Karyn Maddren and Sue Meszaros

Ahuroa sheep farmers Karyn Maddren and Sue Meszaros have recently attracted significant media attention for their role in rallying the local community to form the Arapārera River Catchment Group. Their conservation initiative is dedicated to promoting and maintaining a healthy, clean Arapārera river. However, Karyn and Sue’s commitment to active conservation began long before the catchment group’s formation in 2023. In 2011 Karyn and Sue attended a trapping workshop and recognised the profound impact predator control could have on the environment.

Karyn emphasises that community is key. Talking to your neighbours and sharing tips and ideas can be a great motivator.

“The passion and drive of Kevin and Gill (Adshead- cofounders of The Forest Bridge Trust) in particular have helped not only to support our goals but to actually make them bigger”. Say Karyn. “Who would have thought they could unite so many people to work towards such a lofty goal as creating a kiwi-safe corridor from east to west? Our humble goals became even greater as a result. It’s not just about a bit of trapping on the farm to protect our wee patch, but how we can engage others to do the same and help grow the dream, the vision and assist in attainment of the goal”.

Karyn took the time to share some background on the predator control measures she and Sue have implemented, and the significant impact trapping has had on their farm.

Sue and Karyn

How long have you been trapping on the farm?

We first stated trapping in 2011.

What initially made you decide to introduce Predator Control measures?

We went along to a predator workshop and to our horror found out just what damage possums and rodents did to our native trees and birdlife and so much of this is unseen. We learnt about the different types of traps and how to use them and what are the best lures.

How have The Forest Bridge Trust been able to help / support your goals?

Our aim is to link up with our neighbours to establish an effective trapping programme. The Forest Bridge Trust have played a huge part by providing traps, and expertise and site visits.

How many traps are you maintaining and what type of traps do you have?

Our trapping programme has been a bit disrupted since the cyclone and other weather events we experienced here. Several traps were washed away in flooding while others were buried under slips. At present we have 14 flipping Timmy’s, 7 Doc 200 traps and 1 Stoat trap and a Cat trap.

What do you catch?

Possums, Weasels, Stouts, Rats (lots of rats) and occasional hedgehog.

What lures / bait do you use?

On the Possum traps, my go to is Apple with Cinnamon powder. Tried lemons, they love them off the lemon tree not never caught one using a lemon in the trap. Weasels and Stoats – fresh rabbit, I have tried frozen and minced up rabbit but fresh is best. It is always a race to get the fresh rabbit roadkill before my neighbour. Rats, well they eat anything, but I use peanut butter or cat biscuits.

Do you use other Predator Control measures?

Yes, we use trail cameras, they’re most useful in seeing what is going on in terms of Predator activity. We occasionally use bait with camera’s monitoring the activity at the bait station. Sometimes a large possum can dominate the bait station forbidding others the bait. Without the camera we would assume that since the bait was gone several possums indulged. We try not to use toxins (bait) maybe once or twice a year. We certainly don’t have bait stations around any streams or waterways anymore. As for shooting I would, but usually I’m too buggered by the time my day ends to go out again at night (maybe if I was a bit younger) – my kill rate using the traps is quite good.

What benefits have you seen from trapping? Any noticeable improvements to flora and fauna?

In general, we are seeing improvements, our protected bush areas have lots of small saplings growing (10 yrs. ago there was very little new under growth). We have a reasonable size Northern Rata tree (possums love them) there was a time when the Rata was quite decimated by Possum activity, now it is protected with a couple of traps (which are quite active at times) the Rata, over time has recovered and flourishing well. A photo point was set up 10 yrs ago for the tree.

How do you balance the need for pest control with other farm management priorities?

It is difficult, at certain times of the year like lambing there is no spare time for trapping.

Are there any challenges or limitations you face in implementing effective pest control measures on the farm?

Yes, areas where land slips and quad bike tracks have been destroyed makes it difficult and time consuming to service the traps so unfortunately, we are not trapping in those areas at present.

What advice would you give to other farmers looking to improve their pest control strategies?

Link up with your neighbours, it’s a way of keeping motivated. It’s interesting to compare notes. My neighbour kills heaps of wild cats, we don’t catch any. I get way more weasels and Stoats than the neighbour. And invest in trail camera’s – they give you the picture you don’t see.