Furry pests' pelts not returning profit

Dunedin ratepayers are unlikely to see any windfall profit from the city's passel of bush-damaging possums.

Possum fur is fetching more than $100/kg at present and during the past year Dunedin City Council pest contractors have poisoned 4000 of the pests.

With 20 dead possums providing about 1kg of fur, the figures would suggest, on paper at least, they could be a valuable resource.

Council parks officer Scott McLean said the council was ‘‘not in the fur business'' and it was up to the contractors as to what they did with possum carcasses.

‘‘If they believe it's financially viable to recover any part of the animal, we'd sort of expect them to reflect that in their tender price,'' Mr McLean said.

But long-time pest contractor Dave McPhee quickly put paid to any suggestion it was worthwhile for a pest contractor to turn fur trapper.

‘‘It is simply not economic,'' Mr McPhee said.

The main issue is that for possums to be easily plucked of their fur, they need to be recently deceased.

Contractors intent on clearing Dunedin reserves of every possum possible used cyanide poison in bait stations and traps that killed, rather than captured.

‘‘So the only way you can get plucked fur is from possums that are trapped with leg holds, and I'm not allowed to do that in council reserves,'' Mr McPhee said.

He also expected possum numbers to drop rapidly over the next few years.

With the amount of eradication work completed in the bovine Tb eradication programme, possum densities were ‘‘very, very low'', he said

‘‘So, therefore, the number of avenues for people to make a bit of money on the side . . . as we all did as kids, well, you don't have that access any more because they are so depleted.''

He said he declined many offers from people wanting to clear his traps and bait stations.

The council had spent $70,000 on possum eradication this year, but expected costs to reduce as the programme continued.

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