Report to: Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Energy
About the document
Feral cats (Felis catus) are a serious vertebrate pest having severe to catastrophic effects on native wildlife species. The broad-scale control of feral cats is difficult as they are found in very low densities and have large home ranges, making them difficult to locate. They are also extremely cautious in nature, making them hard to cost-effectively control with traditional measures such as shooting and trapping. Baiting for feral cats is a broad-scale technique that has potential to reduce feral cat population over larger areas. Three broad-scale baits have been developed for the control of feral cats; Eradicat® that is registered for use in south-western Western Australia; Curiosity® and Hisstory® (both yet to be registered).
Baits for feral cats must be laid on the surface and this presents a potential hazard for non-target wildlife species. The Hisstory bait offers a degree of protection to some wildlife species by exploiting differences in feeding behaviour between feral cats and non-target species by presenting the toxicant, 1080, in an encapsulated pellet.
The primary objective of the study was to understand the hazard that the Hisstory bait presents to northern quolls. A secondary objective was to demonstrate that feral cats would consume the bait.
Three hundred Hisstory baits were hand-laid in a 6 km2 area of the King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park located in the west of the Kimberley region on 10 September 2017. Monitoring of the northern quoll uptake of Hisstory baits was conducted using VHF telemetry collars attached to 20 northern quolls prior to baiting. Of the eight northern quolls alive at the time of baiting, seven were confirmed as alive post-baiting and one had died of unknown reasons. In conjunction with the results achieved in earlier studies with captive northern quolls, and despite the small sample size, this study demonstrates the Hisstory bait for feral cats is unlikely to present a significant hazard to free-ranging northern quolls.
Several problems were encountered during the planning and preparation phase of the project, resulting in the secondary objective - demonstrating field efficacy of the Hisstory baits on feral cats - not being achieved:
- The trial site had to be moved at a late stage due to logistical problems;
- Delays on provisions of necessary permits affected the timing of baiting. This meant baiting aircraft were unavailable so the size of the trial area was reduced from 100 km2 to 6 km2 and refocused on northern quoll only.