Interview with landowner Fliss Taylor on the benefits of setting up traps and predator control on your property

Farmer and landowner Fliss Taylor recalled riding her horses as a young girl and seeing flocks of kereru. Over the years she became increasingly alarmed by the noticeable decline in native birds in her area (North Rodney District) while the number of pests seemed to steadily increase. Fliss decided to give the native wildlife a helping hand and got to work setting up 15 trapinators across her beef farm. In the first 4 months, she caught over 450 possums. With the help of The Forest Bridge Trust, she then moved on to mustelids and rats and eventually started to redress the balance in the biodiversity across the land that she farms with her husband. Realizing that with some effort a change could be made, Fliss set her sights on Logues Bush scenic reserve. Working with 12 fellow volunteers on a roster basis and support from The Forest Bridge Trust predator control team the Logues Bush trapline was established and is now held up as a model of just how effective a community volunteer trapline can be. Fliss reports that slowly they have started to see native birds and plants life start to thrive again across the reserve.

Fliss took time out of her busy day to tell us more about her predator control efforts and why she would encourage other landowners to work with The Forest Bridge Trust and get pests under control on their properties.

What changes have you seen to native flora and fauna over the years?

Changes I have seen would be a pleasing increase in the farmland bush regeneration due to fencing off existing bush, and also fencing and planting wetland areas.

And the huge increase in pest species with NO predator control, to extremely low numbers WITH predator control.

When and why did you and your husband decide to introduce predator control to your property?

When we purchased this Logue block from our neighbour in early 2017 I noticed that there was almost no bird life, (25 years earlier I used to ride my horse through this land and see big flocks of kereru, tuis and many other birds.) Now there was almost nothing. The pests had been increasing in the area and more so after the Logues Bush Reserve was closed due to kauri dieback. The Logues scenic reserve and surrounding farms had previously been predator controlled by DOC.

So I got to work straight away and bought a heap of trapinators.

What did that look like? How many traplines did you set up, did you have a main predator in mind that you wanted to go after?

I set up 15 trapinators for a start and gradually upped the numbers, as the possums were in abundance.

What did you catch?

Lots of possums, I was clearing traps most days, and had a tally of 450 in the first 4 months. I then targeted rats, stoats, weasels, and other pests with the help of the Forest Bridge Trust – traps and advice from trapping workshop days.

How long before you saw results and started to notice a change in the native flora and fauna?

Well it took a wee while as we then needed to spread the area to really make things work, as the pests were quickly coming back in from neighbouring areas. So a couple of us locals decided to meet with The Forest Bridge Trust and DOC to see how they could help. We had a couple of local meetings with a good turnout of interested local people. By 2018 we had traps around the Logues Bush Reserve perimeters, and then expanding out through the surrounding farms. A total of 241 traps were managed by landowners and volunteers.

Then we really did see results, now we have very low numbers of pests. Native trees are not being hammered by possums and a lot more bird life. We still need to increase this halo and connect up with other PF areas.

Which native birds did you start to see again?

Kereru, tui, kaka, warblers, chaffinches, fantails, green finch, yellow hammers, morepork, herons, pheasants, kingfishers, pukeko etc….. we are still hoping to see bellbirds one day.

How much time do you invest in checking and maintaining traps on your property?

As we are busy on the farms I position the traps so I drive past them regularly and can clear any pests or rebait on my rounds. I have just added a couple of AT220 auto traps to my arsenal which I move around to less accessible spots…just love these traps and their technology.

What have been the key benefits of introducing Predator control to the property?

Seeing the new growth on trees not being eaten, the increase in bird life and I enjoy doing it.

What would you say to landowners in the Central Bridge who have been approached by the Forest Bridge Trusts community liaison team to consider predator Control on their properties?

Welcome it with open arms. You get traps supplied, and all the help and advice you need and it is great to see the benefits as your tallies increase. It is a fun thing to do and all the family can be involved, it’s great being out in the bush AND doing something for our vulnerable wildlife.

Fliss you have also played a big part in the setting up of a predator control group for Logues Bush Scenic Reserve, what is your connection with the scenic reserve?

My connection with Logues Bush Reserve started in 1993, I used to love walking in there regularly and enjoyed seeing plenty of birds including kaka. I regularly saw kauri snails as I walked along the tracks and used to hear some funny growling creatures that would be under logs…never found out what that was…some sort of frog perhaps, not to mention the array of weird looking fungi that appeared after the rain and of course the large native trees.

So all of this still needed protection once the reserve was closed. As I mentioned above the plan with the local community and the Forest Bridge Trust and DOC to protect this reserve from the outside. Later on with everyone’s blessing including Ngāti Manuhiri, Cam and I were allowed into the actual reserve itself to do monitoring work every 6 months. It was disappointing to see the amount of possums rats stoats feral cats living in the reserve. Kauri snails were eaten, shells discarded and not much bird life, these pests did not need to come to our traps on the reserve boundary.

We now have been granted permission to employ the use of AT220s inside the reserve, and we see evidence already of a much lower number of pests and more bird life at our recent monitoring last month (March).

How many local people help maintain the trap lines at Logues Bush Scenic Reserve?

There are 12 volunteers on a roster system that look after the main Logues hub.

Who volunteers for this project?

Farmers, stock agents, podiatrists, teachers, retirees.

What has been achieved by the group?

Very low pest numbers.

What are some of the benefits of volunteering to help a local conservation group?

A huge amount of satisfaction by all, and comradery. Getting to know local people, enjoying an annual BBQ.

Do you think that Predatorfree2050 is an achievable goal for New Zealand?

I’d like to think so, looking at nationwide results and tallies it is very impressive…..but I think most New Zealanders need to be doing their bit in some way to help achieve this. These pests have no natural predators here in NZ, so WE all need to be the predators.

A brief history of Logues Bush Scenic Reserve

The Logue family originally settled in the area in the 1860s. The land that included the now Logues Bush Scenic Reserve was purchased in 1901. The land was cleared for farming leaving the 41ha and other smaller bush areas untouched.

Fast forward to 1983, the Logues decided to sell the 41ha block to protect it for future generations to enjoy. The asking price was $150,000, there was a joint effort to protect this bush. The then Department of Lands and Survey donated $50,000, Rodney County Council $20,000, QE II Trust allocated $55,000 upon the rest being raised by the end of January 1983.

The Logue family had offers to purchase from saw millers wanting to log all the native timber, but they declined the offers, sticking staunchly to the protection of the bush for future generations.

The locals of the time went to work and raised the remaining $25,000 in 6wks, most from the pockets of locals. A mammoth effort of the time.

Logues Bush Scenic Reserve was officially opened in March 1985 with a huge turnout.

In 1988 a kiwi was found wandering around the Auckland Zoo, this was not one of the Zoos birds, (it looked to be dumped there after being kept illegally) so this kiwi along with 3 other pairs of kiwi were released into Logues Bush with leg bands. The kiwi are not there now of course, most likely eventually succumbing to predators.

Descendants of these original Logue families still live and own land bounding the Logues Reserve.