Death Is Inevitable — And Queen Elizabeth Park’s Animals Are No Exception

Since I retired some 14 years ago, I have been responsible, as it keeps me off the streets, for trapping pest animals in Queen Elizabeth Park, reports Michael Stace.

QE Park, from Poplar Avenue looking south, left side of photo Manuka and native regrowth is evident. Over the fence on right side grassland is only possible through drainage, spraying and grazing.

For some time I did most of this myself but over the past few years a number of others have taken responsibility for a trap line or two.

One thing I still do is t0 write a brief quarterly report recording the catch for that quarter and noting for comparison the catch for the same months in previous years.  It also gives me a chance to pontificate on odds and ends which can be said to be related to trapping somehow.

Death is inevitable

While acknowledging death as inevitable, I have never given much thought to the details.  Now, having read the book from which the information below was taken, I intend to take up Kapiti Funeral’s invitation to visit its facilities.

What stands out?  Last year’s plethora of weasels was a statitisical bloop – whatever that means

Seasonal variation in catch:  I checked 22 traps on the morning of 3 October – total catch 1 mouse.  It is midway through the low season of September, October and November. 

On 2 March 2022, the same 22 traps yielded 2 weasels, 3 rats, 2 hedgehogs and 5 mice.  That is midway thorgh the high season of February, March and April. 

Each year at this time (October) I take heart that we may well be eliminating pest animals from QEP.  In six months time I shall make a u turn and again argue the case that we are holding our own against pest animals.  Why are the numbers so widely different?  

The most-widely used trap

DOC200:  The DOC200 is the most widely used trap in QEP.  It is the medium-sized trap in the DOC series of traps and is the standard kill trap for stoats, rats and hedgehogs.  There are 180 in QEP.  The DOC150, which is not used in QEP, is the standard trap for weasls and the DOC250, of which there are six in the park on the lines closest to SH1, is the standard trap for ferrets.

What is involved in a kill?  The following is an account of what happens when a human animal dies.  Please adjust as, or if, necessary for a pest animal. 

The electricity flowing through the animal’s neural circuitry and consciousness shuts down as though a switch has been flicked. 

Blood keeps moving for a while, ebbing without the heart’s propulsion before succumbing to gravity and pooling in the lower back where it congeals. 

Starved of oxygen, cells are dismantled by enzymes with nothing else to do now life is at an end.  Three or four hours later the cooling body enters rigor mortis.  Muscles lock and eyelids stiffen, followed shortly by the face and neck. 

Another few hours and all softness and suppleness has vanished – but within a day or so everything relaxes in the same order it seized up. 

Not that it’s an entirely dignified restoration.  Lips shrivel, the nose twists, and cheeks migrate to the ears.,  Eyeballs deflate and sink into the skull. It’s not all bad news, though, because the tension, worry and pain of existence will have drained from your face.  You look serene, unbothered and content. 

(From: Hayley Campbell’s “All the Living and the Dead”, available from the KCDC library.)

What, some may ask, about the Wairau or the soul.  I agree with Lucretius, a Roman poet and philosopher who wrote “On the Nature of the Universe” some 2300 years ago that, after death, there is nothing – no pain, no joy, no family, no mind, no perception and no afterlife.  The body simply dissolves into dust.

Michael Stace

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