Aro Valley Backyard Pest Management Meeting

Hi Everyone. Nick here. Aro Valley has some tremendous residents and they certainly are Halo Heroes.

Here is a report of the Backyard Pest Management Meeting held on July 24th 2013 from Julia Stace.

At Ewan Kelsall’s talk about backyard pest management about 40 people heard about what Wellington City Council & Greater Wellington are doing in the public land that borders Aro Valley and Zealandia.  They have had possum and rat bait stations on the bushy slopes and have been controlling pests outside Zealandia for 2 decades now. They would like to do more but it is a funding issue.  Currently WCC provides most of the funding and GW most of the staff.  DOC is too underfunded to be involved.

In the Valley below are household compost heaps, chicken runs and even guinea pigs which provide a good food source for pests like rats, hedgehogs and possums.  Even wild boars and goats are, or have been seen, in the adjacent recreational areas and farms.  Mustelids (ferrets, stoats and weasels) have a huge territory of 1 sq km each so as we increase the rate of trapping it will be interesting to see if any are caught in Aro Valley.

Aro Valley Ewan showed us various traps and favoured Pelifeed®, a tube of poison that you can attach up a tree in your garden.  He favoured this because it goes on working, poisoning rats and possums for a month, until the bait becomes stale or is all gone, whereas a trap, once it has something in it, is out of action until it is reset.  It is baited with anticoagulant poison, which is available to anyone, to handle with care, and has an antidote if necessary.  With a bait station the only way you know that you have pests is by the bait disappearing as you are unlikely to ever see the kill.

I myself favour traps as you kill more humanely, don’t add poison to the environment and you know what is around.  But they are gruesome.

Methods of pest control are evolving rapidly, as interest in it grows.

To encourage urban pest control the Morgan Foundation has set up a site

Their intention is to provide traps and bait stations at a subsidised price, for Wellington’s households.   There are some good things to be had.  I have started trapping rats and hedgehogs but need some way of keeping the trap inaccessible to cats. (I dread catching Bengali Marlo from Epuni St).  We saw a nifty black box which holds a rat trap but has 2 entrances, both too small for cats etc.    If you sign up as a ‘halo household’ you can buy this at a subsidised price. Ewan considers the familiar, wooden rat trap, the Victor, is still a useful trap.  I have bought a more expensive, plastic one from Bunnings that is easier to set – and unload.  Otherwise you can get traps, bait stations and poison from the farm stores listed on the halo website.

Possums, rats and hedgehogs are to be our primary targets, as it is too hard in the suburbs to catch only the feral cats, not the pets.  Bells on cats are better than nothing and also keeping them in at night reduces their hunting hours.  There are very few if any possums left in Aro Valley, but like all these pests they may reinvade vacant territory, from the borders.

Reducing pests will allow their food, invertebrates, skinks and geckos to recover and to provide traditional food for our native birds, who are poor competitors otherwise.

The answer is in having individual households set traps or set up bait stations. The aim is to have a trap every few properties echoing the ideal, 50m grid pattern that trapping schemes aspire to.

With the back yard trapping, and by continuing to plant native trees and to control weeds, we can make Wellington become the best little natural capital in the world, where even in an urban environment we will have an outstanding dawn chorus.

Julia Stace