By GUY WILLIAMS
Not all arrivals are welcome at Queenstown Airport.
For some, it’s terminal.
And the next time a rat, stoat, ferret or hedgehog makes a flying visit to the airport, it’ll be taking its life in its paws.
In an environmental initiative the airport’s begun setting up 20 predator traps around its 6.5km fence – and they’ve got rats, stoats, ferrets and hedgehogs on their radar.
It’s the idea of airport compliance coordinator and climbing enthusiast Bill Malone, who’s helped with the Queenstown Climbing Club’s predator control project at Wye Creek.
Malone says he got talking to a mate, Phil Green, who as the club’s environmental officer has led the successful effort to bring birdlife back to the area over the last few years.
Built by club members in a fundraising exercise, the Doc 200 and 250 traps are owned by the Wakatipu Wildlife Trust and Cardrona Alpine Resort, who’ve loaned them to the airport so it can get its project off the ground despite budget constraints brought about by the Covid-19 crisis.
They’re being concentrated along the airport’s northern and southern boundaries at roughly 100m intervals.
Malone, who’ll be checking and resetting the traps himself about every fortnight, says the airport will buy the traps when its budget allows.
He carried out a chew card assessment in February to identify which predators are visiting the airport.
It shows rats and hedgehogs are frequent visitors, while the airport’s rabbit population is known to attract stoats and ferrets.
While 20 traps are a “good starting point”, he intends to buy more as funding allows.
Wakatipu Wildlife Trust boss Leslie van Gelder says she’s delighted the airport’s getting involved in predator control because it “sits in a very important part of our geography that they’ll now be able to help defend”.