Drones to spread pest baits?

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Here's a quite advanced project to combat climate change by rapidly re-planting trees using drones: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-25/the-plan-to-plant-nearly-100,000-trees-a-day-with-drones/8642766 I wonder how this might work out spreading wasp bait on steep and otherwise hard to access land? And would it work for possums? Certainly it strikes me as more accurate than even modern GPS controlled helicopter spreading, and possibly a lot cheaper.

Dropping 1080 with drones? Easy. And killing possums is easy too. The problem is the rats. You'll keep dropping 1080 every 3 months doing it that way. And rats are sufficient to make a very steep dent in your native birds. But yeah, I think automated technology like that is the way to go. Can't wait till 2050 when the final drone armada lifts to the sky and cleanses this land. Let's hope it doesn't decide we're part of the problem :-)

Most choppers out there in NZ have load capacities way below ideal for large-scale 1080 drops. For big remote areas all but the largest capacity choppers spend as much time travelling back / reloading than dropping. So drones would have to be for very small scale bait jobs. I've looked at them for weed work from time to time but limited payload and cost to hire mean you're no better off with them than a chopper. There are niches where they make instnctive sense - small-scale isolated patches of weeds in canyons or bluffs for example such as the eastern Ruahine CV control stuff DOC are doing spring to mind. But I've not been involved in anything like that since drones became available so no idea if they've been adopted.

@madpom Yes I agree there's no substitute for choppers, and the bigger the better when it comes to saturating large areas with 1080. But I could imagine a dedicated fleet of automated drones, following smart algorithms and working weeks or months on end with only minimal supervision, might enable complementary alternative strategies. Imagine for instance drones that could automatically re-charge, re-load, and then maintain intensive bait lines that act as virtual fences, in conjunction with physical fences, to minimise the rate at which pests migrate back into recently cleared areas.

Interesting idea. Effectively the drone is doing the job of a bait station line without the cost / imoact of cutting and installing one. The one issue I see is bait degradation / bait aversion. Bait aversion in a population is a risk anywhere you use poison continuously / repeatedly; resulting from an animal taking a subleathal dose and associating the resulting sickness with the bait.E.g. http://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/handle/10182/3110 Over time the % of poison averse animals builds up until your entire population is bait shy. This is a real issue on ahb/tbfree possum blocks which are controlled every year ... you end up resorting to leghold traps as they're shy of everything else. Poison shyness is less of a risk with bait stations (though it still happens) as you replace and refill the old bait regularly. That means a) theres always plenty if bait around so targets can access and eat enough bait to kill them before they start to feel unwell; and b) you do not have part-degraded bait lying around giving partial 'hits' Aerial application leaves the bait on the ground to rot so is much more likely to give sublethal doses and result in aversion.

Quite. The use of drones, at the moment, seems to be to respond to detections, not carpet-bombing clearance. http://predatorfreenz.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ZIP-Report-to-30-June-2015-1.pdf ""In the future, a rat will chew on a peanut butter-filled antenna. The antenna, activated by the movement of the rodent’s gnawing, will send a signal to an aerial drone deployed for the pest’s destruction.... In a trial, 40ha at Putanui Point in Pelorus Sound were cleared in three months and have been kept pest-free for the past 18 months. Now Zip is targeting 400ha on Bottle Rock Peninsula in Queen Charlotte Sound. After clearing a finger of land, Zip sets up a fenceless barrier that can deter, trap and detect invading pests, notifying remote conservationists rather than needing a patrolling labour force. The ultimate goal of Zip founder Al Bramley is to clear the whole country, which he describes as being “one big peninsula”. “It’s creating a barrier in the landscape that holds, that isn’t a fence, and then being able to detect very low numbers of rats or possums that are arriving into that landscape,” .... http://www.noted.co.nz/money/investment/focusing-on-the-flax-of-life/?wpmp_switcher=mobile

Yeah? Not convinced. Your post juxstaposes the 'future dreams' with the 'what we've achieved with traditional methods'. What I have been won over to lately is the trap-catch detection network they mention in that link. Talking to the fella who runs the unfenced (i.e. intensively trapped) mainland island project I help on now & then: installing that on all their leghold traps would pay for itself in 2 years in reduced labour costs. You'd still need to visit all your lines daily in peak predator dispersal season - say Dec to March - as from the figures, every line catches at least 1 every day. But for the quiet seasons, knowing which traps have sprung would typically reduce an 8 hour trap run (every day) to an hour or so to just visit the sprung traps. Now - there's real caveats around that. 1) You still need to visit all traps to check bait / rebait regularly, as the network doesn't tell you the bait's been stolen. 2) The savings only occur if you have easy access to lots of short trap lines. E.g. a grid of lines running between 2 roads. If you have one long line with no short-cuts then you still have to drive/walk all the way along it to just reset one trap so there is no saving. 3) You need something else for your now-nearly-redundant-on-quiet-days trap checker can do on the days that nothing catches. But given Poms Law: that there are 100 hours of conservation work to do for every 1 hour of time available, the figures won me over. Freeing that worker up for weed control, fence maintenance, whatever, would be a saving well worthwhile.

There's the self-resetting traps ?. Looks like ZIP are looking at different lines of defence.

Not self resetting no. Just traditional legholds with a sensor that report their open/sprung state to a central node via radio, which sends the collated results for all traps via cellphone to a database on that interweb thingy. Self resetters as-yet have nothing like efficacy of legholds. Self resetters, like all kill traps, rely on the animal doing something really stupid & un-natural - like sticking it's head in that tube or going into that box and clambering over that metal thing. Legholds, by comparison, merely require the animal to fail to notice them. As a rule of thumb (for possums) a leghold will catch as many possums per night as a kill trap (or self-resetter) would do per week. Or to put it another way an animal will be present in an area / travelling throhg an area for 7 times longer before it interacts with a kill that than a leghold. Cats seem even less likely to enter kill traps - a night for a forthnight seems about right from what I've seen. Though they go as well into cage traps as legholds, so go figure. So if your target is to stop animals before they penetrate your virtual fence (trap network) into your sanctuary you want something that catches them as soon as possible -hence the emphasis on making legholds less labour intensive.

"bait degradation" Dumb question from left-field, but would some kind of low-power, maybe solar-powered refrigerator or freezer be able to preserve any kinds of bait for longer until it's needed in the trap?

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Forum The campfire
Started by PhilipW
On 26 June 2017
Replies 15
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