Trap-line encounters

By: Blogger

To keep the Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary predator-free takes more than the 2.6km of predator-proof fence. In addition, there are 25 trap-lines that collectively have 1324 stations. These stations are a mix of bait stations and various models of trap. Each trap-line is serviced at least monthly, but some are done fortnightly. Much of this work is undertaken by volunteers and is necessary to protect the birds and reptiles residing on the park. It may sound like work, but my wife and I treat our trap-line servicing as a pleasurable outdoor activity and a great way to get some exercise. And yes, we do consider it ours. We take pride in the ownership of it, and the benefit that the park gets from it being well serviced.

We have recently attended to different trap-lines, so that we get to experience a different area of the sanctuary. We changed from a line that followed the principal drains around the base of the park to one that follows the cliff tops of the south coast. Both lines required about four hours in the park. A typical day on the trap-line will involve checking and replacing baits, testing some of the traps and ensuring all traps and bait stations are suitably located. Luckily, due to the predator-proof fence, the day usually does not involve dealing with captured pests. However, if there is something caught then this will require recording and, if a rat or mustelid, retrieving the culprit’s body and returning it for further tests.

Actually, there is no such thing as a typical day. Last year, after extremely heavy rain, we spent about six hours looking for and retrieving traps that had floated away in the floodwaters. The trap-line can be serviced any time during the scheduled week, so normally extreme weather can be avoided. One day we were saturated not by torrential rain but the light rain that settled on the bush that we needed to push through. The trap-lines are often not on defined tracks but on trails worn by the feet of trap-line monitors.

They are delineated by the stations set out every 50 metres or so and markings of orange tape. It’s a challenge some days to find the stations. As we wander the trap-line we are joined by the takahe, saddlebacks, tuis, wood pigeons, fan tails and other birds. Last week, after commenting that the only bird we hadn’t encountered that day was a kiwi, one ran out of the bush within a metre of me and disappeared into the bush again on the other side.  You don’t get that sitting at home on the couch.

If you would like to take part and adopt a trap-line, visit

Roger Grove, TOSSI


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