Christmas is knocking on our doors and many of us are scratching our heads wondering where on earth time has gone. As well as that, our thoughts will rightly often turn towards time with special people and time off to recharge our batteries.

Ironically – and unfairly – Christmas is when mustelids roll their furry, smelly little sleeves up and hit their busy period. About the same time that people do Christmas BBQs and Secret Santas, young stoats emerge into the big wide world and set about finding their own piece of real estate somewhere, to settle in and repopulate your project.

So, even though you don’t feel like it, now is the time you need to be on your A game.

How to be match-ready

Running up to Christmas, it’s important that your team and regime are match-ready for the upcoming busy season. Of course, by now you are all no doubt running a stunning looking line and doing all the little things that make a big difference to your catch rates. Suffice to say, though: there is no such thing as the perfect trap line and now more than ever is the time to look again at every part of every trap set.

Pay attention to detail, including:

  1. Entrances (fresh earth outside and smooth wire)
  2. Presentation
  3. Micro location
  4. Cleanliness
  5. Trigger set off weights
  6. Trap box bedded hard and flat
  7. Location
  8. Proper big bait chunks of fresh bloody juicy furry stuff that screams natural and “eat me!” Fresh rabbit and hare are winners.
  9. Possibly a longer-lasting bait alongside that such as Eraze dried rabbit. Don’t be stingy. It’s OK to use two different bait types.

Fake eggs: yay or nay?

While we’re on the topic of baits, and because that’s what every trapper loves to talk about, let’s talk about eggs.

In my time, I have used a lot of eggs, and I have tried fake eggs. My findings are that I can’t see any difference between a meat and fake egg pairing and that of just meat. In other words, I don’t think fake eggs are that much value. By all means use one, but (and here is a big but) don’t just use a fake egg or a golf ball. I see this too often. It can be a visual lure, but what will catch attention way more is scent. And that is your bait.

If you use real eggs, puncture them. Punctured eggs are estimated to be twice as effective as whole eggs.

My ultimate DOC trap bait set at this time of year for young, dumb, curious stoats is what I call the Backblocks Smorgasbord. I really like a chunk of fresh rabbit with some fur attached, a piece of Eraze above it, and a punctured egg. It might seem like overkill, but it is the best chance I will have to catch a stoat during its lifetime, so I want to stack the odds my way. The key here, though, is that these are all subtle scents so the three together will not be too overpowering (unlike fish spray, for example).

Another cunning tip is to rub rabbit around the mesh entrance before putting it into the trap. It will encourage stoats to investigate the front door and not stand back at a distance. Remember this: we are salespeople, and our job is to sell stoats the dream. Work every step, not just one. Take the animal in your mind through every part of their interaction with your trap and tick every box for them. That is the difference between a predator hunter and a trap checker. There’s a huge difference between the two – and so are the catch results.

Trap checking frequency

Another point to note (and one which can be a challenge at this time of year) is the frequency of checks. Many of our traps get checked once a month. My view is that during December to February, weekly would be awesome – but seldom possible. If you can do fortnightly checks then that would be great.

Why? We need to remove litters before they disperse. There is always a period when young litter mates stick together, and the scent of the prior catch will drag others in too – but only if they and the scent are still there. This is where the new upcoming self-resetting AI stoat trap could be really strategic. Always out there working while you BBQ. I like the sound of that.

On that note, I want to wish you all the best for family and BBQ season. Make sure to take some time out and recharge, and I look forward to seeing many of you back on the front line in 2024. What we do is so important, so take care of yourselves, stay safe and here’s to being winners on the trap line.

John Bissell
Save the Kiwi National Predator Control Advisor