Management of Feral Cats an Important Issue

Management of Feral Cats an Important Issue

Gillian Basnett, the National Feral Cat and Fox Management Coordinator, in partnership with 

Landcare Tasmanian and Tamar NRM, ran an information, training and planning workshop in the Tamar on how to manage feral cats in Tasmania. The forum, held on Friday the 2nd of June, was aimed at Landcare, community groups, famers and landholders that want to gain a greater understanding of what is involved in managing feral cats either on their own property or on land they help manage. 

Feral cats are having a devastating impact on Australia’s wildlife and are responsible for 27 of the 34 native mammal extinctions, 2 of the 9 native bird extinctions and all of the 3 reptile extinctions since European settlement and continue to cause the decline of many more native animals. A single feral cat in the bush is estimated to kill 791 mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs per year along with 371 invertebrates. Population estimates have not been researched in Tasmania, but based on a recent Australia wide estimation of numbers (1.4 million to 5.6 million depending on the season), Tasmania is likely to have between 17,000 and 28,000 feral cats, not including stray or roaming pet cats. 

Along with hunting our wildlife, cats also spread the diseases, toxoplasmosis (toxo) and sarcosporidiosis (sarco) which have huge impacts on Tasmania’s sheep industry as well as our wildlife and human health. Toxo causes premature abortions in sheep, birds, goats and even humans and can lead to the death of some of our highly susceptible wildlife like wallabies and pademelons. It is estimated that Tasmania has the highest rate of Toxo in the world and has been linked to lamb loss rates in some flocks of more than 50% in bad years. 

The sarco parasite that is spread by cats infects sheep and causes cysts to form in the meat making it unsaleable. These two diseases cost the agricultural industry millions of dollars every year. 

“Effective feral cat management needs to be well-planned, coordinated and targeted, requiring effective collaborative partnerships between stakeholders including farmers, landholders, organisations and agencies” Gillian said. “This workshop has been designed in collaboration with Landcare Tasmania, who has been running information, training and planning workshops to assist Landcare members and groups across Tasmania to undertake feral cat management. The aim of day is to bring local landholders and groups together to inform them of what feral cat management tools are available in Tasmania, provide hands on training in how to use them humanely and effectively and help coordinate planning and management of feral cats across the Tamar.” 

Peter Voller, President of the West Tamar Landcare has been involved in facilitating community based feral cat management programs in Tasmania for a number of years and will be presenting on their successful project at the workshop. 

“Predation by cats is the greatest threat to small to medium sized native animals in Tasmania. We must find ways to reduce this threat with goodwill and effort from the whole.” Added Peter.  

“The impact of feral cats on our precious ecosystem, biodiversity, and livestock health is worth the consistent, collaborative, counter-attack. Forums like this, with our natural resource partners will help to inform new and small landholders about the issues and the solutions available to the community.” Said Kirsten Seaver, Program Coordinator Tamar NRM. 

“Tamar NRM has been involved with Feral Cat programs and strategies for nearly 2 decades. We recognise that it is an endless task. and when reported feral cat numbers increase, mitigation strategies need to be increased. 

Like our persistence with weed programs, Tamar NRM works closely with communities around the Tamar Valley and relevant agencies to build awareness and deploy the latest techniques. Feral cats are insidious “weeds on legs” that do not recognise property or Council boundaries nor fences.  

The impact of feral cats on our precious ecosystem, biodiversity, and livestock health is worth the consistent collaborative counter-attack. Forums like this, with our natural resource partners will help to inform new and small landholders about the issues and the solutions available to the community” she added.  

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