Best practice fox, wild dog and feral cat management

Project Leader: Dr Peter Fleming, Industry and Investment NSW

Aim: To develop new monitoring technologies to better target and monitor wild dog, fox and feral cat control programs

Projects: 1.T.4, 1.T.5, 10.U.1, 10.U.4, 10.T.5, 10.U.21

Project summary

Wild dogs, foxes and feral cats are IA CRC priority species requiring improved management. This project focuses on best practice that optimises the combination of techniques, target specificity, areas of application and time of year to achieve cost effective control. Of particular importance are targeting of control actions and monitoring population responses of target invasive species.

The project aims to:

  • review available technologies for monitoring and evaluating wild dog, feral cat and fox control programs
  • develop and field-test genetic and other technologies to remotely monitor wild dog, fox and feral cat control programs
  • model the effects of wild canid control programs on co-occurring non-target native carnivores- focussing on spotted-tailed quolls
  • identify opportunities to share data and resources, and promote collaboration between IA CRC projects dealing with wild dogs, foxes and feral cats

An important function of the IA CRC is to promote collaboration between partners and to value-add to different component programs. This project facilitates collaboration through sharing of resources, ideas and data. This project comprises three sub-projects, each with a number of collaborators and relates to several PhD student projects. It enables development and assessment of techniques that support many of other IA CRC activities, including DNA-based projects (project 10.U.21), PhD projects on fox and feral cat management associated with the Southern Ark demonstration site (project 10.U.4), wild canid and feral cat management in Western Australia (project 10.U.1) and wild canid management planning activities of the wild canid demonstration site in north-east NSW and south-east Queensland (project 10.T.5).

Monitoring predators is notoriously difficult, which makes the assessment of control program and new product efficacy difficult. This project is investigating new remote technologies, including GPS / satellite / radio collars, remote-release cameras and remotely-sourced DNA, which can be used by all collaborators to assess wild canid and felid population changes in their primary projects. Knowledge of the day-to-day movement behaviours of wild canids and felids enables more efficient deployment of baits, traps and new technologies such as M44 ejectors. Knowledge of animal dispersals enables strategic planning to occur at the most appropriate scale and we are using the ability of satellite technologies to identify and follow long-distance movements of wild dogs in real time. Knowledge of target animals’ habitat use is also essential for assessing the availability to them of IA CRC’s new control products (eg project 1.T.3) when assessing field efficacy.

Remote release cameras and remote DNA capture will allow assessment of population reductions from control and of the remaining populations. Such monitoring of control efficacy is an essential component of strategic / best-practice planning, determination of environmental effects of vertebrate pest control and for evaluation of field efficacy of new control products.

Spotted-tailed quolls are considered the native predator most at risk from wild canid control activities. Two different types of models are being developed to investigate population-level responses of spotted-tailed quolls to wild canid control in north eastern NSW and in Victoria. Results will be used by managers in risk assessments of wild canid control programs where quolls are present.

Key achievements

  • Deployment of GPS/ satellite/ VHF collars on wild dogs, feral cats, foxes and spotted-tailed quolls at IA CRC field sites.
  • Further trapping of quolls was conducted in conjunction with project 10.T.5 to obtain the longer time-series of data required.
  • Cameras deployed to assist evaluation of PAPP for wild canid control.

Key deliverables

  • A protocol for best use of camera traps for monitoring wild dogs, foxes and cats.
  • An evaluation of the efficacy of remotely-sourced DNA for mark-recapture estimates of wild dog, fox and feral cat responses to control.
  • Two models of spotted-tailed quoll population dynamics under different wild canid scenarios.
  • Recommendations for wild canid control deployment in the presence of spotted-tailed quolls. These will be incorporated into local strategic management plans in project 10.T.5 and have application in project 10.U.4.

Project team

Dr Peter Fleming, Guy Ballard, Steve McLeod (Industry and Investment NSW), Danielle Stephens, Tom Newsome, Tony Buckmaster, Alex Diment (PhD students), Dr David Jenkins (CSU), Alan Robley, Charles Todd, Jenny Nelson (Vic DSE), Andrew Claridge, Doug Mills, Andrew Lees (NSW DECCW), Al Glen, Nicky Marlow, Dr Paul deTorres, Dr Dave Algar (WA DEC), Dr Oliver Berry (UWA), Assoc Prof Steve Sarre (UC), Dr Roger Pech (Landcare Research), Peter Cremasco (ex Qld DEEDI), Dr Gerhard Koertner (UNE), Stephanie Meyer-Gleaves (Griffith Uni).

Project partners

IA CRC, Industry and Investment NSW (lead agency, Vertebrate Pest Research Unit), WA Department of Environment and Conservation, University of Western Australia, Vic Department of Sustainability and Environment, NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.

Further information

Dall D, Lapidge S and Hunt R (2004) Increasing the efficiency of control of canid pests in Australia. Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference 21: 135-136.

Fleming PJS, Allen LR, Lapidge SJ, Robley A, Saunders GR and Thomson PC (2006) A strategic approach to mitigating the impacts of wild canids: proposed activities of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 46: 753-762.

Fleming PJS, Ballard AG, Brown AA, Jenkins ADJ, King BJ, Stephens C and D (2008) Remotely capturing DNA samples from wild dogs: pilot pen and paddock studies. Proceedings of NSW Pest Animal Control Conference: The Challenges of Change, 30 September-
2 October 2008, Wagga Wagga.

Fleming P and Jenkins D (eds) (2007) Proceedings of a workshop on remote monitoring of wild canids and felids, Australian National University, Canberra, 21-22 March 2007. Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.

Lapidge S, Dall D, Hunt R, Cowled B, Smith M and Staples L (2006) A review of the impact of sheep predators in Australia and new control methods under development. Vertebrate Pest Conference 22: 258-263.

Saunders G, Lapidge S, Fulton W, Murphy E, Sarre S, Buller C and Peacock T (2007) The Invasive Animals CRC: a new research initiative for managing some old problems. Pest or Guest: the zoology of overabundance (Ed. D Lunney, P Eby, P Hutchings and S Burgin). Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, NSW, Australia. pp 88-93.

Ejector newsletter #1 (June 2006) and #2 (October 2006)

Ejector newsletter #3 (December 2006)

Ejector newsletter #4 (June 2010)

For further information, contact us.