West Arm – Deep Cove Pest Control Programme

Trapping between the arm and the sound

Whio (blue duck) and ducklings – © James Reardon.org

The area between West Arm of Lake Manapouri and Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound is home to a number of threatened species, including kiwi, kaka, kea, weka, whio (blue duck), mohua, long-tailed bats and mistletoe. Like elsewhere in Fiordland, these native species have suffered from the effects of introduced mammals, particularly stoats, rats and possums.

In the 1970’s, the dawn chorus was described by one visitor to the area as “deafening”. It was almost impossible to sleep through for anyone staying at the Deep Cove Hostel. Over the last twenty years, the bird life has been decimated to such an extent that visitors could sit and listen for five minutes or more and not hear one bird calling.

View of Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound, taken from Wilmot Pass. Crown Copyright: Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

The West Arm – Deep Cove Pest Control Programme aims to restore the bird life in the area. Trapping will also help protect the predator-free islands in Doubtful Sound and further along the coast by preventing any pests getting on board the vessels in port.

How did the project start?

In 2007, Nigel and Paula Lamb, local tourism business owners, decided to do something protect the native species in the area and started pest control between West Arm and Deep Cove. They installed stoat traps along the Wilmot Pass Road and over time added more traps to the network, including the Spey River, Percy Pass Road and around the Deep Cove wharf. The Lambs have also funded possum control around Deep Cove.

In 2014 the Lambs approached the Fiordland Conservation Trust for assistance with funding the upgrade of the stoat traps, which the Trust successfully obtained from the Meridian Energy Community Fund. The Wilmot Pass Road User Group, a group of businesses (including the Lambs) who use the Wilmot Pass Road, then agreed to fund the project from July 2014 and formed a partnership with the Fiordland Conservation Trust to enable the predator control work to continue with support from DOC. The photo shows Nigel Lamb with a trapped possum and stoat (Crown Copyright: Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai).

The Wilmot Pass Road User Group revenue is collected from vehicles based on the Wilmot Pass Rd (through an annual permit fee) and also a per passenger levy from tourists that travel with commercial operators in the area.

The Fiordland Conservation Trust is an independent community charitable trust inspiring the community to protect the special values in Fiordland and the wider Southland region.

What does the project involve?

There are currently 255 traps for stoats and rats along the Wilmot Road, West Arm, Spey River and Percy Pass and Deep Cove area. The traps are checked monthly from Nov-April and two-monthly May-October. Possums are controlled every second year in an area around Deep Cove.

In 2014-2015 the focus of the project will be to maintain the current trapping services and upgrade the stoat trap network. The stoat trap upgrade will be completed using a grant of $13,000 Fiordland Conservation Trust received from Meridian Energy. The project intends to target more possum control in 2015-16.

Achievements to date

A weka 'inspects' trapped possum and stoats. Crown Copyright: Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

Since 2007, over 3,500 possums, 350 stoats and 420 rats have been removed from the Wilmot Pass area by this programme. Without this protection, kiwi, weka and whio may have been lost from the area and possum-vulnerable plants like mistletoe, may have disappeared. Locals and tourists alike have commented on the increase in native bird sightings and the regeneration of native forest. 

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