Student on crusade to rid Sandspit of rats

Posted at 12:26pm Monday 29 Jun, 2020

Dylan Lewis has noticed a resurgence in bird life following his trapping efforts.Dylan Lewis has noticed a resurgence in bird life following his trapping efforts.

Taking a course at primary school has set Sandspit resident Dylan Lewis, 11, on a quest to rid his neighbourhood of predators posing a risk to native wildlife.

Two years ago, the Forest Bridge Trust visited Warkworth Primary School to teach Year 5 and 6 students about the threats posed by rats, mustelids and possums.

Using knowledge gained on the course, Dylan placed an ink pad tunnel, baited with peanut butter, in the bush area of his home in Brick Bay Drive and discovered the footprints of rats, weasels, mice and hedgehogs.

At a follow-up workshop, the Forest Bridge Trust provided him with two wooden trap boxes and over the next 12 months he trapped more than 100 rats on his home section alone.

Last October, Dylan decided to expand his activities by putting a flyer in neighbourhood letterboxes advertising his rat catching services. He charges $5 per week to set, check and re-bait traps.

So far, nine neighbours have taken him up on his offer. Dylan nearly always finds two or three rats when he makes his weekly round of properties early on Sunday mornings. On one infamous occasion he found as many as 13.

Auckland Council has donated 15 traps to bolster Dylan's efforts, some of which he previously used to create a protective ring around nesting dotterels at Whisper Cove.      

Dylan says so far, he has caught about 230 rats, one weasel and no possums The rats are subsequently cremated on the Lewis family's garden-waste burn pile.

He says handling dead rats, which can be up to a foot long, does not “creep him out”, except for the smell.    

“They smell like a really bad long-drop toilet,” he says.

On one occasion, a rat trapped by the tail remained alive but unable to flee. A friendly neighbour came around and decapitated it with a garden spade.

Dylan says the reward from his rat catching efforts has been to see a resurgence in bird life around his home, including flocks of quail, a pair of pheasants with chicks, tui and fantails.

Dylan adds the venture has also been a handy source of income. A keen golfer, he was able to buy a top-of-the-line Scotty Cameron putter with money earned entirely from trapping predators.


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