Monday, 30 May 2016

Changing Seasons at Zealandia

There's been a range of new things happening in the valley as we head into Winter.

Usually in April/May they conduct their annual mice audit.  There are always mice in Zealandia but once a year they conduct an audit to check numbers and find out where in the valley they mainly are. This is a good time of the year to do it as the population will be up after summer when there has been plenty of food around.   A group of volunteers come in over a few weeks and the entire valley is covered.
First, the tracking tunnels are set up.  This involves putting out ink pads and pieces of paper.  Every two hundred meters along each track is a wooden box.

Inside each box is placed the ink pad and paper.  Between the ink a small pile of peanut butter/oats is placed.

Every couple of days, we have to go back to check the tracking tunnels.  We have to add more ink to the ink pads, replace the peanut butter with fresh and also remove the papers and replace them with new, clean paper.  Every piece of paper is carefully collected, what box it has come from, the date and the type of footprints found are all recorded.

On one of the days I went out to help collect and replace the tracking papers.  I got to see lots of mouse footprints and even some tuatara prints.

The peanut butter gets put out twice a week for about three weeks.  This allows for a number of mice to travel through the tunnels.  Each time they walk through, they leave behind their scent.  After the three weeks is up, they then put bits of dead mouse into each tracking tunnel.  This along with the scent will attract any rats because this scent is very appealing to them!  They do this for a couple of weeks, then they put out bits of old, dead rabbit - the rabbit attracts any other mustelids (weasels, stoats).  Thankfully for Zealandia, all of the tracking showed they had no rats or mustelids.  There is always a number of mice in the valley and after the tracking, they know where in the valley there are large populations of them.
Now, the team are about to put out some poison to kill the mice, not all of the mice will be poisoned but it helps to control their numbers.
I'm looking forward to getting back to school and setting up a tracking and trapping programme around our school with the boys.

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