Rats eating butterflies in parks may be wide-spread

REMAINS: Butterfly enthusiast Vicky Steele in Abberley Park showing Ameilia and Lucca Kelly the butterfly wings she has collected, after they were eaten by rats, she believes. PHOTO: GILBERT WEALLEANS

Several actions are being taken to stop rats eating butterflies in Abberley Park, but a butterfly enthusiast said the problem is more widespread.

Vicky Steele has been studying butterflies for more than 20 years and said there is evidence of butterfly predation at Burnside Park and Ernle Clark Reserve in Somerfield also, but can’t 100 per cent confirm it is rats.

“There are numbers missing everywhere but it is hard to find proof that it is rats, sometimes weather or lack of food can contribute but when wings are found it is a clear indication they have been eaten.”

“The evidence isn’t 100 per cent conclusive but it’s really damning . . . if its not rats, then I don’t know what it is.”

No traps have been set in Burnside Park. Some have been set in Ernle Clark Reserve.

Ms Steele has found and collected more than 1000 sets of wings at the parks.

Wind grasses, where rats usually live, have been removed from Abberley Park and ‘tree bands’ have been wrapped around trees to avoid rats climbing them.

New plantings will also be introduced, which will provide an additional food source for butterflies and bees.

However, city council manager community parks Al Hardy said there is no evidence to support that there is a rat problem at Abberley Park, in spite of several actions being taken by city council and Tree Tech staff to reduce the problem.

Rat traps have been used, however, none contain poison due to health and safety concerns involving other animals and children in the park.

Ms Steele said the bands appear to be working in Abberley Park.

“Nothing has died since . . . it’s the first time since May that has happened,” she said.