A ferret believed to be behind a spate of kiwi attacks during lockdown has been caught.
Staff at the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in Wairarapa discovered five dead kiwi after resuming work under Level 3, the centre has confirmed.
Conservation work was not deemed essential during the five-week lockdown so predator trapping came to a halt.
The reserve relies on predator trapping as it isn’t fenced.
“We did hope that trapping would continue as an essential service, however the decision was made that it couldn't continue, and we accepted that at the time. Keeping people safe and our community safe is the number one priority and it was the right thing to do. Which is hard to say, given what we’re dealing with,” Emily Court, Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre general manager, told 1 NEWS.
Ms Court said the deaths have been extra sad for the centre as it had hatched and raised four of the five kiwis that were killed.
“It’s absolutely heart-breaking. It will take a long time for us to recover, emotionally, to be quite honest.”
John Bissell, from Backblocks Environmental Management, is contracted by Pūkaha to hunt predators and trap pests around its 930 hectare reserve.
Mr Bissell and his dog Katy spent four days hunting down one of the ferrets responsible for the attacks.
“I'm not going to say it was 100 per cent this one, but I'll give you 99 per cent on it.”
Backblocks Environmental Management uses video cameras to catch pests once animals, like kiwi, have been killed.
“Ferrets will often return to a kill site, so we put remote surveillance around that kill site.”
The team then use a number of methods to catch the predator, including conditioning it to rely on the food put out as bait.
“It’s like a game of cat and mouse. These animals are seriously smart. They are clever and they are cunning.”
Mr Bissell said after spending nearly a week hunting down this particular ferret it was quite emotional finally catching it.
“It’s hard to describe the mix of emotions, but overall it’s a feeling of satisfaction and a job well done for everyone involved.”
While losing five kiwi is a big price to pay for the centre, Mr Bissel said it was important they play their part in the country’s fight against Covid-19.
“I whole heartedly support the decision that were made to keep our communities safe. We’re ready to get back into it. The most important thing now is not to take your foot off the throttle.”