Tramper overcomes rodent phobia on rat trapping trek in Ruahine
An avid wanderer’s attempt to tackle her fear of rodents nearly bit her.
Allie Dunn loves hiking, loves birds and hates rodents – to the extent that it kept her from trying her hand at trapping rats.
A webinar on how to overcome fear and anxiety proved to be the right way, allowing him to try new techniques while clearing traps in the Mākāretu Valley of the Ruahine Range in the lower part of the North Island.
“I was a little scared of corpses, so I thought I’d better work on that first,” she said.
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Zero Invasive Predators
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Meeting friends Jenna Fisher and Karen McNicol, the trio ventured on a 12.5km trek through Ruahine Forest and along the Mākāretu River, checking 50 rat traps, baiting them with eggs and pork fat as you go.
They struck gold when one of the traps contained a large dead rat, giving Dunn the perfect opportunity to face his fear.
“I thought I was a grown woman and I was my boss, not some stupid fear in my brain.
“And so I tried. I worked on how to “name it, tame it, and reframe it,” and it seems to have worked. »
After removing the rat from the trap, Dunn felt comfortable in her confrontation, but her takedown attempt went awry.
“I can tell you what not to do with a rat. Never throw a rat into the wind.
“It was so windy on the track, I was holding my rat by the tail, and I thought I was going to throw him.
He was a nice flat rat and they make really good kites so he came back flying. It was hilarious. I almost fell, stepping out of the way.
The women were checking traps for the Manaaki Ruahine conservation group.
A week earlier, they had teamed up with five other volunteers and the group’s co-founder, Anthony Behrens, to help set up a new trapline. The project involved carrying two traps each, weighing approximately 18 kilos.
“They were really heavy. It was good to lose the first one. You felt light as air as soon as the first one took off,” Dunn said.
Despite the hard physical work, they found the experience invigorating.
Fisher said she was thrilled to have the traps set.
“The more traps, the more chance we have of killing more stuff.”
McNicol was a regular Manaaki Ruahine volunteer, but for Fisher and Dunn, setting up the trapline was their first time joining the group.
Fisher trapped rats for many years as a Department of Conservation volunteer and when she saw the call for volunteers on Facebook, she jumped on board.
Dunn said: “It’s really just a mental health diet. Break up with everything. Turn off the technology. Go out into the hills.
The Dannevirke wife and Fisher, who lived in the Pohangina Valley, were only too aware of the tranquility of our forests.
In some parts of the country, where there had been a heavy predator trapping program, there were a lot of amazing birds. But the Ruahine range had become quiet with not enough birdsong.
Fisher’s experience was the same.
“It’s way too quiet. I used to walk the Tararuas a lot when I lived in the Wairarapa and noticed it was getting quieter. The Ruahines on our [Pohangina] aside, I think have almost disappeared in terms of avifauna.
Both women work with younger generations to help them develop practical skills to help rid New Zealand of predators.
In her spare time, Dunn was a guide for girls aged 5 to 11, and now that she had overcome her fear of rats, she hoped to show them how to build trap tunnels, which were safe around dogs and cats. .
Fisher is mother to April, 3, and William, 5, and they helped her with the 30 traps they had set around their house and in nearby DOC bush.
“They’re as mad as me, and Yahoo and celebrate every murder like I do.”
According to the DOC, introduced predators such as rats, stoats and opossums have led New Zealand to have one of the highest animal extinction rates in the world.
Behrens created Manaaki Ruahine in 2021, alongside partners Fiona Burleigh and Arapera Paewai, to undertake forest conservation.
He said they were supported by a team of 60 volunteers in the bush, and another 30 who had helped build traps.
They had entered into a “community agreement” with the DOC to remove weeds, including wild pines and gorse, and trap pests in the Mākāretu Valley, an area covering around 1800 hectares.
Sonya Holm is a journalism student at Massey University.