In Environment

Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher

WA Scientists Develop Successful Feral Cat Bait

Victor P Taffa

Scientists at the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) have developed a new bait that has proved successful in reducing feral cat populations.

Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher said the bait Eradicat was being used at a number of sites in arid and semi-arid regions of Western Australia.

Mrs. Faragher said the scientists undertook numerous trials over a number of years to determine the bait’s effectiveness.

“Feral cats are recognised as significant threats to fauna conservation in Australia.” Mrs. Faragher said.

“Not only do they prey on native fauna and have the potential to spread diseases, they are also a major obstacle to fauna reintroduction programs.”

“The development of Eradicat is an exciting breakthrough because it can effectively control feral cat populations across big areas. This will open the door to a number of fauna reintroductions and help build resilience in the populations of many native species.”

The Minister said the baits had reduced feral cat densities by up to 85 % and could also prove to be effective in controlling other introduced predators, including foxes and wild dogs.

DEC senior research scientist Dave Algar said the bait had already been used to eradicate feral cats from several islands, including Hermite Island in the Montebellos and Faure Island in Shark Bay.

He said this eradication program had been followed by the successful translocation of a number of native species to the islands.

“Cat-control programs using ground-based baiting have also been established on the Cocos and Christmas islands and a feral cat eradication campaign is being planned for Dirk Hartog Island.” Dr. Algar said.

“Dirk Hartog could potentially support one of the most diverse native mammal assemblages in Australia, following the successful eradication of feral cats, and it could contribute significantly to the long-term conservation of several threatened species.”

The 63,000 ha Dirk Hartog Island is the biggest island off the WA coast and was proclaimed a national park by Mrs. Faragher last year.

Dr. Algar said Eradicat was also being used at a number of mainland sites, including Lorna Glen, a former pastoral lease, 150 km North-East of Wiluna.

“Eradicat is most effective in semi-arid and arid parts of the State and when introduced at a time cats are hungry because of a shortage of live prey.” Dr. Algar said.

“Under the right conditions, we have reduced feral cat density by up to 85 %.”

The bait, which is injected with a toxin, resembles a small sausage and contains kangaroo meat mince, chicken fat and flavour enhancers to attract feral cats.

It was developed as part of a collaborative project between DEC, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

Dr. Steve Lapidge from CRC said he was impressed by the long-term cat and fox reduction results achieved by Dr Algar and his team using Eradicat.

“We are proud to have co-funded the project and to have played a part in the rangeland trials. We will continue to work with DEC in assessing the potential of cat baits in more temperate regions of Australia where the product is yet to be proven.” Dr. Lapidge said.

The feral cat control research program was initiated by DEC under the Western Shield program.




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