With husband John she has fought a backyard battle against thousands of possums hopping over the boundary fence from Egmont National Park to munch on fruit trees, grass pasture and treasured climbing roses.
Pasture near the national park boundary has also taken a hammering, with the pests’ eating habits leaving the ground resembling a mown strip.
The only nutrient area untouched was the vegetable garden.
“I’m not a serious rose grower. It was just that the possums wouldn’t let me grow anything. It’s been a war ever since.”
Although thousands of possums, some weighing up to 4.5kgs, were killed, with their fur sold to dealers to fund eradication, the pests kept coming, she said.
To combat the never-ending raids, Henchman wrapped rose buds and stems in glad wrap, laid poison cyanide and phosphorous baits, set traps, used thermal imaging detectors and attached ‘red dot’ night vision to a rifle, while leaving the window open at night, for a clear shot when they came on the verandah.
“We put a lot into getting rid of them – I called it saturation bombing – but it made no difference. The possums still stripped everything bare, but I wasn’t giving up.”
Henchman now thinks the possums are on the run after a concentrated trapping and aerial 1080 programme during the past 12 months in the Kaitake Ranges and Egmont National Park, work co-ordinated by the Department of Conservation, Taranaki Mounga and Towards Predator-Free Taranaki (TPFT).
“They came back a little during lockdown when the traps were not being checked, but now we have contractors on the farm every day monitoring the traps, and there has been a huge difference,” she said.
“The tui among the banksia are deafening.
“They’re (possums) still around but they are well under control.”
TPFT manager Toby Shanley said the Henchmans’ farm was part of the 28,000ha predator control segment between Oakura and Okato, and the Kaitake Ranges.
The re-growth of the couple’s roses showed the project was making progress towards sustainable pest control on the Ring Plain, he said.
The next phase of the 10-year project is about to start on a 29,000ha segment of farmland between Okato and Rahotu.
This will involve setting more than 2000 traps to target stoats, weasels and ferrets, in conjunction with Taranaki Regional Council’s possum control programme.
Already a 1-3km pest buffer zone has been established around the entire national park boundary, as well as 14,000ha control area between urban New Plymouth and Oakura, to the park boundary, working together with landowners.
At the same time steady progress is being made by Taranaki Mounga to eradicate possums from the Kaitake Ranges, he said.
“We really stoked at the support we are getting from landowners, like the Henchmans, to give us access to complete the work.”
Story originally published on Stuff - Taranaki Daily News