Protecting Paradise – Trapping in the Murchison Mountains

“On a Mish” #322 Protecting Paradise. East Face Trapping Line. Murchison Mountains. Fiordland National Park. 29.3.2022. Aotearoa was an incredible land of birds once. The land’s remote isolation meant many unusual ground birds could frolic freely without the threat of ground-based predators. Many of these birds were strange and exotic, some even resemble characters in a Dr Seuss book! Unfortunately we have lost many of these birds to extinction, and this has been caused by introduced predators. If we could only go back in time and rethink our approach to keeping this country safe from unwanted intruders…

Obviously we can’t, but we can do our best to control the numbers of pests and this might give some of our super rare birds a chance. I have just started helping out on the traplines that RealNz check in the Murchison Mountains and I am really enjoying getting involved in the battle for our birds. To go further into the Murchison Mountains than just to the Te Ana-Au Caves (Te Anau Glowworm Caves) is an opportunity I am not going to miss. The Murchison Mountains is the only ‘Takahe Special Reserve’ on the planet, and to get a ticket to visit the range is a rare opportunity. So now the stage was set for an interesting day out, and I was joined by my cave guiding bro Jens (from Sweden). We headed across Lake Te Anau on a warm morning with blue sky and a little cloud above. As the boat got closer to the caves’ wharf we readied ourselves for adventure. After arriving we had a quick gear check before heading up the hill towards the East-face Trapline.

A Stunning Day on Lake Te Anau

Our hike took us up to the entrance of the Aurora Caves, an epic place for underground hi-jinx, before turning north onto the east face of the lakeside mountains above the caves. It was from here we went to work, as we were now on the trapline we were to check and re-bait. The incredibly dry summer has forced the four-legged intruders towards water, and due to the Tunnel Burn flowing through the cave, we got a rat in the trap closest to the entrance / water. On a map the trapline looks like an easy sidle across the mountain face, however in true Fiordland fashion the “track” was a real bash to follow. A recent windstorm had brought many trees crashing to the ground but somehow the toppling timber had missed all of the traps (one was only a foot or two away from being crushed by a massive tree!). We pushed on and in places had to clamber up and over treefall. Some of the trees gave the appearance that they would make a great step up and over, but once body weight was applied, the wood would collapse due to the tree being completely rotten. This slowed our progress and what seemed like an easy distance with the time we had soon turned into a race to get back to the boat in time. We got to the end of the line after checking 21 traps and the result was – 1 Rat & 1 Stoat. It was good to know that there weren’t too many pests out there and the mountains haven’t been overrun with rodents. Now it was a race against time to return to the wharf before the boat left and we weren’t following a well groomed path! With about ten minutes to spare we got back to the boat and were happy to not be left behind. The day out was excellent, and it was very satisfying doing our part to help out with pest removal. This is only the beginning and I can’t wait to get back and do some of the other trapline tracks. With that being said, the day was very taxing on my old broken body and I needed a good long sit down / lay down on the couch after our big day out in the Murchison Mountains. Bring on the next battle for our birds!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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