Info and Advice
Please contact out Environmental Develpment Coordinator, Peter Fergusson, using manawahe
In the Manawahe we target a variety of pests and can support you in your efforts to manage certain pests on your land. For an overview of the different pest species and the damage they can do we recommend you go to https://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/threats-and-impacts/animal-pests/animal-pests-a-z/.
For control of mustelids (stoats, weasels and ferrets) we use the Doc 250 traps. These are one of the most humane traps for mustelids and they will also catch rats, mice, hedgehogs and cats if you adjust the size of the opening. If you are a local you can join in our loan trap scheme. If you are out there in the beyond you are welcome to call us for advice on the use of Doc 250 traps. In a recent local survey we found people wanted information on trapping feral cats. Below is an over view of methods for trapping feral cats.
Wild Cats as Predators in the Bush
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. Feral cats are born in the wild and know how to survive without human care.
Because cats are not native to New Zealand, feral cats can cause a lot of harm to local environments by preying on native species. Most NZ birds are flightless (E.g. Kiwi) or weak flyers (like our Manawahe Kokako) and do not stand a chance when faced with a feral cat. It is estimated that feral cats have been responsible for the extinction of six endemic bird species in New Zealand and over 70 localised subspecies as well as depleting other bird and lizard species.
Feral cats are opportunistic and will eat almost anything. In the wild their diet will mainly be made up of rabbits, mice and birds but they will also eat insects (like the Weta) and reptiles (E.g. Geckos). They are also often attracted to human dwellings, in pursuit of rodents, and will scavenge on offal and rubbish.
Feral cats can have very large home ranges (which can cover over 50 – 2100 ha) and often they overlap each other. The density of feral cats is higher in areas with a lot of prey, like bird colonies, where food is easy to catch. In their territory they travel along the same paths every day on the look-out for prey. These paths often run along roads, tracks, fence lines, forest edges, waterways and other linear landscape features.
Prevention is better than cure. The best thing is to not create a wild population. Spay and neuter your pet cats. If you can’t provide for your cat any longer please drop it to the SPCA or contact us if you would like to drop it to someone local. Existing populations unfortunately must be trapped.
Below is an outline of trapping methods.
Trapping feral cats
There are 3 ways of trapping feral cats. No one method is more successful than the other but they should be used in different circumstances.
1. Cage trapping
2. Leg Hold Trapping
3. Kill Trapping
Before we go into the specific methods we need to consider the placements of the traps and the bait used.
Every home range of a feral cat needs at least one trap in it. In areas with a high density of feral cats a trapping line should be considered with the traps placed 100 – 200 m apart. If the cat’s home range overlaps an area of great importance to the native biodiversity (e.g. Kokako breeding area) the traps should be 50m apart.
Traps should be placed along linear landscape features which will be a likely route for the feral cat to travel along.
Bait or lure should come from a local food source where possible as this will be more likely to attract the feral cat to the trap. Fresh or salted rabbit or hare can be used as bait, as well as possum and fish (fresh, frozen or salted).
Bait needs to be changed on a regular basis especially in warm weather. As a rule of thumb, once a week in summer and once a month in winter is a good guideline. Rotting bait will deter feral cats, so don’t leave old bait lying around the traps either. Bait type should be changed if trap has been unsuccessful for several weeks. If still unsuccessful after that, then shifting the trap to a new location should be considered.
Feral cats are most easily trapped during times of seasonal food shortage. Cats can become trap shy so setting the trap correctly, with the right bait and in the right position is very important.
The recommended trap for this is the Havahart 1092 cage trap (approximately $125).
This trap is a live trap so therefore is suitable for use in an area where accidental trapping of pets or other ground dwelling wild life can occur, e.g. residential areas. These should not be used for trapping large areas and must be checked daily, at least 12 hrs after sunrise.
When the feral cat is trapped, the animal must be dispatched in a humane way. This can be done with a .22 kill shot to the head.
When the cat is killed in this way there are several things to consider. You should wait until the cat is motionless and has calmed down. The gun should be placed very close to the head (3 – 5 cm) to prevent ricocheting bullets. If a frontal shot is taken, the shot should be in the centre of the head, slightly below a line drawn midway between the ears. If shooting from the side, aim behind the ear so that the bullet will go through the brain and towards the opposite eye.
Alternatively the cat can be taken into the SPCA to be put down.
Leg hold trapping
The recommended trap for this is the Victor 11/2 soft catch trap (approximately $16).
The holding chain for this trap should be centrally mounted underneath the trap, and then the trap can twist freely with the trapped animal. A bungee spring should be incorporated into the chain. These act as shock absorbers, reducing the likelihood of the cat pulling out and reducing injury.
The traps must be regularly cleaned with a wire brush and must be sprung and reset every 1 – 2 weeks.
Where bait is set to lure cats to the trap, it may have to be set under cover so bait is not visible from the air to prevent capturing birds like harriers and hawks.
Traps have to be checked daily and cats need to be dispatched humanely either with a kill shot to the head or by bringing it into the SPCA to be put down.
These traps are more suitable for trapping lines in areas where the likelihood of accidental side catch is low.
Several traps are recommended for kill trapping:
• The Steve Allan Conibear raised trap and cubby system
• Set-n-Forget raised trap system
• The Belise Super x220 trap in a chimney trap cover or cubby
• Raised Timm’s trap (Approximately $50)
The above mentioned traps have passed the Animal Welfare Committee. MET is aware that the DOC 250 mustelid traps have been used too but these have not yet passed the above mentioned committee.
The Timm’s traps are probably the easiest traps as they need no treatment before trapping and are easy to maintain.
The Steve Allan trap takes sloppy bait (minced meat/ sloppy cat food) and all the other traps take a solid bait.
Care needs to be taken when placing these traps as accidental side catches will be killed instantly.
All prices stated for before mentioned traps are estimates and are based on buying 1 trap, bulk buying might take the price per trap down. Second hand traps are often available too and organisations like DOC and BOP Regional Council are likely to be able to point you in the right direction as to where to obtain the traps. Funding could be sought from BOP Regional Council and/or DOC if trapping lines are to be set up. MET is able to assist with funding applications.
Setting and maintenance
Traps will come with instructions on setting and maintenance. Most traps are demonstrated on U-tube. MET can assist with getting information on each type of trap.
Covenants are voluntary legal agreements that a land owner may engage in to ensure the long term protection of natural areas on their land. If you are a local and interested in finding out if a covenant might be right for you - but are unsure about approaching Regional Council, QE11, DOC or other organisations directly - then MET can be the middle man and outline the basics of covenants and if they are right for you. Pop into the Manawahe Ecological Community Centre for contact us for more information
Or for more information on covenants go to:
Regional Council: https://www.boprc.govt.nz/environment/land/heritage/organisations/