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The Toa Trappers of Whiritoa have been using humane auto-traps to lessen the number of rats in the environment. Peanut butter is proving to have a good ‘hit rate’. Photo: SUPPLIED

Peanut butter works wonders in trapping

The use of peanut butter is having a “really good hit-rate” when it comes to one conservation trust’s attempts to eradicate rats from the environment.
The Whiritoa Conservation Trust is a community-based volunteer organisation in the Hauraki district.

It initiated the neighbourhood trapping project, Toa Trappers, around two years ago, and Mark Thetford has been its trapping co-ordinator for nine months.
He told The Profile that the success of the trapping has seen a more bountiful birdlife return to the town of Whiritoa.
“A lot of people don’t realise how much of an impact the rodents do have. In the last six months, when the rat [population] figures have been right down, the bird life has really increased,” he said. “It’s just phenomenal.”
Mark looks after 30 of the trust’s 60 humane auto-traps. The rest are checked by others within the community.
Seventy-five per cent of them are scattered around the perimeter of Whiritoa, while 25 per cent are situated throughout the centre of town.
“We’re just using peanut butter as our bait for the rat traps, and they’re just going ballistic for it,” Mark said.
“We have half a dozen stoat traps around as well.”
The auto-traps are ideally suited to Whiritoa because they provide an electronic record of strikes and do not require resetting after each kill. However, the cost of consumables is quite high.
The trust recently asked Hauraki District Council for funding help, and in its report, explained that the consumables – such as replacement lures, batteries, gas canisters and replacement electronic monitoring devices – cost around $2500 a year.
The council agreed to provide a grant of $1,000 from its Waihi Ward Community Assistance Fund in order for the Toa Trappers to continue their work.
“Since we’ve been using the peanut butter, some of the rats that have only ever had one or two kills a month are now getting six to eight every couple of weeks,” Mark said.
Latest numbers show that from January to April, the traps averaged 30 kills a month, but May alone saw 93 pests – rats, hedgehogs, and mice – eradicated.
“[The traps are] definitely having an impact, and everyone you speak to here says how the bird life has come back, but a lot still don’t realise how much trapping there is and how much it plays a big part.”