Don’t climb trees for cats

A couple have taken retirement to heart with a project to rid a farm of its pest population, writes Robert Carter.

In Home Block5 Minutes

A couple have taken retirement to heart with a project to rid a farm of its pest population, writes Robert Carter.

When you have spent more than 20 years operating a local business, what do you do when the so-called retirement time comes around?

This was the question facing Ken and Gill McCann when they finally sold their local sports shop. “Seriously Outdoors”.

A few weeks off to catch their breath and time to contemplate the future led Ken and Gill to develop a plan.

Both love the outdoors and keeping fit, they also love the natural flora and fauna of New Zealand as well as keeping in touch with close friends.

One evening a TV programme about predator-free NZ came on and Ken had a brainwave.

Very quickly a plan was brought to fruition whereby the McCanns would develop a predator control and elimination strategy for The Poplars Farm at Kirikau, owned by their close friends, Suzanne and me.

The Poplars farm has always had a strong focus on the environment being a past winner of a Horizons region Ballance farm environment award.

We could not believe their luck in having Ken and Gill get involved as it had always been a dream of theirs to lift the game further and reduce the numbers of unwanted critters.

The Poplars has a population of Kereru, Kiwi, Toutouwai, Korimako, Tui, Parera, Pekapeka  as well as Quail, Pheasants, Blue Heron and Ruru.

Ken has made new traps, reconditioned old ones and developed a very thorough method of determining which trap goes where.

There is now a network of traplines all over the farm and, a few months into the campaign, there is an impressive list of dead wee nasty bitey little critters.

The yield is impressive, wild cats, ship rats, Norway rats, mice, hedgehogs, as well as weasels.

One of our fox terriers, Cod, is in heaven, as finally he has playmates who go around the farm all day doing what he loves to do.

Cod has abandoned us for Gill, he’s found true love and wants to move in with Ken and Gill but it has been decided that a “fully hunt-programmed” fox terrier may not be fully appreciated in town.

On the days when Ken and Gill are not on duty Cod comes with me and we check a few things out on my farm rounds.

The other day I was spot-spraying thistles and there was a “red alert” in some big native fuchsia trees.

Cod had chased another wild cat and this “dirty Harry” was well up the tree and I had no shooting iron with me.

I decided, foolishly, to climb the tree and shake the bastard out to the waiting foxies.

Well up the tree, I reached for the cat’s tail and at the crucial moment the branch I was on collapsed and I fell five or so metres to the ground.

Luckily the tree was on a slope and I washed off the speed with flailing arms and emphatic short words down into a creek.

It was too much for the cat and it high-tailed off further down the gully with squeaking foxies in hot pursuit.

The dogs lost the cat to a far horizon and came back to me with a look that said, “You are bloody useless, the sooner Ken and Gill come back the better!”

Needless to say, I reflected on my good luck in having no injuries.

The interesting thing about this is, to date my wife Suzanne is unaware of my re-enactment of Richard Pearse’s original flight and will only find out once she reads this!

I will be in trouble.

Merry Christmas everyone I hope you have a nice time with your loved ones as well as a few coldies and a bit of time out.