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 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:
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:
Our first feral cat workshop brought together feral cat experts from across Australia who assessed the effectiveness of 10 management techniques across a range of ecoregions. For control at large scales, baiting emerged as the most effective technique for reducing feral cat numbers. However, at smaller scales in certain ecoregions, more socially acceptable methods of control may also be effective. These include tracking with detector dogs or modifying resources – for example, controlling rabbit populations to reduce prey availability. This valuable information will be used to develop an integrated management decision tool for land managers.
Experts also identified and prioritised key research gaps. They agreed the most pressing research needs are developing effective monitoring, understanding cat impacts on prey species, measuring how long management benefits last, quantifying cat population exchange between urban and natural areas, and finding ways to prioritise sites for attempted eradication.
Read more in the workshop report.
Our second workshop surveyed 24 experts in feral cat management from universities, government and other conservation-focused organisations across Australia and New Zealand.
Experts discussed how combinations of 5 broadly applicable techniques identified in Workshop 1 (aerial baiting, ground baiting, leghold trapping, cage trapping and shooting) could best be applied across 6 different ecoregions and in varying seasonal conditions.
It was generally agreed that an integrated approach using all 5 was most effective, but that trapping and shooting provided only marginal benefits when added to aerial or ground baiting. The experts also agreed that it’s difficult to confidently state how management techniques would differ between ecoregions and conditions.
The Workshop 2 report recommends further research which carefully monitors the effect of management techniques on feral cat populations in various conditions It also outlines the potential to explore alternative techniques such as grooming traps or habitat modification.
Read more in the Workshop 2 report.
The project is being led by Dr Annalie Dorph and Associate Professor Guy Ballard from the University of New England. This project is collaborating with other projects from the Resilient Landscapes Hub and will be contributing to one of the cross-cutting initiatives: