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Feral cats caught on camera

Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)
Published 14 Dec 2018 by Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)

A few months back I mentioned that Bush Heritage has purchased five new Felixer Mark3 traps, and that we are trialling their use at our Ethabuka Reserve.

The Felixer trap is a device that uses sensors and artificial intelligence to differentiate between native animals and feral predators.

Right now they're in test mode and just take photos, but eventually they'll be armed with a toxin that's sprayed onto the target if it's identified as a feral that we want to control.

We've been testing the use of burn lines as a means of focussing feral predator activity, taking advantage of the observation that feral predators are drawn to recently burnt areas.

We installed 10 cameras traps in June 2018, and then in August created burn lines with Felixers installed beside them. Each burn line is a narrow 500m long burnt strip running from a dune crest to a nearby road, with a pinch point or funnel where a Felixer trap is placed.

Dune crests and roads are features that predators use to travel through the landscape. The idea is that cats and foxes travelling along them are drawn to the burn lines to explore for exposed prey. Then as they walk the line, they're forced to pass the felixer. And – bammo – the tricksy Felixy does its business, leaving the native wildlife to breathe easier.

The results from both the camera traps and Felixers were super encouraging for a small-scale trial.

We found that:

  • feral predators were recorded in 6 of the 10 cameras placed on dune crests and roads.
  • foxes were recorded on three of the road cameras, two on dune crest cameras, and one cat was recorded on a road camera and one on a dune crest.
  • three Felixers (all unarmed and in photo only mode only) were triggered by foxes, and one by a feral cat.
  • Felixer 01, 04 and 05, which recorded feral predators, also recorded feral predators on the road and dune crest cameras on either end of the burn line.
  • Felixer 03 and 04 recorded were not triggered by predators, however the cameras associated with these traps, recorded one feral cat and fox.

Though this trial is very preliminary the results show significant promise for targeted management control of feral predators. On one hand, the use of a very focussed trap that only has a target area of about 1m x 4m, seems like a method of low effectiveness (i.e. in a property size of 215,000 ha).

However, using and exploiting knowledge of predator behaviour and a burn that funnels the predator to the trap, suggest that Felixers can be deployed effectively as part of a reserve's integrated feral predator management strategy

- Dr Alex Kutt, Bush Heritage Australia Senior Ecologist, North Region

The purchase of our new Felixers has been generously supported by the Queensland Government Everyone's Environment and Nature Assist grant programs.

Reserve Manager, Kyle Barton, helping craft the burn lines in amongst the spinifex. Reserve Manager, Kyle Barton, helping craft the burn lines in amongst the spinifex.
Controlled burning is best done at night in winter when it is cold and still. Kyle Barton, Helene Aubault and Shelley Inglis keeping an eye on the fire. Controlled burning is best done at night in winter when it is cold and still. Kyle Barton, Helene Aubault and Shelley Inglis keeping an eye on the fire.
The Felixer in place along the burn line – positioned at a pinch point that will hopefully direct the cats to cross the deadly laser beams! The Felixer in place along the burn line – positioned at a pinch point that will hopefully direct the cats to cross the deadly laser beams!
Fox in the firing line.  Of the five Felixers deployed, three had foxes and cats moving through the burn line, past the traps and triggering the lasers. Fox in the firing line. Of the five Felixers deployed, three had foxes and cats moving through the burn line, past the traps and triggering the lasers.
Cat on the crest. One of the camera traps on the dune crest end of a burn line, indicating that feral cats use the crests as pathways to move in the landscape.  Cat on the crest. One of the camera traps on the dune crest end of a burn line, indicating that feral cats use the crests as pathways to move in the landscape.

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