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That tricksy Felixy

Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)
Published 12 Jun 2018 by Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)

I recently visited Currawinya National Park to learn more about Felixer cat traps from their inventor, cat management expert Dr John Read (Ecological Horizons).

It’s well known that cats have a huge and often catastrophic impact on native species and are notoriously difficult to control.

We urgently need an effective solution that that can be deployed in diverse landscapes, not just to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction, but also to prevent other species declining to that point. Felixer traps are a promising candidate.

Feral cats are so hard to control because they are reluctant to take baits or enter traps, particularly when prey such as small native mammals are abundant. John created the Felixer trap after thinking for many years about the problem.

His answer was to take advantage of cats’ Achilles’ heel – their fastidiousness in cleaning.

The Felixer takes advantage of this behavioural trait, spraying them with a toxin that they then lick off to their detriment. The trap uses a series of inbuilt laser sensors that distinguish cats from all other non-target species, ensuring that only feral cats are sprayed.

Bush Heritage has previously assisted John with his rigorous field testing of the units, mostly at Pullen Pullen Reserve, which is home to the endangered Night Parrot. Now we have taken delivery of five new Felixer Mark3 traps for testing at two new field sites.

Firstly, we will use them on Cape York in collaboration with our partners at the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation. The Olkola rangers have evidence that cats are taking Alwal (Golden-shouldered Parrot) chicks from their nests. So deploying Felixer traps at nest entrances could be an ideal solution to this key threat to the species’ survival.

The second test will occur at Ethabuka Reserve in Central Queensland. Cats are known to preferentially hunt in recently burnt areas, so we'll burn small narrow fire-lines and place Felixers along them.

The traps are still in a test phase and for now we won’t be arming them with any toxin.

Instead the traps have inbuilt cameras that record both target and non-target animals that pass by or investigate the trap. They'll also record whether the traps would have been triggered if armed. John will use this data for further fine-tuning.

Once we're happy with the Felixer’s ability to reliably discriminate between cats and other species, we'll arm them with 1080 toxin. Then we'll be able to move on to testing both the impact of Felixer traps on cat numbers and in turn the degree to which this actually benefits native species.

- Dr Alex Kutt, Ecologist, Arid and Riverine Queensland

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

The Felixer in the field – a big green box that looks like K9 from Dr Who. The Felixer in the field – a big green box that looks like K9 from Dr Who.
Testing the Felixer with a canine model – the trap did not deploy and recorded a “non-target” photo of the dog Testing the Felixer with a canine model – the trap did not deploy and recorded a “non-target” photo of the dog
A feral cat takes a female Golden Shouldered Parrot from its nest A feral cat takes a female Golden Shouldered Parrot from its nest

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