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Pests at iconic West Coast Lake targeted

A conservation blitz is helping to trap pests and protect birds near an iconic West Coast mirror lake.

Project Early Bird is a collaboration between Glacier Valley Eco Tours and the Department of Conservation, and launched in 2018 to remove predators from Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier.

Tours co-founder Tash Goodwin said 286 rats, 128 stoats and seven mice have been dispatched, which was an incredible result.

"It's not a glamorous job, but it's necessary if we want to protect our birds and invertebrates from predators," Goodwin said.

Each month, volunteers are invited to held with a trapping trail across the forest near Lake Matheson.

"This trapping programme continues to be such a success, and we're really happy that local volunteers are so keen to get involved and make a lasting difference here on the West Coast," she said.

"We have a core group of around ten dedicated volunteers, including kids - who are really into it. Visitors can donate toward the project through our local Franz Josef DOC office, these proceeds go towards extra traps for the trails."

DOC has since released 106 Okarito Brown Kiwi around Lake Matheson due to the improved predator control.

Tash Goodwin said they use Project Early Bird to help educate people about the country's wildlife and conservation during their tours.

Holly Homestead co-founder Bernie Oudemans was terrified of stoat traps before she joined the Project Early Bird volunteers.

"Now I'm clearing and resetting them," she said.

"Getting out on the trails is a great experience for all ages - as young as 4 years getting stuck in, under adult supervision.

"For your first time, you get buddied up with a more experienced trapper to build up your confidence. Eventually, when new people come to volunteer you become the mentor, it's a great community-building experience."

Article from Tess Brunton RNZ February 2023

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