A WA project aimed at tracking the movement of feral cats could be key to stopping their spread across Australia.
Researchers are radio-tagging feral cats in a Wheatbelt reserve, about 355km north of Perth, attempting to determine if hand-baiting will be an effective way to control the estimated 1.8 million feral cats nation-wide.
“We pretty much have a handle on most of the threats but feral cats have been a thorn in our side since we purchased this property,” Charles Darwin reserve manager Luke Bayley said.
The 686sqkm reserve is the site of this ground-breaking research which would mean nature reserve managers and farmers could hand-distribute baits, rather than relying on aerial distribution which is expensive and beyond the reach of most land management organisations, Mr Bayley said.
Individual feral cats are believed to target up to 30 native species a night, he said.
The trial will map the movements of the cats across scrubland native to the Gasgoyne and Murchison regions but the baiting method, if effective, could be deployed across large sections of South Australia and other areas where the landscape is similar.
The bilby and Burrowing Bettong, a small native mouse-like creature, live in the reserve, Mr Bayley said.
Private conservation group Bush Heritage Australia, who own the reserve, manage up to 1.2 million hectares of bushland. The project is being carried out in partnership with Edith Cowan University.