A story from our new trappers: it’s great to have Luke and Joel on the team
Banner Photo: Joel in training under Deb’s watchful eye
I love the outdoors. So does Joel, my 15-year-old son. As a fisherman, tramper and hunter, I normally want to push on towards the best fishing, the next track, the next face to hunt, and to tick off another challenge. Joel likes to take his time; observing, pausing and enjoying the journey.
Recently, we read about the opportunity to monitor a trapline. It piqued Joel’s curiosity, and it would see us heading into the outdoors together on a regular basis. It would give me an excuse to explore nearby areas for potential hunting opportunities and we could easily work it into a weekend in the bush. I contacted Deb to see if we would be suitable, and we met her onsite in the Kawekas as she showed us what was involved.
Joel really shines in the applied science world, and he loved meeting Deb and hearing about the project. The details fascinate him; from what baits are most effective at luring rodents in, to how the transmitters on the kiwis work, to how splatted the rodents get under the force of a mighty DOC 250 trap. (By the way, they get very splatted.)
The trapping work is satisfying, but it’s work. We have about 50 traps on our line. The process is fairly simple. As we walk along, we open up the trap with a screwdriver, if necessary clear the squashed and sometimes unrecognisable remains, scrape the trap clean, reapply the bait or lure, and reset and close.
Most of the wooden traps on our line are DOC 250s. This translates to “we will maim you if you aren’t careful.” They get baited with squares of dehydrated rabbit. The white possum traps are called Trapinators, complete with the slogan “You won’t be back!” This sort of work seems prone to a bleak sense of humour. The white traps are cleared of possums, then get a spread of peanut butter, before being sprayed with a white cinnamon lure. It ends up being a very confusing assault on the senses!
Joel then enters the data into his phone app, which has a satellite map interface, dotted with the traps. This data includes a heap of things, all of which can be further analysed to see how many rodents, and of what variety, are being squashed, what is attracting them, what areas of the Kawekas are trapping the most things.
The work has at its heart the protection of the very vulnerable kiwi in the Kawekas. For Joel though, it’s been the continued awakening of his various strengths. It is hard work filled with wonder, and that means that he soldiers on with zero complaints about his sore legs, his blisters, the disgusting sights and smells and the mental load of learning and repeating new and finicky tasks.
I know there is a great need for volunteers in the programme, and I highly recommend this worthwhile project.