Management: Cats and foxes

Feral Herald |

At least 33 Australian mammal species are extinct – the worst mammal extinction record in the world – 24 mainly because of feral cats and foxes. And they continue to imperil hundreds of other native species.

After the 2020 bushfires, organisations including the Invasive Species Council called for a concerted focus on feral animal control.

In fire-denuded landscapes feral cats and foxes can easily pick off small animals struggling to find food and shelter, and feral herbivores such as deer often stymie plant regeneration. We called for aerial control programs targeting feral deer, pigs and goats, and a fast-tracked cat trapping and fox baiting program at threatened mammal sites. In mid-2021, a national feral cat and fox coordinator was appointed to help drive cat and fox control action in bushfire affected areas.

The Invasive Species Council was influential in a 2020 federal parliamentary inquiry into feral cats, particularly in generating recommendations for prioritising action on feral cats, strengthening national threat abatement processes and establishing more cat-free havens on islands.

Since 2013 the Invasive Species Council has been a member of the national feral cat taskforce, overseeing threat abatement action on feral cats. The focus on feral cats has mobilised effort across the country, resulted in new control tools and shifted the national debate so that the general public now better accepts the need to control feral and domestic cats.

Feral cats are among the greatest threats facing our wildllife. Photo: Mark Marathon | CC BY SA 2.0

We have worked with several of Australia’s leading researchers to identify ways to better protect threatened species from feral cats and foxes:

  • Undertake island eradications: Remove cats from islands with high biodiversity values (e.g. breeding seabirds) or where islands can serve as havens for species threatened by cats.
  • Prepare for future major bushfires: Be prepared to rapidly install temporary shelters and control measures to protect surviving wildlife from predation by cats and foxes.
  • Provide more control tools: Ensure land managers gain access to effective tools to control cats and foxes and support research to develop new control methods.
  • Remove legal barriers: Apply standardised rules across Australia that designate feral cats as pests, reduce red-tape preventing the use of traps and toxins and require mandatory domestic cat desexing, microchipping and containment.

What’s next?

We are seeking funds to commence a national feral cat campaign to push for more effective control of feral cats, reduce the impacts from domestic cats and ensure wildlife recovering from bushfires is better protected from predators.

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