Feral Cat Baiting at Charles Darwin Reserve - Round Two

on 12 May 2014 


Introduced predator species in Australia cause significant damage to agricultural production and native fauna, causing an estimated $48.5 million in damage annually.

Feral cats and foxes pose a significant threat to native fauna and have so far caused the extinction of 22 mammal species over the past 200 years. Feral cats also carry the parasite Toxoplasma gondii and can spread Toxoplasmosis infection to humans and livestock, including pregnant ewes.

Control measures

Effective controls for wild dogs and foxes are long established, with poison baiting proving to be the most effective method, complimented by shooting and trapping in some areas. The Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife carries out 1080 poison baiting across large tracts of land under the Western Shield Program, which has been effective.

Control measures for feral cats have proven far less effective, with a mix of trapping, shooting and baiting used. Baiting mechanisms for feral cats have been hard to establish because of their unwillingness to take baits.

Predator interactions

Research has revealed some complex interactions between predator species in Australia. Control of wild dogs can allow fox populations to increase; similarly the removal of foxes can allow cat populations to expand.

Foxes are the most commonly targeted species, and cats the least. Reviews undertaken as part current PhD research also indicate that few control programs operated in an integrated manner, targeting more than one species at a time.

The use of integrated predator control measures, where all targeted species are controlled simultaneously, would allow the protection of biodiversity and agricultural values through the same process, thus streamlining land management actions.

New control measures

The WA DPaW has developed Eradicat baits, which are a 1080-poison bait capable of controlling feral cats and foxes and can also be taken up by wild dogs. The bait is a sausage style medium made of kangaroo meat mince and chicken fat.

Initial field experiments conducted in the northern wheatbelt have shown that broad-scale aerial application of Eradicat is effective in feral cat control.

Though ground-baiting for predators is the most common method used by smaller land holders, ground baiting with Eradicat has not yet been tested.

Research project

Bush Heritage and Edith Cowan University, with support from DPaW, are conducting a research project to test ground-baiting using Eradicat at Charles Darwin Reserve.

The trial began in September 2013 when 1500 Eradicat 1080-poison baits were distributed by hand over the southern half of the property. The northern area remained an un-baited control site.

Predator numbers were monitored before and after the baiting using 40 remote infrared cameras. Inspection of this data showed that cat activity was low both before and after the baiting in the baited area, making it difficult to draw conclusions. Dingo/wild dog activity was also consistently low across the property both before and after baiting.

The potential benefits of this research and current trial include a better understanding of the efficacy of feral predator control operations. It's hoped new strategies for integrated predator control and improved land management strategies will lead to nature conservation and agricultural protection benefits. If we can improve our feral predator controls we hope to re-introduce native fauna back into the landscape.

Information and text provided by PhD candidate Tim Doherty at Edith Cowan University.