Final mop up of possums

Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group  project manager Richard Wilson holds up a possum skull. The...
Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group project manager Richard Wilson holds up a possum skull. The group has killed more than 6000 possums since it started two and a-half years ago. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
The last possums hiding on Otago Peninsula will be hunted down using specially trained sniffer dogs.

War has been waged against possums over the last two and a-half years by the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group, land owners and other volunteers.

Project manager Richard Wilson said they were now ready to move into the suburbs - the urban buffer zone - on the fringe of the main city - but needed about $20,000 more in funding before they could get started.

Inroads have been made in the four other zones on the peninsula, with more than 6200 possums removed. Recent work by about 100 volunteers along Portobello Rd had trapped 600 possums. Dogs would be used to ''mop up'' the rest.

''We will walk through every property with indicator dogs.''

Getting rid of possums in the urban areas would be the next big challenge and residents would be asked to look out for possums and even join the fight with their own trapping.

Simple Timms traps, laced with fruit, were deadly to possums but had not caught a single wild or domestic cat in the two years they had been used, Mr Wilson said.

''People are now a lot more proactive than they used to be . . . a farmer will see a possum, he will now go back, get his gun and go look for it again. Every possum is like gold to us now.''

He said the group needed a cornerstone sponsor who could consistently provide $50,000 a year. They had raised over $650,000 for the work done so far but needed about $350,000 more to complete the possum control. Attention would then turn to other pests on the peninsula including stoats, rats and cats.

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