Over 12 months ago we asked the Conservation Wildlife Management (CWM) arm of the Australian Sporting Shooters Association whether some local members might like to help us on reserve, primarily with feral cat control. Especially given they'd purchased both night vision and infrared heat sensing monoculars, which had been used to great effect on both cats and feral pigs on State Government conservation areas.
CWM's mission is to 'provide volunteer, self-funded pest animal management to landholders, state and local governments, natural resource and conservation organisations.' There are currently over 650 registered CWM members in Queensland, including 200 in North Queensland, who operate under a strict code of conduct which incorporates safety, training, testing, animal welfare and hunter ethics.
CWM members are already active on a number of Bush Heritage reserves such as Goonderoo and the neighbouring Avocet Nature Refuge, home to endangered Flashjacks (Bridled Nailtail wallabies). To date, CWM have produced impressive results using trapping, spotlighting and opportunistic shooting. On Astrebla National Park in western Queensland CWM has been supporting work to protect the Bilby, tallying over 1,300 feral cats since their involvement.
More recently CWM members have begun training detection dogs to track cats and feral pigs. Far North members asked if we would consider establishing Yourka as a training location for young dogs who'd achieved minimum obedience training levels but needed more experience in a bush setting.
Well trained dogs and handlers can be a highly effective tool in the management of feral animals so we were more than happy to welcome Nero and Gunther – our very first volunteers on four legs.
Despite intermittent rain, everyone piled in vehicles and completed a three-day site familiarisation, with many new ideas surfacing about how our two organisations could work together in the North. The two dogs also showed promise in their morning training runs.
Overall, the trip was a great success with one cat taken under a spotlight and a strong commitment from CWM members to support us not only in our fight against cats in the Australian bush, but also to help in a volunteer capacity to carry out weed control, fencing projects and other monitoring activities.
By engaging CWM volunteers to support our Bush Heritage's pest management plans we're ensuring constant pressure on feral predators. Once again, proving that working with others can increase our capacity in a way that ensures far greater conservation outcomes than we could achieve alone.