by Stewart Shand via Carol Sawyer
“I MAY HAVE BEEN THE BRINGER OF DEATH. BUT NOT SUFFERING. ALSO I DIDN’T KILL WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAVE, AS IN THE BIRDS”
Back in the mid 1990s I was awarded an eradication contract with a forestry administration company in the Wairarapa. My job was to eradicate anything that had four legs, a tail, and a head from 6000 hectares of farm land. This farm land was bought by an overseas investor and was being planted in pines. The original contract ran for two years until the pines had established themselves.
In the contract I could remove from the property any, if not all the dead animals I wanted. This arrangement would give me a fairly good income from possum fur on top of the contract fee. So I thought.
To do the job efficiently I split things up into categories and times. For instance sheep and cattle in daylight. Possums at night. Rabbits and hares at night. Deer at night. Goats in daylight. Pigs in daylight and night. Traps and cyanide laid in daylight, and so on. Then the days and nights were split to target specific animals. If I was targeting rabbits and hares on a particular night, all the deer, sheep, etc were left alone. OK, I did take out the odd deer, pig and possum. No two consecutive nights had the same target.
For those wondering how I can see things at night, not very many nights are pitch black and you do get used to it over time. Also I used to have a small hand torch strapped to my shoulder to help when I was rolling a smoke. The kill light was a million candlepower handheld spotlight hooked into the motorbike. Also a 500 candlepower battery-run backpack spotlight for when I had to leave the bike.
As with most people working days or night shift I had my break times. These break times coincided with me reaching particular parts of the farm. These places were sheltered spots and mostly near native bush. A couple were right on the boundary with a conservation property. Another spot was beside an area of manuka that had been crush-rolled so they could plant in amongst it. It was in these areas when you switched off the lights and engine of the four wheeler that you could lay back on the ground and appreciate the noises made by the night life. Kiwis calling, nightingales flitting around, moreporks calling. The odd hedgehog coming in to see what you have for smoko.
Then the night up by the crushed manuka, two little moreporks landing on the front carrier of the bike with their big eyes sort of asking what’s for dinner. Parent sitting on the fence watching both myself and them.
The next night I returned at about the same time, this time with cut up rabbit. I waited around for a while and they didn’t turn up so I left pieces of rabbit on the ground and on the fence posts. Two nights later I was back in the area and with a bit of possum was going to leave them a feed. The lights picked them up sitting on the fence as I was going down the track. To keep a long story short, over time I could get fairly close to them but not quite hand feed them.
Meanwhile back in the other spots the night life could get rowdy on occasions. I used to take out the odd person with me for a hunt and they loved sitting in these places listening. A lot of them never realised just how much night life was in the bush.
Well all this changed the day the council twats turned up. OK, I won’t go into details about what was said etc, but they ended up hand laying 1080 and I wasn’t leaving. I had a job to do. These guys laid bait on the main tracks in places that thick that if you put your No 11 boot down you stood on at least 3 baits. You couldn’t tell them that where they were laying baits there weren’t any possums, rats, stoats, etc. As far as they were concerned I didn’t know anything or how to catch them. So my 40 odd traps that had been in this particular area along with cyanide baits for last 4 months were all wrong. Only things I got out of that area was 3 deer, 2 pigs, and a goat. I never even found a possum after them either. To me it was a transit gully where animals passed through.
The most disturbing thing to watch is a 1080ed animal die. The pleading in their eyes as they try and drag themselves to shelter can even get to the hardiest of us. It still gets at me. I spent a lot of my time putting bullets into them instead of hunting the ones that had got away.
The birdlife at the rest spots ceased. Everything went deathly quiet. I never saw my three moreporks again. Even the hawks succumbed to 1080. I had to get off my bike and go and put the odd pig deer out of its misery.
They can make an eerie screaming noise when dying from 1080. Riding around that block at night, and in daylight after 1080 was like as if you were in a horror movie. The feeling of death all around. Not only had they eradicated their target, but also what they were supposed to save. I spent a few nights in the conservation area after they did the 1080 to see if there was any life deeper in. …. Nothing.
I may have been the bringer of death. But not suffering. Also I didn’t kill what I was trying to save, as in the birds.”
NOTE: dying from 1080 poison says a Veterinarian, is like being electrocuted for two plus days. Why is DoC allowed to do this? Please ask this question of your governmental authorities. For other articles on 1080 use the categories or search box. Further info on 1080 pages can be found at our 1080 pages at the main menu.
Photo – Morepork and young, Wikipedia