The intrepid trapper: Week eight – 28 Feb – 1 March

28 February – Knights Track service

After not much sleep, and a too early start on a Monday morning, Gerry and I got up to meet Nina in Feilding for a trip to the Limestone Carpark and up the mountain. We were due to check the traps on that line.

The weather forecast looked okay, even though predictions for some windy and cool weather were on the cards. And perhaps even a few spits of rain.

Knights Track involves two stream crossings. I took an extra pair or running shoes again for the first couple of kilometres, after which I swopped into my hiking shoes. Fortunately, the stream levels were down enough that we could rock-hop across, so the extra shoes were redundant.

The steepness of the hill has unfortunately not magically changed. It’s still goes straight up. We were cruising along nicely, huffing and puffing up the mountain, with nothing exciting to report, when I got the distinct smell of ham. We were reasonably high up the mountain, but still in the bush. For a short stretch the flavour accompanied us, making my mouth water.

When we finally made it out of the tree line and not far from the top, we stopped for a few minutes to catch our breath and have a snack.

Unfortunately, there were no pests in any of the traps. We did replace the mouldy bait as well as where the bait was missing, with dehydrated rabbit. Just as an experiment, I replaced the bait in one trap with the core of an apple I was eating. Would be interesting to see if it lures any pests into the trap. On a previously occasion I noticed that the bait looked like it melted in the trap. I thought might be the heat above the treeline, or the humidity. But on closer inspection, I saw that it was the work of maggots processing the bait to look like it was ‘melting’ away.

Mist was rolling in over the ridge, but we had near perfect conditions again. While walking up and down the mountain, my mind kept drifting to Squadrun head honcho Kerry Suter, who had a very serious MTB accident the past Saturday, when he broke his neck. The thought that he will likely be paralysed and not be able to walk again, is too much to fathom. He is a good athlete, a coach, an active individual. It is heartbreaking to imagine the outcome, the trauma and a forever changed life and future he and Ali will have to work through and deal with.

In an instant, life as we know it, can be something of the past. I am grateful to be able to still walk up the mountain, and will try to never become blase or take it for granted.

1 March – Cone Creek

Can’t believe how time flies, but it’s been a month since we set out the traps in Cone Creek. Since it is on Jim’s property, Ian arranged that we pick him up in Apiti at 9am.

I met with Ian in Ashhurst, and together we drove to Feilding to pick up Nina. The season is starting to change, and it is only starting to get light at 6:30am. The night temperatures have also dropped somewhat and I had to put on a few layers when we left home. Fortunately there was no wind, and as soon as the sun was out, the day warmed up. In the shade I still felt cold and was glad I kept my polyprop top with me.

We parked the ute and started walking the line not far from Jim’s private hut. The first section is through the forest and down into the valley to follow the stream. As usual, we criss-crossed through the water going upstream while stopping and checking a trap every 100 metres.

The dehydrated rabbit was again either missing or mouldy in most traps. They do seem to do the job, as we caught a few pests.

In one of the traps, I cleared out what looked like it could have been a black possum. Initially I thought it might be a cat, but the verdict between us four was that it was a possum. It was so decomposed, that it only came out in drips and drabs, making the cleanup quite challenging. Bits of possum were stuck to the bottom of the box, underneath and on top of the trap mechanism, in the mesh where it negotiated the small hole to get to the trap, and it was generally speaking a gigantic mess of rotten possum, maggots and dreck to get out of everything. As I was covered in rotten animal, I couldn’t take my phone out for photos, but Nina and Ian took some.

Not too long after, we reached the far end of the line and turned around to return the way we came.  This trapline remains a mystery to me, and I know it will take me three times as long to find my way up and down the creek. With slips, fallen trees, side streams, and little waterfalls, you have to know your way to be on the right side of the stream for each section. Due to all of this, we cross the stream all the time to find the best path. Fortunately Jim knows this valley like the back of his hand, and despite often not walking the exact same route, he always finds the exact spots where we need to cross the stream, or clamber in or out.

Back out of the valley, we had our respective quick lunches and a cup of tea, courtesy of Jim, at the hut. From there Nina and I walked down the fence line to check the traps, while Jim and Ian drove up ahead to service a couple of possum traps and check the traps lower down the farm.

All up, we killed eight hedgehogs and one each of a rat, a stoat, and a possum.

On the way back to Apiti, we checked seven of the nine traps at Sixtus lodge (a school group was busy at the buildings and we didn’t want to intrude) that are also now part of our project. It’s been a couple of months since they were last checked, so things were a bit rusty (one trap didn’t work at all), and none of them had bait anymore. Some of the pests were quite decomposed, but we got rid of one hedgehog, two rats, and something unidentifiable.

A good day, and a good few less pests to worry about.

On my third work day for the week, Nina had a sick child to look after, so plans were made to work on the Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it this time, so will have to use some of my time in lieu.

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