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A feral cat in the scrub. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
A feral cat in the scrub. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Feral animals

To protect native species and restore balance to native ecosystems we must control feral animals.

The Cane Toad has had a terrible impact on local species. Photo Cathy Zwick.

Australia’s isolation from other landmasses for millions of years since its separation from the Gondwanan continent allowed a unique group of animal species to evolve.

Since the arrival of Europeans many new species have been introduced. Some of these have adapted and thrived so successfully that they now dominate and threaten many of our native species and ecosystems.

Twenty eight Australian mammal species are now extinct. Cats have been implicated in the demise of at least 20 mammal species and subspecies. Feral cat populations fluctuate between two and six million and consume between 100 million and 1.5 billion birds each year.

Feral predators such as cats and foxes have a devastating impact on native wildlife. Their impact is greatest where over-grazing or fire has left little vegetation cover in which to hide. 

Other species can have profound impacts on ecosystems in other ways. Cane Toads, which are poisonous, have caused a catastrophic decline in populations of native species such as goannas and quolls that naturally prey on native frogs. Starlings and Indian Mynas compete with native birds for nest sites, food and territory.

Water Buffalo create channels that allows saltwater to intrude into freshwater wetlands adjacent to northern Australian coasts. Feral pigs damage wetlands, tearing up vegetation in pursuit of roots and tubers and eating the eggs and young of birds and turtles.

Feral pigs damage fragile wetlands with their hard hooves. Photo Leanne Hales.
Felixer cat traps have been trialled. They spray cats with toxins.

Controlling feral predators

Poison baits are a tool that we use reluctantly but which unfortunately in many circumstances are the only viable means of reducing feral animal numbers enough to allow native species to survive and recover.

Where there are viable alternatives, we use them. We deploy poison baits in ways that minimise the likelihood of native species being affected and are trialling alternative methods (such as Felixer cat traps) that further minimise the risk of non-target animals being impacted.

Monitoring and science

We monitor native and feral species numbers on our reserves using motion sensing camerastrappingspotlighting and the use of sandpads to capture tracks.

This allows us to understand how our control programs are impacting on feral numbers and in turn how this is benefiting native species populations. This information is used in our planning to refine and prioritise feral animal control.

Luke Bayley and Tim Doherty fit a tracking collar to a cat to monitor its movements. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

We collaborate with scientists and university students on research to understand the impact of ferals, the benefits to native species of controlling them, and the best control methods. 

The role of Dingoes as suppressors of ferals

Dingoes are Australia’s apex predator and are an important part of the ecology, keeping natural systems in balance. Perhaps counter-intuitively, a healthy Dingo population is good for small to medium-sized mammals, reptiles and birds as cats and foxes avoid them.

Unlike cats and foxes, Dingoes prefer larger prey (e.g. wallabieskangaroos) so there are less predators of small to medium fauna. Dingoes also regulate numbers of feral herbivores such as goats, deer and rabbits, which helps native species.

Stories on feral animal control

BLOG 12/11/2021

The devastating impact of rabbits

The Conversation recently published an article about the devastating impact that rabbits have had and continue to exert on Australia plants, wildlife and landscapes.

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Feral cat.


The challenge of cats

Sarah Legge (Professor at ANU and a Principal Research Fellow with The University of Queensland) discusses the urgent need for species protection from the impact of cats.

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BLOG 31/05/2021

Tarcutta Hills rabbit survey

Volunteers Tom O'Hara and Georgie McManus recently complete a rabbit survey on our Tarcutta Hills Reserve, including the recently purchased neighbouring block.

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A feral cat in the scrub. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

BUSHTRACKS 15/04/2021

The problem with cats

Feral cats kill an estimated 2 billion animals in Australia every year, but nuanced solutions on Bush Heritage reserves and partnership properties across Australia are helping to turn the tide.

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BLOG 18/02/2021

Great Southern cat cull

An article in WA Today: "One of the nation’s biggest conservation groups has started working with the West Australian government’s fox baiting program in the south and levelled it up to target cats and rabbits too in an effort to restore native animals to their traditional domain."

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Wildflowers on Monjebup Reserve. Photo Jessica Wyld Photography.

