New trial to help manage feral cats

Graeme Finlayson
Published 09 Jun 2020 
about  Bon Bon Station Reserve  
Eradicat® baits drying after being defrosted and sprayed with a Coopex solution in preparation for aerial baiting in the Flinders Ranges, SA.<br/> Eradicat® baits drying after being defrosted and sprayed with a Coopex solution in preparation for aerial baiting in the Flinders Ranges, SA.
Clint Taylor (Bon Bon Reserve Manager) and a ranger from the Flinders Ranges emptying Eradicat® into a specially designed hopper ready for aerial baiting.<br/> Clint Taylor (Bon Bon Reserve Manager) and a ranger from the Flinders Ranges emptying Eradicat® into a specially designed hopper ready for aerial baiting.
Feral cats are devastating to Australian wildlife. Camera traps are one of the methods we use to monitor their abundance on our reserves.<br/>Detections can then be used to develop estimates of cat density, indices of relative abundance and also examine ‘hotspots’ and activity times to assist with our control efforts. Feral cats are devastating to Australian wildlife. Camera traps are one of the methods we use to monitor their abundance on our reserves.
Detections can then be used to develop estimates of cat density, indices of relative abundance and also examine ‘hotspots’ and activity times to assist with our control efforts.

Feral cats are widely acknowledged as one of the key threats to much of our biodiversity throughout Australia and there are numerous projects around the country trying to reduce this threat through trapping, shooting and baiting programs.

Although baiting has mixed impacts on feral cats, there are a couple of baits that are now available or being trialled as ‘cat specific’ – they've been developed with the main focus of being more attractive to cats. One such bait, Eradicat® was developed in Western Australia, and although it has now been trialled across many places throughout Australia, it's still not freely available and must be part of a research project to further test its effectiveness for the control of feral cats.

It’s taken more than a year to arrange, but a trial of Eradicat ® to help control feral cats on Bon Bon is finally set to happen across the winter months of 2020.

Eradicat® baits look like small chipolata sausages and they contain a mixture of kangaroo mince, chicken fat and various flavours and enhancers that have been developed over years of trial and error in Western Australia. The bait has already been deployed on our WA Midwest reserves but this will be the first time we’ve used it on our SA properties.

Recently, along with Bon Bon Reserve Manager Clint Taylor, we helped prepare Eradicat® baits for the Bounceback program at the old Oraparinna Shearers' Quarters in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia.

The Bounceback Program, is a landscape-scale conservation program throughout the Flinders, Gawlers and Olary Ranges, with a major goal of reducing the impact of foxes and feral cats in these regions. In recent years, Eradicat® baiting has been critical in the Flinders Ranges National Park to help protect the reintroduced populations of Idnya (Western Quolls) and Virlda (Brushtail Possums) that have been so far successfully released back into the park.

Bush Heritage is already working with the team from Bounceback on Boolcoomatta Station Reserve and we're seeing the benefits of this partnership from aerial fox baiting through the Olary Ranges, that has recently included Boolcoomatta.

The overall aims of the Eradicat® baiting trials are to test the effectiveness of Eradicat® baiting in reducing the feral cat population within the core monitoring area on Bon Bon Station Reserve as part of the current adaptive predator management program.

Eradicat® baits will be incorporated into our on-going predator monitoring framework and will include baits placed in front of cameras, along the sandpad monitoring tracks and also on key areas where we’ve identified cat activity (dunes and drainage lines) where feral cats are likely to be moving into our core management area.

We can then assess the uptake of these baits by both feral cats and any other off-target animals (including foxes) and assess the change in relative abundance of feral cats from our remote cameras and quarterly monitoring of sandpads.

It's hoped that Eradicat® baits will be another tool in our toolbox to help reduce introduced predators and get a step closer to our goal of implementing reintroductions on the reserve. Stay tuned!

More information on Operation Bounceback.

Clint Taylor (Bon Bon Reserve Manager) and a ranger from the Flinders Ranges emptying Eradicat® into a specially designed hopper ready for aerial baiting.<br/> Clint Taylor (Bon Bon Reserve Manager) and a ranger from the Flinders Ranges emptying Eradicat® into a specially designed hopper ready for aerial baiting.
Feral cats are devastating to Australian wildlife. Camera traps are one of the methods we use to monitor their abundance on our reserves.<br/>Detections can then be used to develop estimates of cat density, indices of relative abundance and also examine ‘hotspots’ and activity times to assist with our control efforts. Feral cats are devastating to Australian wildlife. Camera traps are one of the methods we use to monitor their abundance on our reserves.
Detections can then be used to develop estimates of cat density, indices of relative abundance and also examine ‘hotspots’ and activity times to assist with our control efforts.