 feral cats were caught. I anticipate that during 2016 we will catch in excess of 200 cats.
While this venture is still relatively new to FOR we are improving our knowledge and methods, and a core group of 12 very enthusiastic volunteers are battling on. We hope to increase our range to include trapping lines within the National Park, in partnership with DOC during 2017.
We face a problem that confronts all users of live capture traps, namely they must be visited each day. We look forward to the development of kill traps that are designed to exclude native birds such as weka, kea, kiwi, kaka and hawks, that will enable us to include more remote areas that only need intermittent visits. To date we have not discovered such a trap. This is perhaps the greatest problem facing feral cat control in remote areas, such as the Nelson Lakes National Park.
Russell and Wayne have been busy setting traps for feral cats. Some of the possums caught in traps had been eaten. As a response Timms traps have been set around Coldwater Hut and Whisky Falls.
On a brisk 12 July morning Jenny took Russell and Wayne to the head of Lake Rotoiti. In the traps were two feral cats ( adult females) and one rat.