Clearing, Cleaning and Rebaiting
February 12, 2018

My first five day working week since arriving here in Saint Arnaud started off with a day of tracking tunnels up Saint Arnaud Range. In an hour and a half, we (Graeme- DOC ranger and I) walked up 700m of steep vertical. This took Marie and I almost 5hrs on the public track when we had walked Saint Arnaud Range. In the afternoon Marie and I went out with Jen (DOC ranger) to setup lizard (Skink) pitfalls. Pitfalls are large tins dug into the ground to capture lizards when they fall into them. When they are not being used they have sticks in them so that the lizards are able to climb out. When we are monitoring them, they have no sticks but have a wet sponge (for moisture and water source) and a piece of pear (to both lure them and provide a food source) in them. They have a metal lid over them with a gap underneath to allow them to walk underneath to the pitfall. These are checked daily while they are set up. We set up 19 pitfalls in one site near Cummings Cottage.

On Tuesday, Emma (a trainee ranger who has been here for a year and a half so far) and I were dropped off to Tee Total mountain bike area. We were to walk along the ‘Flying Moa’ track doing three things. Emma was putting out fresh wasp baits to start control in this area, we also had two types of traps to clear- our normal DOC 200 traps and sentinel possum traps which I hadn’t experienced before. For the DOC 200s we were clearing, cleaning and rebaiting (with compressed rabbit squares) the traps while recording the captures on a datasheet. For the sentinel traps we were also clearing, resetting and rebaiting (with aniseed clay and dough lures). The sentinel trap lures were extremely fiddly to clear and rebait, you had to make sure to clamp the hook and tray at the top of the trap while reaching over your hand to release a lure and then put a new one in. We also put down a visual lure for the possums which was a dough mixture coloured blue, this was smeared in dots leading up towards the trap. We only got six DOC 200s and sentinel traps done before I got my first (horrific) wasp stings. I was walking along the track as usual between traps when a wasp got behind my glasses. It was a spectacular first lot of wasp stings, I received five stings to my left eye area. We decided it would be best to walk back to the start of the track to get picked up and taken back to the DOC offices. In the afternoon I did some more preparation for the Murchison A&P Show before heading out with Jen to learn how to check our lizard pitfalls. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any lizards on our first day of monitoring.

On Wednesday, Marie and I headed out to do some more traps, along the flats/in the bog in Tee Total. We spent our Valentine’s day covered up to our knees in mud, but we did have the most beautiful view of the mountains surrounding us. This time we had a mixture of traps- DOC 200s and 250s (much bigger). Our traps had six hedgehogs and one stoat. Hedgehogs are a huge problem here for our native lizards, invertebrates, snails and even our native chicks and eggs. After walking back into Saint Arnaud township, we went out to check our lizard pitfalls again, along with 20 more up the Blackhill track. We were super excited to get four common Skinks, which we checked over, measured their snout to vent length and then released back into the bushes. In one of those pitfalls we had two adults and a baby, which was about 3cm long in total! That night I prepared an overnight bag and daypack for an overnight trip to Lake Rotoroa.

Thursday afternoon, Marie, the other Blake DOC Ambassador left to head back to University as a Hall Residential Assistant while I headed out with six other rangers to Lake Rotoroa. In the morning she checked our pitfalls.

Lake Rotoroa is approximately 40 min drive away, with a 30min boat ride to the end of the lake where we stayed in a DOC staff hut. We arrived at 10am and quickly unloaded our gear before heading out to our tracked tunnel lines. I had two lines of ten tunnels, with 2km walking between them. This day I headed out with John (DOC Operations Manager) who I quickly found set a very fast pace for me to follow. Our first line was straight forward along a stream, the second line however was a little bit trickier. I had been warned that Lake Rotoroa was quite waspy, but I was pleasantly surprised (the next day however, was a different story). When we finished our lines six and a half hours later we boated back to our hut and settled in before dinner. We all had a delicious meal of Nachos, with cake for dessert.

The next morning, we got up nice and early, ate breakfast, packed our lunches for the day and set off by 7:30am. I did my line alone, following the triangle track markers and my GPS for the cut tracks and the public track in between. We had to be back at the office by 3:30pm, so I walked as fast as I could. We were taking in the tracking cards from day 1 rodents and putting out 10 new mustelid tracking cards with rabbit bait. It was quite waspy on the second line than the first day, but I thankfully got out without a sting (touch wood for Monday when we are meant to return). We then travelled back to the offices. Emma, Graeme and I then went out to quickly check our pitfalls. We got one common Skink, then removed the pear pieces, sponges and put the sticks back in.

On Saturday, I travelled to Murchison for the A&P Show. We set up the DOC gazebo in the pouring rain which was on and off during the day. We were directly across from the pet tent which was a wonderful distraction and chance to cuddle lots of cute animals including the six-month-old hunting hound pups. I was able to walk around in between helping at our stall, I watched lots of the woodchopping events, looked at all the competition entries set up in the hall and browsed the other gazebos. While at our DOC stall I was helping answer any questions people had and setting the children up with Toyota Kiwi Guardian Activities to do at home. The Toyota Kiwi Guardian Awards are activities and adventures children can do, getting them into their backyard and nature. Each award (found on the DOC website) has a completion code which can be entered online to receive a certificate and engraved wooden medal (they’re awesome!).

Sunday consisted of photo and video editing, poster designs for an upcoming environmental project and writing my blog.

Only one week left, it is crazy how fast time has flown by!

Sian Moffitt

Sian Moffitt

BLAKE DOC Ambassador 2017