Counters of dead white tails wanted

Kaylyn McBrearty.
Kaylyn McBrearty.
Southern Lakes deerstalkers concerned about white tail deer in the Glenorchy area, at the head of Lake Wakatipu, are being asked to volunteer to count dead animals following the Department of Conservation's drop of 1080 poison there.

Doc is expected to spread 1080 over 9000ha of the Dart, Routeburn and Caples Valleys tomorrow - depending on the weather - targeting rats and mice populations that have built up because of a heavy seeding of beech trees.

Lincoln University PhD student Kaylyn McBrearty has just begun a study of the white tail in the Glenorchy area and two weeks after the poison drop plans to carry out a ''carcass count'' of eight areas containing a total four square kilometres of bush.

She does not know if white tail will die from eating the poison bait but wants dozens of volunteers to carry out a thorough search for carcasses and to also note any other dead animals in the area - including rats and mice.

Ms McBrearty's three-year study is being partly funded by the New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association and she has also applied to Doc for funding.

A keen hunter from the Hawkes Bay, Ms McBrearty said no research had been done on the white tail deer before and she would be looking at impacts on the herd's population.

The deerstalkers' association had wanted the department to put deer repellent on the poisoned cereal bait in the Glenorchy area to protect the white tail they consider a ''pocket of special interest''.

However, Southern Lakes branch president of the association David Rider told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the department was unwilling to spend the money.

He estimated the cost of treating all the bait for the Glenorchy area would have been $150,000 but deerstalkers would have settled for the bait used in just part of the area to be treated with repellent, at a cost of $28,000.

Mr Rider said it was his organisation's understanding Doc had money available to spend on repellent and it was being used in some other parts of the country.

United Future leader Peter Dunne raised the Glenorchy issue publicly yesterday, saying he supported the Game Animal Council's call for deer repellent to be used.

''I am extremely disappointed that Doc has rejected requests to use deer repellent in the current 1080 operation in the South.''

Mr Dunne said he would expect repellent to be used in the area because it was ''home to the nationally significant'' white tail deer.

''Doc is going ahead with this 1080 drop with no use of deer repellent despite requests from the Game Animal Council and the hunting community.

''This is in direct contrast to the agreement I reached with the Minister of Conservation [Nick Smith] in February regarding the use of deer repellent.

''Doc has it wrong here and needs to go back and consider the views of stakeholders, community, and iwi,'' Mr Dunne said.

Mr Smith's office referred the ODT to the department for comment.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, Doc acting director general services Mike Slater stood by the decision not to use deer repellent because there was ''little evidence'' the 1080 operation posed a ''significant threat'' to white tail deer.

Mr Slater said Doc wanted a ''constructive relationship'' with deerstalkers and the Game Animal Council and appreciated their ''broad support'' for the department's ''battle for our birds'' programme.

''Doc understand the value deerstalkers put on the white tail herd and is committed to ensuring the herd is available for hunters into the future.''

mark.price@odt.co.nz

1080

A big part of the 1080 controversy is central government, through the DoC, dictating what happens at a local level. This kind of top down conservation only serves to dis-empower locals from the decision-making process. Little wonder that controversy ensues. Even before it is spread, 1080, has a range of negative impacts on small rural communities.