A new volunteer has come to Aongatete forest to help the Project to control rats. She didn’t walk in carrying a bag of rat bait. Instead she trotted in on her four paws, wearing a special vest and muzzle. She’s a rat dog called Millie.
Rat dogs are specially trained to detect rats. They and their handlers go regularly to our sanctuary off-shore islands, to check that they remain free of rats. At Aongatete during March 2017, Millie and her boss Scott Sambell explored around the Outdoor Recreation Centre and along the track to the swimming hole but, despite enthusiastic sniffing, Millie didn’t detect any rats.
That is very good news as it confirms that our rat control is working. As Millie trots along more tracks she will act as an early warning system, telling us where the rat scent is strong and rats are likely to multiply.
Rats are a major pest in the forest, eating the eggs and chicks of native birds. They also eat the seeds, fruits and native insects on which other wildlife depends and because rats are the diet of stoats and feral cats, their presence draws these predators into the forest.
So welcome, Millie, to Aongatete forest!