Saturday, June 15, 2024

Hunter-led project boosts Kaimanawa Forest Park health

A hunter-led conservation project has helped to improve the health of Kaimanawa Forest Park by aiding the removal of hundreds of deer from a remote part of the park.

Hunting and Fishing Minister, Todd McClay says the innovative Sika Foundation project has seen 776 deer removed from the Kaimanawa Remote Experience Zone (REZ) since 2022.

The project received some funding from the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme and DOC’s Wild Animal Management Programme.

“The remoteness of the REZ limits opportunity for hunters to walk in, which means we do not see much recreational deer harvest in this part of the forest,” said Minister McClay.

“Due to historic sustained overpopulation, some habitat within the REZ is in a poor state, affecting the forest’s regrowth.”

Managing deer numbers can help improve forest health and resilience to climate change and reduce pressure on native ecosystems, said the Minister.

“A thriving natural environment and fewer high-quality animals creates a better hunting experience,” he said.

“While successfully lowering deer numbers, the project also set up vegetation and deer density monitoring, which will be remeasured in 2025 to track the response in the habitat from management efforts. 

“New and innovative management tools – such as thermal assisted aerial hunting, thermal drone assisted ground hunting, and app-based data collection and mapping tools to track the herd response to hunting – are all showing huge value for future management in Kaimanawa Forest Park and other sites.”

As well as the deer management project, the Sika Foundation has a range of other conservation projects underway, including managing a trapping network to protect whio (blue ducks) and carrying out hut maintenance.

“It’s great to see work like this coming from the hunting community. Hunters are close to our land and waters and do great work to look after our natural environment, showing that conservation and recreation can work in harmony,” said Mr McClay.

“There is an opportunity to align more of New Zealand’s hunting activities with conservation objectives.

“If people are making most of summer and going hunting, make sure you store and transport firearms and ammunition appropriately, and follow the seven rules of firearm safety.” 

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