Kia ora team, this month I want to have a wee chat about quality in our trapping regime. It is something that has been on my mind a lot lately.

Everywhere I go and everything I read, I am hearing about more, more, more. More traps, more hectares treated, and so on. Now, don’t get me wrong. More is good and I love the drive nationally to do more.

But here’s the thing. It must also be hand in hand with ‘better’. Better, better, better! And sometimes I don’t see that. To be frank, at times it feels like an epidemic.

50% of good trapping is knowledge and 50% is care and attention. We need both. The way I see it, it is a bit like planting native plants. A ton of people will turn up for planting days but how many will turn up to weeding days? Weeding and cleaning up traps is just not as sexy. It is basic human nature to like doing the fun stuff.

I feel a bit like the grinch when I start talking about this stuff, but I have to because it is SO IMPORTANT! We are all talking about new technology and chasing the silver bullet dream, while sometimes our traps are out there needing a good old dose of TLC. The fact is, if you are fussy and pay attention to detail, your traps and trapping will be so much more successful, even before we start talking about baits and lures. Remember that these animals don’t want to die so we need to act accordingly as we maintain our traps and stop treating them as if they do.

It doesn’t take much to turn a cagey predator away from a trap. Sometimes we only get one chance. Let’s make the most of it. So, as we move into winter it can be a good time to take a fresh look at our traps and give them a spruce up.

What are some of the key issues I see around traps and simple improvements that can be made?

  1. Entranceways

This is a real monster. Our DOC trap mesh should be filed as smooth as it can be to prevent animals snagging their fur on it, and the entrances outside the trap should be fresh earth and weed free at both ends. In grass country the lead up to the trap should be the same. This is the single biggest thing I see done wrong and the biggest thing you can do to increase your catch rates.

Does your trap look like this …

.. or this?

A mesh entrance like this is OK and it even caught a stoat … right? WRONG!! Look at the wire sprags. They need to be filed smooth to avoid snags. This trap got lucky, but the real question is how many did it turn away before it caught this one, and will any of those avoid a trap from now on?

  1. A level trap is a happy trap
    There should be absolutely zero rock and roll. The trap should be rock steady and well bedded.

  2. A clean trap is a happy trap
    Gunge from previous catches should be cleaned out. Get rid of slime, fur, and other bits.
  3. Spring maintenance
    The trap spring should be unset carefully at each service to release spring tension and ensure crisp reliable firing (and to keep you safe while servicing). I see this a lot where it isn’t done. Sometimes the springs can seize and the trap will not go off at the desired weight.
  4. Watch the weight
    The set-off weight should be tested and the trap re-calibrated if needed: A max of 120g for a DOC250 and 100g for a DOC200.
  5. Location, location, location
    Is your trap in the best possible location for an animal to encounter it? We will talk a lot more on this. With ferrets especially you shouldn’t trust that they will find a trap eventually.
  6. Are you using the best trap for the species you are targeting?
    This sounds logical, but sometimes the answer can be ‘no’. How many methods are you using to target each species? How do you know if what you are doing is returning the desired results? How are you testing and checking that?

Take the opportunity at this time of year to step back and relook at everything to do with your predator control regime. Then think about these points and treat every trap service as a mini audit and clean up. It can be really satisfying – and when you hit the ground running in spring and the tally starts racking up, it will be even more so.

Good hunting folks.

John Bissell
Save the Kiwi National Predator Control Advisor
Instagram @nzpredatorhunter