BUSHTRACKS 25/09/2020

From tin whistles to tinsel

As we prepare to start a first-of-its-kind feral control program in the Fitz-Stirling, Noongar Traditional Custodian Aunty Carol Petterson reflects on the changes seen in her lifetime.

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BLOG 16/08/2020

The problem with goats

Feral goats are a major threat to our rangeland vegetation throughout Australia, where they roam the countryside largely unmanaged.

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BLOG 07/07/2020

Counting bunnies

European Rabbits have a high impact on our conservation targets at Bon Bon. They compete with native herbivores for resources, supress native vegetation and provide a reliable food source for foxes and cats.

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BLOG 19/12/2019

Feral fish & fencing at Yourka

I have a personal interest in fish and wetlands. Yourka has beautiful Eastern Rainbowfish, Purple Spotted Gudgeons, and Spangled Perch throughout its waterways, as well as Flyspecked Hardyheads, Olive Perchlets,  Midgley's Carp Gudgeons, Sooty Granters, Hyrtl's Tandan and probably others in some locations.

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BLOG 06/08/2019

Felixers: a tool to help save Alwal?

Olkola and Bush Heritage may have a new tool in our battle to protect the endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot (Alwal) from feral cats.

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BLOG 01/05/2019

Cat tracking from the air

It's encouraging to see increasing recognition of the terrible toll feral cats are exacting on our native wildlife, and increasing concern to do something about it. Early Monday morning I headed out to Red Moort to get up in the air with feral cat researcher Sarah Comer and her Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions colleague, Abby, to locate the feral cats Sarah has collared across our Fitz-Stirling landscape on the South Coast of Western Australia.

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BUSHTRACKS 22/03/2019

Battle for the bite sized

A landmark restoration project on Bon Bon is helping native species to bounce back.

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BUSHTRACKS 22/03/2019

Feral focus

How we’re working beyond our boundaries to control foxes and feral cats in south-west Western Australia.

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BLOG 22/01/2019

The invasive species war

A recent Guardian article highlighted how invasive species are the most significant threat to, and cause of, species decline and loss in Australia - and more destructive than climate change at present. It's a sobering assessment; and a sad reflection on the early attitude to our native species. Bush Heritage Australia, through its reserve and partnership network is at the battlefront of this war on feral plants and animals.

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BLOG 14/12/2018

Feral cats caught on camera

We've been testing the use of burn lines as a way to draw cats towards our new Felixer cat traps at Ethabuka Reserve. The results so far are super encouraging.

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BLOG 23/08/2018

Predators! Keep calm, just carrion

Have you ever stopped to think, how does the provision of resources in the landscape affect wildlife patterns in general? If you add a heap of additional unexpected food resources, what then happens to the array of carrion eaters and predators, and how does this affect other smaller animals?

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BLOG 12/06/2018

That tricksy Felixy

It's well known that cats have a huge and often catastrophic impact on native species and are notoriously difficult to control. The Felixer cat trap might be the solution.

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BLOG 27/06/2017

Volunteers help combat cats

Keith Gooley and Peter Caulder are Bush Heritage volunteers with expertise in electronics and a passion for conservation. Keith and Peter are using these skills to help us address one of the biggest threats to Australian wildlife on Boolcoomatta Reserve - feral cats.

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BLOG 27/04/2017

Mapping cats at Boolcoomatta

Hi! I'm Emily and I'm a science intern here at Boolcoomatta Reserve in the arid rangelands of South Australia. My primary focus over the next two months is to collect data on the distribution of feral cats here.

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BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2017

Feral instincts

From the saltbush plains of Boolcoomatta in South Australia, to the sandy dunes of Ethabuka in Queensland, our staff are working hard to implement science-based methods to combat feral cats.

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BLOG 11/06/2015

Carp trapping trial

The carp trapping program at Bush Heritage Australia's Scottsdale Reserve is moving into its next phase, with a small team of inventors on board to design a heating system for the trap. What? Sounds like we are really trying hard to make those pesky carp just a little too comfortable? Perfectly correct!

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BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

New feral monitoring data

A new long-term monitoring program using remote infra-red cameras on both Boolcoomatta and our Bon Bon Reserve will help protect vulnerable natives such as the plains wanderer from feral foxes and cats.

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