Weka getting caught in possum traps

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A forestry company has reacted quickly to concerns that weka are being caught in possum traps set in commercial forests around the Nelson region, by removing the traps and ensuring trappers adopt new methods.

Last week, groups of walkers found a number of weka caught in legal foot-hold traps set in commercial forests in the Richmond Hills. The traps had been set on the ground for possums, which destroy seedling pine trees, but had inadvertently caught some weka.

Forestry company Hancock Forest Management reacted immediately, instructing its trapping contractor to remove the traps and initiating a review of their trapping policies.

“We take the wellbeing of native animals in our forests very seriously,” Hancock’s John Moorhead says.

John says they instructed their contractor, Action Forest Management, which manages trapper access permits, to contact all trappers and ensure they use Department of Conservation approved traps, set off the ground in weka areas.

Trapping contract manager Paul Fleming says the eight trappers he manages will now be setting the traps on boards bolted into trees at least 900mm off the ground, out of reach of the weka.

Paul says the problem has only really surfaced in the last year or so after weka numbers increased dramatically as a result of voluntary groups trapping predatory pests around Nelson. “The traps are legal and permitted and we were setting them away from the road to keep clear of walkers, but they were still catching the occasional weka. We have never had a regulation for anything like this because there have never been that many weka around.

“When I started trapping 15 years ago you hardly ever saw one, but now they are everywhere so we need to change the way we do things. I spoke to an engineer this week and he designed a system to set the traps off the ground.”

One of the walkers who found weka caught in the traps, Saralinda MacMillan, says she is delighted the problem is being quickly resolved. She says they were “really distressed” when they found the weka caught in the traps, especially when so many dedicated volunteer groups were working hard to protect native birds around Nelson.

“There was one dead weka by one of the traps, but we found two alive and let them out,” Saralinda says. “It was really sad though because one of the weka had its mate hanging around waiting for it get out.”