Invasive Animals CRC > Research > Research Programs 2005-2012 > Goals > Goal 6: Reducing feral cat impacts > Demonstration site: introduced predator control and fauna recovery, WA

Demonstration site: introduced predator control and fauna recovery, WA

Project Leader: Dr Paul de Tores, WA Department of Environment and Conservation

Aim: To investigate the relationships between introduced predators (mainly fox and cat), their control and sustained fauna recovery in South-Western Australia – is there a mesopredator release effect?

Project:  10.u.1

Project summary

In Western Australia there have considerable conservation gains from effective control of foxes. By 2001, this led to delisting three marsupial species from the threatened species list. However, despite ongoing fox control, fauna recovery in WA has not been sustained, possibly due to mesopredator release of cats, varanids, chuditch and/or pythons. The project — Ecological interactions of pest animals in regional Western Australia — assesses the conservation implications of predator interactions and examines whether introduced predator species are ‘turned over’ or show any evidence of bait shyness and/or bait avoidance. To achieve this, the project will determine the effectiveness of existing fox baiting programs.

The primary project aims are to:

  • determine if cats show a mesopredator release response when fox density is reduced through baiting with the 1080 bait — Probait
  • assess the biodiversity conservation implications of such a response if it occurs
  • develop tools and techniques for integrated control of the fox and feral cat
  • determine and demonstrate the effectiveness of Probait for fox control and assess the value of Eradicat® and Curiosity® cat baits (either separately or with Probait) for cat control
  • achieve one, two and three above at a local and landscape scale.

The project is being undertaken in four biogeographical regions and focuses on sites at:

  • the landscape scale at Mt Gibson (AWC property), Karara and Lochada (former pastoral estate now managed by DEC) within the WA rangelands
  • the landscape scale within the northern jarrah forest, south-west WA
  • a local scale at Dryandra Woodland and Tutanning Nature Reserve within the central WA wheatbelt
  • a local scale at Lake Magenta and Dunn Rock nature reserves within the southern WA wheatbelt

Findings from the project will provide managers of conservation estate (in WA and elsewhere), and managers of privately owned estate managed for conservation purposes, with a better understanding of the implications of controlling, or not controlling, one or more predators and the importance and value of integrated control. The project will lead to a refinement of ‘best practice’ introduced predator management, and to an improved level of understanding of predator interactions. This will result in better “on ground” management of introduced predators. Refinements in the use of the cat bait Eradicat® and Probaits will result in decreased environmental impacts of foxes and feral cats. Trials are also assessing the non-target issues associated with use of the new Curiosity® cat bait. The field effectiveness of feral cat baits will be quantified and end-user training packages will be provided.

Key achievements

  • Techniques have been developed and proven to be effective, at all sites, for collection of hair from foxes and cats. This has enabled identification of individual foxes and cats from DNA extracted from these hairs.
  • A ‘turn-over’ of foxes has been clearly demonstrated confirming fox baiting is achieving the intended result of reducing at least, in the short term, the number of foxes present in baited areas.
  • One site within the northern jarrah forest appears to be anomalous – fox density has been reduced, cats are present at low numbers, native predators (chuditch and varanids) have increased and woylie survivorship suggests this population to be one of very few where the woylie population is increasing.

Key deliverables

  • Rangelands: complete baiting program and publications.
  • Northern jarrah forest: completion of all field work and publications including non-target uptake of the Curiosity® cat bait
  • Dryandra Woodland: complete all field work and publications.
  • Lake Magenta and Dunn Rock: complete all field work and publications.

Project team

Dr Paul de Tores, Dr Dave Algar, Dr Nicky Marlow and Keith Morris (DEC), Dr Oliver Berry (University of WA), Dr Al Glen, Dr Duncan Sutherland, Robert Hill, Sean Garretson, (IA CRC / DEC), John Angus, Neil Thomas, Andy Williams, Brian Macmahon, Brent Johnson, Bill Muir, Mike Onus, Neil Hamilton (DEC), Jennyfer Cruz-Bernal (PhD candidate, UQ), Gillian Bryant, (PhD candidate, Murdoch).

Project partners

IA CRC, WA Department of Environment and Conservation, Australian Wildlife Conservancy, University of WA, Murdoch University, Alcoa World Alumina Australia, Worsley Alumina.

Further information

Asher J, Marlow N and Brazell R (2007) Taking the bait. Landscope 22(4):39-41.

de Tores, P. and Berry, O. (2007). Will curiosity kill the cat? Landscope 22(3):49-55.

Dickman CR, Glen, AS and Letnic M (2009). Reintroducing the dingo: can Australia’s conservation wastelands be restored? pp. 238-269 in Reintroduction of Top-Order Predators (eds MW Hayward and MJ Somers). Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.

Glen, A.S., Berry, O., Sutherland, D.R., Garretson, S., Robinson, T. and de Tores, P.J. (2010). Forensic DNA confirms intraguild killing of a chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii) by a feral cat (Felis catus). Conservation Genetics, 11(3): 1099-1101.

Glen, A.S., Wayne, A., Maxwell, M. and Cruz, J. (2010). Comparative diets of the chuditch, a threatened marsupial carnivore, in the northern and southern jarrah forests, Western Australia. Journal of Zoology, 282(4):276-283.

Glen AS and Dickman CR (2009) Why are there so many spotted-tailed quolls Dasyurus maculatus in parts of north-eastern New South Wales? Australian Zoologist. (In press).

Glen, A.S., Cardoso, M.J., Dickman, C.R. and Firestone, K.B. (2008). Who’s your daddy? Paternity testing reveals promiscuity and multiple paternity in the carnivorous marsupial Dasyurus maculatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 96(1): 1-7.

Glen, A.S. and Dickman, C.R. (2008). Niche overlap between marsupial and eutherian carnivores: does competition threaten the endangered spotted-tailed quoll? Journal of Applied Ecology, 45(2): 700-707.

Glen, A.S. (2008). Population attributes of the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) in north-eastern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Zoology, 56(2):  137 – 142.

Glen, A.S., Gentle, M.N. and Dickman, C.R. (2007). Non-target impacts of poison baiting for predator control in Australia. Mammal Review, 37(3): 191-205.

Sutherland, D.R. and Predavec, M. (2010). Universal Trap Timer Design to Examine Temporal Activity of Wildlife. Journal of Wildlife Management, 74(4):906–909.

Sutherland, D.R., Glen, A.S. and Cruz, J. (2008). An alternative spool-and-line tracking device for medium-sized animals. Australian Mammalogy, 30(2): 89-90.

Sutherland, D.R., Glen, A.S., and de Tores, P.J. (2010). Could controlling mammalian carnivores lead to mesopredator release of carnivorous reptiles? Proc R Soc B. Published online before print December 1, 2010.

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