Best-practice management for feral cats and red foxes

Project start date: 18/07/2022
Project end date: 31/12/2026
NESP funding: $194,504 (GST-exclusive)

Feral cats and red foxes inflict unsustainable damage on many of Australia’s threatened species but land managers lack clear guidance on how to implement best-practice management of these pests.

Feral cat attacking a small marsupial

Feral cats are inflicting unsustainable damage on threatened species. Photo: Northern Territory Government.

The Australian Government’s Threatened Species Action Plan 2022–2032 identifies best-practice management of cats and foxes in its Targets 8 and 9, so it is urgent that land managers, especially those focused on priority species and priority places, have clear guidance on how to plan, implement and review their programs.

Research into feral-cat management is active in most Australian states and territories, so the project is working with expert practitioners to describe the elements that constitute best-practice management of feral cats and red foxes for a range of functional groupings (e.g. by ecoregion and management problem). The project is also collaborating with these experts to clearly identify vital knowledge gaps that should become the focus for research that is improving feral-cat and red-fox management outcomes.

The project is being conducted in 2 discrete phases:

  1. a focused, proof-of-concept workshop for feral-cat management with members of the National Feral Cat Taskforce, key hub researchers and other selected expert practitioners from across Australia
  2. developing an online decision tool for feral-cat managers, via an expert-elicitation process.

The 2-step process above will then be repeated for red-fox management.

Key research areas

To address this challenge and equip land managers with information and tools for best-practice management of feral cats and red foxes, this project aims to support research users by:

  • establishing a working group of expert practitioners to describe the elements that constitute best-practice management of feral cats and red foxes
  • improving engagement with Indigenous land managers for the management of feral cats and foxes, particularly to broaden the understanding of best-practice management and to identify research gaps that would improve future management across a wider area
  • assessing the key knowledge gaps that would support improved best-practice management
  • engaging with natural-resource management groups to ensure tools are designed to meet the needs of on-ground managers
  • creating a decision-support tool for the management of feral cats and red foxes in Australia.

  • Feral cat in outback Queensland, Australia. Photo: 169169/Adobe Stock.
  • Camera trap image of feral cat eating a native animal. Photo: NTDEPWS.
  • Fox waiting at the entry under the rusting wheel housing of a car wreck. Photo: DBCA (Western Australian government).