As I switched on my head torch and turned towards the darkened grassy
lawn, the catís eyes glowed up, greenish yellow, luminescent in the
gloom. Interestingly enough, they exhibit a range of colour ó some are
reddish, some distinctly fluorescent green while others tend through
yellow tones. But light up they do, easily, at over 50 metres just from
the meagre glow of my LED torch.
This time the cat was wary, one eye blinked out as the head turned and
then, nothing. As I was naked and wet after a bath, and did not have an
immediate response I left the hunt for another day.
Next morning, walking down the corridor of grass between the tall
kanukas and totaras, the harrier hawk leapt into the air and flapped
away. My eye was drawn to a dull reddish tone in the grass under the
kahikatea where the hawk had been feeding. The olive and crimson
feathers of the kaka were spread like a cloak on the grass. The carcass
had been picked clean down the backbone as hawks do, but the wings and
head had been separated ó the mark of a cat kill.
There had been a female kaka and a fledged chick in this area for a
month or so now ó the mother was fearless in browsing at shoulder height
in the fig tree, showing little concern at my approach until she flew
off at the last moment. The puriri was in flower too and the extended
branches drooped right to the ground. She had most likely been feeding
in those low branches when the cat struck.
I took this personally ó funny that a few days previously I had been
throwing my gumboot at this cheeky kaka as she ate a ripe fig.
I spotted the cat next evening stalking territory no more than 100m from
the kill. Looking down a riflescope at a pair of yellow-green eyes is a
disorientating experience. The feeble beam of the head torch didnít seem
to spook the cat ó quite the opposite. This feline was casual, almost
indifferent to my presence 30 metres away. I didnít know it then but the
catís coat was jet black ó all I could see were the eyes, sometimes two,
sometimes one and for brief periods nothing as the cat turned its head
this way and that.
It was a lucky standing shot that took the cat; a big male, 4.7 kilos of
muscle with wide shoulders and serious ivory. The kaka never had a
I heard the chickís distinctive call over the next few days but for some
reason didnít connect the two. There were anything up to a dozen kaka in
the zone at that time, as the puriri flower and totara berry were
three months later, walking on the other side of the creek under a
spreading totara I found the desiccated but completely intact body of
the fledged chick. The strong overnight winds had dislodged it from the
upper branches of the tree where the juvenile had remained until it had
starved to death.
D.o.C have been operating over 30 traps in the Okiwi Valley for some years
now ó two weeks on, two weeks off. They consistently catch cats, never
less that 3-4 per fortnight, but this big male had walked right past
several baited traps to get into my block. His stomach was full of
rabbit ó the kaka had just been a bit of sport.