The bid to make Wellington's Miramar Peninsula predator free will suffer a setback because of the Covid-19 lockdown, but the blow has been cushioned by the timing.

Rats will be seeking shelter as the months cool down leading into winter, meaning people won't have to break alert level 4 rules to trap them.

The rodents will trot right into the bubble of their backyards.

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The bid to make the peninsula predator-free by 2020 has already fallen short, with 50 rats still roaming free in January.

Then, Predator Free Wellington made the call to cease eradication activities on the peninsula earlier this week.

"This was a tough decision to make, but it is necessary if we are to overcome Covid-19 together," the group said in a statement.

But project director James Willcocks told the Herald they were in a "relatively good" position to ensure they didn't lose the gains they had secured.

He said the majority of the base trapping network was live with bait that would last for a minimum of four weeks.

There were also high concentrations of traps in known hot spots.

When it became clear Covid-19 would affect New Zealand, efforts were ramped up to prepare the network for a lockdown like the one the country is currently in.

Willcocks said they were fortunate to be working in an urban context, meaning the bid wouldn't suffer as big a setback as other conservation projects.


This was mainly because so many people had traps in their own back yards, he said.

"Rats will typically move around more in the autumn months looking for warm shelter for the winter time and that means that they're likely to come into more contact with humans."

Luckily there has been no evidence of Norway rats for months, which can weigh as much as half a kilogram.

There were only a small number of ships rats left, Willcocks said. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

As well as continuing backyard trapping, people could record any rats spotted in traps while they were out doing exercise.

"It's a good opportunity to stay connected to the vision, even while we're all sitting at home."

Plans had been in place to end the formal eradication phase on the peninsula by the end of April but that was now more likely to be the end of May.

Willcocks warned it could be pushed out further depending on how long the Covid-19 lockdown period lasted for.

"It's difficult to put finality on it when we're in such an unknown space."