A frost was starting to form on the grass as I set out from my flat, spotlight in hand and plenty of layers on. The Predator Free Dunedin conservation group was running a week-long initiative called Spotlight for Possums to get members of the community to search for possums around their houses and urban areas, then report any possums they found to help gauge possum numbers and highlight areas that need more possum traps. Having a deep passion for conservation and pest control, this was right up my alley and a good way to take my mind off university.

I started at a small park behind my flat. There was plenty of thick native bush, so I was confident I would find something. I meticulously picked my way through the park, illuminating any tree or clearing I thought might hold a possum. Despite battling the harsh cold and confused looks from people who passed by for over an hour, I ended empty-handed, only spotting a couple of rabbits.

The following two nights, I branched out and explored different places but only managed to spot one possum climbing up a power pole.

On the fourth night, I opted for a different approach. I left my spotlight at home and took the Pulsar AXION XQ38 LRF thermal imager.

The thermal was a game changer.

I was able to see heat signatures through patches of bush and at a far greater distance. I could see animals that the spotlight would have never picked up, nothing could hide.

The parks I had been searching suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree; there were signs of life everywhere I looked. I spotted rabbits feeding in the parks, cats roaming the bush edge and, in total, I was able to find and report eight possums in one night.

I returned happy that I was able to contribute to the conservation initiative.

By the end of the week, 40 possums were reported with nine coming from me, highlighting just how effective and important thermal imagers can be for pest control and hunting. Check out my Instagram @Daniel_Crimp for more hunting and thermal imaging content.

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