A fun blog from Jess, one of our awesome PFBP rangers.

Sometimes like a nature-driven soap opera, conservation work brings its own surprises and challenges. In the last few months, we have had a steady stream of bait station installations and servicing, and one day merges into another with little variation. Our first toxin section was relatively unchallenging terrain-wise which meant servicing the bait stations was a breeze, mostly…

There was one day that stood out. It was a crisp, sunny, late spring day, generally pleasant working conditions. Ollie and I zipped around the stations in our LUV, refilling bait stations as we went, moving between shelter belts, bush covenants and open pasture. Our day switched away from the norm when I found a young possum hanging out under a tree. It was very much alive, and I had nothing on me to swiftly dispatch it in a humane manner.  So, I plucked it up by the tail. (Editor’s note – Jess is a professional, don’t try that at home). Yes, I have done this several times before. Trust me, I am an experienced possum wrangler. I then delicately manoeuvred the petulant teen-possum onto my pack to walk it back to the vehicle. It fell asleep on the walk back. Problem solved. Surely there won’t be any other distractions today…

Jess picking up her possum from her backpackShows a bait station in a tree

Photo: (Left) Jess and her possum freeloader, (right) one of the bait stations she services.

Not long after the possum incident, we found a hidden bog, or more specifically it found us. I remember one of us remarking that the grass looked really green on this old farm track before naively driving forward onto it. Our LUV sank belly deep in the unexpected sludge. The miserable mire had been so well disguised! Our vehicle wasn’t going to budge so we hooked up the winch and safely got it out, only to discover there was no exit, the track on the other side disappeared into a steep impassable gully. That deceptively firm farm track led nowhere! To salvage the situation Ollie and I built an epic log bridge back across the bog so we wouldn’t get our LUV stuck AGAIN (one of the seven wonders of that farm I reckon). It was a success and almost like nothing untoward had even happened…other than for the fact both us and our vehicle were covered in mud. We were so embarrassed that we didn’t tell anyone until we got back to base. We didn’t even take photos! Everyone got a good laugh when we did fess up, so the incident was a good morale booster for the team at our expense. The lesson here; hidden bogs are a very real threat to efficient bait station maintenance schedules and should be avoided at all costs.

That was not an average day, our normal day involves slogging up hills in the heat, stopping, gasping for breath and looking out at the view again to remind yourself, YES, this hill will be WORTH IT! It can involve having frustrating battles with supplejack and bush lawyer and often losing, having to back out and find another way through. I have to be honest, installing, filling then removing bait stations is monotonous, physically challenging, and often uninspiring work. What makes up for it is the amazing views, serving the community, and the helping taonga of the Peninsula flourish.

And it is utterly splendid here...

Trees on Banks Peninsula

Photo: You can't beat the Peninsula on any day!

I live for the little reminders that this is a job like no other. For example, when I am traversing difficult ground and going slowly, that’s when I notice things. The cool stuff like fungi and bugs and tiny native orchids! There are some pretty amazing things at our feet.

Stinkhorn fungus on the ground

Photo: Stinkhorn can be found on the Peninsula, if you're lucky to stumble across it!

Thankfully in between the grueling bait station services we do get to work on other things (what I deem the fun stuff) such as setting up volunteer mustelid trap lines or installing what we have named the Bay Barrier. This barrier is a long grid of AT 220 automated traps spanning from Duvauchelle to Okains Bay. The Bay Barriers implementation signals an exciting new era of our project. This is part of the defense plan which will reduce possum reinvasion. It is my hope that everything that PFBP and the community do together these next few years will really improve biodiversity and create a sanctuary for our special species. That hope of making a difference is what keeps our team putting one foot in front of the other on those steep hill day in, day out.

Photo: It's time to rest up for another day...

Sunset on the Peninsula