A Department of Conservation aerial drop of 1080 to eradicate rats and stoats, at the head of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown has drawn strong criticism from hunters and conservationists. Hunters are concerned that the drop area covers the whitetail deer herd habitat near Glenorchy and the Caple Valley fallow deer herd in the Caples Valley on Wakatipu’s western shores.
New Zealand Deerstalkers Associatin CEO Gwyn Thurlow said a 1080 operation has the potential to remove the valued herd of whitetail deer and decimate the fallow deer.
“Both herds of deer are very highly valued by our nation’s hunters and food gathers and have a historical, cultural and economic value,” he said.
In the past, NZDA co-funded research raising concerns for the whitetail deer herd’s longevity.
“Due to whitetail’s size and limited distribution – compared to other deer species – they are particularly susceptible to 1080 drops. The impact of this 1080 drop can be devastating to the herd”.
NZDA has sought meetings to advocate on hunters’ behalf with the Game Animal Council, DOC and the Minister of Conservation.
Whitetail deer doe
Laurie Collins, spokesman for the Sporting Hunters’ Outdoor Trust supported NZDA’s deep concern. Ironically in the late 1950s, as a young NZ Forest Service trainee, he was involved in the very first trials of 1080 poison which was tested on the fallow deer in the Caples Valley, coincidentally now under threat in 2023.
“The Forest Service learned nothing from the destruction of deer, native birds and insects back then, now DOC still hasn’t learned,” he said.
The 2023 drop of 1080 will be in the habitat of many native birds among them the currently endangered kea.
“No wonder kea once abundant in the South Island’s high country, are now endangered since DOC keep applying regular drops of 1080,” he said.
The area currently due to have 1080, has had “significant” drops in 2014, 2016 and 2019.
Conservationist and hunting author Tony Orman said the successive drops, two to three years apart were significant in the light of scientific studies.
“Surely DOC must be aware of research around rats and 1080 drops?” he asked.
A Landcare Research study (2007, Wendy Ruscoe) examined the impact in years following a 1080 aerial operation.
“About 10-20% rats will survive a 1080 drop. Those survivors, with less food competition, have an abundance of food thus rats breed prolifically. The study found within 18 months, rat numbers rat numbers ballooned to two to three times greater than before poisoning. After three or so years, rat numbers were four times pre-poison levels,” explained Tony Orman.
The last drop was three years ago, so obviously rat numbers will be high in line with that 2007 study he said.
“But the disruption of the food chain doesn’t end there. Stoats whose main prey is rats, suddenly have abundant food in the rodents and likewise balloon in numbers. That 2019 drop stimulated rat and stoat upsurges as shown by Wendy Ruscoe’s research”.
Rats are super-efficient breeders. At six weeks of age, a female rat can become pregnant. Rats (unlike possums) have litters of eight or ten and perhaps four or five litters a year. In a year a female rat is capable of producing 50 rats.
“All DOC’s 1080 poison drops have done is to disrupt Nature’s predator-prey balances and food chain equilibrium and cause rat and stoat plagues.
The rat upsurge was totally predictable; it’s there in research,” said Tony Orman.
1080 is often termed an “ecosystem poison” as it was first developed as an insecticide in the 1920s but subsequently was found to indiscriminately kill any living creature which ingested the toxin.
S.I.Bush Robin – insectivorous birds victims of 1080.
SHOT’s Laurie Collins is annoyed at the cavalier attitude of government via the Department of Conservation.
“New Zealand is the only country treating its wildlife with contempt and utter disrespect,” he said.
While some 80% of rats would be killed by a 1080 drop, stoats were not directly killed but could be by eating a poisoned rat dying slowly of 1080 poisoning or even the carcass as 1080 had “secondary kill” characteristics where a dead animal remains toxic.
Laurie Collins said 1080 was an exceptionally inhumane poison as it usually took 48 hours or more to slowly kill. Victims suffered convulsions, spasms and severe agony.
“Any creature be it rats, native birds, deer undergoes shocking cruelty,” he said.
Laurie Collins – 1080 shocking cruelty