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The "Natural Enemy" in Westland.

In a report on one of his exploring trips about the head waters of the Haast river, the chief surveyor ef Westland, Mr 6. Mueller, digresses from his narrative as a suryeyor to refer to the rabbit ' 'nuisance," and the ferret, weasel, and stoat "blessing." "During the past summer several weasels and ferrets were caught and killed at the Okuru and Waiatoto settlements. These creatures were token close to, and some within about a mile from, the sea-coast. To the question as to where they came from there could be only on.c answer ; nobody introduced them into Westland, and hence they must have been the progeny of those imported by the Government, and must have found their way across the Dividing Range from either Otago or Canterbury, or both. | But, m the absence of any signs of rabbits about the coast settlements, it is difficult to understand what brought these creatures over. This mystery was effectually cleared up on my exploration trip, We were prepared to meet with rabbits on the first day's travel inland, but we were disappointed. It was not until we got near the Acton, about nineteen miles from the sea-coast, that we noticed the first traces of rabbits, and it was not until we got to the very headwaters of the Okuru that we saw the rabbits m numbers. The ferrets and weasels, no doubt, came up to the Dividing Range with the rabbits, but as soon as they discovered our ground-birds—our kakapos, kiwis, woodhens, blue-ducks, and such like —they followed up the more palatable game. This is what brought the ferrets | and weasels down to the coast settlements, : and the rabbits on our side of the dividing ! range will henceforth be left undisturbed and allowed to spread as they please. Past experiences have satisfied me that rabbits never will do much mischief on the West Coast. Years ago they were turned out m several parts of Westland, parts most favorable to them, open lands and sandhills—but they all died out. The climate is evidently too damp for them, and they certainly will never thrive m our dense bush-country. But, as regards the ferrets, weasels, etc., they will thrive, and will continue to thrive until the extermination of our ground-birds, which has now begun, is fully accomplished. That lam not prophesying evil without good grounds I may prove by the following : In all my explorations on the coast, the certainty of getting a supply of birds made it possible °to keep the provision-swags, which men had to carry, within reasonable weights and dimensions. On this last trip of mine rather more than the usual amount of provisions) Avas taken, but, m

Kj)il(:i of ihii j>r ■"•.uition. Hie par'y had to be puf on -,'ioit lai.ions for tlu last three day., -iifuudy, one scone per diy. The further inland the more plentiful the birds, usod to be the rule; but that is reversed now. At the head of the Okuru and the Burke some nights passed during MhHi wo never heard'the screech of the kak.ipn, or the .-.brill whis'lis of the kiwi : and. ay for blue-ducks, we .saw only threw during the whole time we were out. In formf-r liino, while camping near the liend-v.Mtors of any of the rivers, the fighting of the kakapos among ■themselves, and the constant call of the other birds around the tent and camp-fire during the night, often kept people from sleeping. This has all changed-now ; at least m the southern part of the West Coast, absolute stillness reigns at night, and there is nothing now to keep a traveller from sleeping except—owing to the absence of the birds—an empty stomach.

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The "Natural Enemy" in Westland., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2528, 26 September 1890

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The "Natural Enemy" in Westland. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2528, 26 September 1890

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