Poison drop raises hackles


Local hunters are locking horns with the Department of Conservation over a possible 1080 drop in the Wakatipu.

Southern Lakes Deerstalkers Association is worried it’ll kill the local deer population.

However DoC counters the drop is needed to kill pests and protect native birds.

Association secretary Sharon Salmons understands the campaign won’t be stopped but is asking DOC to add deer repellent to the mix to safeguard deer.

Aerial drops of the pesticide are planned for almost 20,000 hectares in the Routeburn, Dart and Caples catchments.

Salmons says the Dart has the country’s only whitetail deer population, apart from Stewart Island, and the Caples Valley supports a herd of fallow deer.

Deer repellent costs $7 per hectare, on top of 1080, and DoC says only one area will use it out of the Wakatipu, Nelson or the Ruahine Ranges.

Salmons wants locals to support the Queenstown submission.

“The Caples Valley is a nationally-recognised recreational hunting area that attracts hunters from all over New Zealand.

“DoC issue a limited number of hunting permits for this area and rather like a lottery, these permits are highly valued and extremely sought after.

“Without repellent, we expect the fallow deer population in this valley to be severely affected.”

The drop is part of a nationwide DoC campaign, Battle for our Birds, controlling rats and stoats on 800,000 hectares public conservation land.

A bumper crop of beech seed, tussock seed and podocarp fruit means an abundance of food for rats, mice and stoats - the biggest threat to native bird populations.

Local DoC ranger Chris Hankin says predators feed on native birds and a boost in numbers could potentially be disastrous for unique wildlife. The proposed areas are biodiversity hotspots and a DoC priority.

Without poison drops, many birds could suffer heavy losses or be driven from the Wakatipu entirely, he says.

DoC is monitoring pest numbers and Hankin says a decision on which area will get deer repellent will be made by the end of the month.

A Game Animal Council website vote about which area should get deer repellent closes on June 10.