“Who ya gonna call?” when you experience a significant predation event has now been answered.

In late July a small group of proven predator hunters gathered at Blue Lake in Rotorua for what was the first Predator Response Team hui. The team was handpicked from various regions and within Save the Kiwi’s Jobs for Nature Projects. It is in response to the increasing number of predation events now happening throughout the country and the need to have proven and trained predator hunters available as first responders.

“The key with this team is to create a safe, trusted space of information sharing and support, as they assist with and navigate what can often be an emotionally and politically charged environment,” says Save the Kiwi National Predator Control Advisor John Bissell. “We have handpicked people who have demonstrated that they have an exceptional mindset and field skills to make good decisions on the front line, then equipped them with methods that have been proven to work.”

While the first team hui focused on education and upskilling, connecting with likeminded individuals on a strong personal level was an important by-product.

“10 minutes into the hui, I looked around the room at 10 independent, strong-minded people who hardly knew each other, getting on like old friends, and realised that we have started something very special,” says John. “These are people who have hunted predators tirelessly for a long time and often on their own, who have now connected with others who feel the same and who they can rely on.”

The focus of the first hui was ferrets. Ferrets are an increasing threat to wild populations of kiwi, and predation events involving ferrets and a numbers of taonga species are increasing everywhere. John has successfully hunted and removed a large number of individual ferrets in predation and incursion event resolutions and his goal was to download to the team what he has learned through those ‘battles’.

Topics included:

  • Ferret morphology, plus information about ferrets you won’t read in a book
  • Detection methods
  • How to hunt one animal in a large landscape
  • Managing people and media
  • CIMS and why it can be good and bad
  • When to say yes and when to say no
  • Taking care of yourself mentally and physically
  • What works and what doesn’t?
  • Dogs and when not to use them

“There is a real need for this support, and our priority has been to establish a team and make a start. Hand in hand with this mahi will be connecting with projects and helping them to develop predation response plans, to ensure that they and their people are ready and clear about what to do and who to call.”

John notes that the team is still working on its rules of engagement.

“One of the big learnings through doing a lot of this work is that there are a number of seemingly small things that you need to do or not do, to ensure success”. This is a new ‘scalpel model’, not the more traditional ‘kitchen sink approach’, and one of our key tasks will be to educate projects that we’re not here to have a go once everything else has been tried first.

“This is a first response team, and although there are a lot of very good trappers out there, it is the ‘what and how’ that makes the biggest difference in these situations”.

John notes that often ferrets that kill kiwi have already gone past or ignored a number of traps, and so simply trying more of the same will seldom lead to success. Alongside the Predator Response Team and to compliment this mahi, John is also working on a new national Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for ferrets.

“’Best practice’ and ‘SOP’ sounds really dry,” admits John. “I prefer to call it ‘better and newer ways of catching more’. Moving forward, there is capability within the team that spans a number of apex predator species and an expectation that the team will sit across a number of them in time. But for now, it is about ferrets.

“A ferret doesn’t care which organisation manages the project where it kills kiwi, and neither should we. We need to work collectively and not in competition. That’s how we will win here.”

The Predator Response Team is now available to assist with predation event responses. These people can be contracted to provide support when projects need an immediate response to a predation event. To seek support from the Predator Response Team, email enquiries@savethekiwi.nz.

BACK: Miro, Northland; Cam, Northland; Mike, Eastern; Mike, Northland; Jason, Central; Toby, Lower North; Kat, Taranaki.
FRONT: Paul, Taranaki; Sara, Hauraki-Coromandel; Greg, Hauraki-Coromandel; John, Lower North.


Save the Kiwi Predator Response Team