Efforts to control Venus Bay vermin intensify
Efforts to eradicate vermin such as foxes and feral cats in Venus Bay Conservation Park (VBCP) have been underway since the trial reintroduction of locally extinct native animals the greater bilby and brush-tailed bettong.
Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula has been actively managing and looking at innovative ways to control feral cats in VBCP for the last ten years.
Natural Resource Officer Tayla Bowden said the establishment of predator-free areas and targeted pest control within the park have made it possible to reintroduce the bilbys and bettongs.
“Although the park is protected by a 2.5 metre high electric predator exclusion fence there are a few wily feral cats that remain inside the fence,” Ms Bowden said.
“These remaining feral cats pose the greatest threat to the reintroduced bilbys and bettongs as well as the diverse range of small mammals, birds and reptiles in the park.
“During the last ten years a variety of control methods have been trialled ranging from more standard baiting, trapping and shooting to some more interesting investigations into the use of lures.”
Recent funding assistance from the Australian Government has allowed efforts to control the feral cat population within the predator exclusion fence to intensify.
Ms Bowden is currently involved in revising the cat eradication plans and has been researching all available cat eradication and control options.
“We are trying to gain a better understanding of how many feral cats we are dealing with and where they are, in the hope that we can then conduct some targeted trials in specific ‘hot spots’.
“We are keen to try innovative approaches and test new methods that may help control the wider feral cat problem in Australia.”
Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula has been increasing how often they are trapping and improving trapping techniques in an effort to reduce feral cats.
It is also conducting spotlighting surveys with remote sensing infra-red cameras in an effort to provide more data on the feral cat population.
“Although we are still in the early stages of camera trials, we have already captured a number of images of feral cats in the park.
“This has allowed us to identify individuals through their tail rings and general coat patterns.
“Although the aim is to completely eradicate feral cats within the fence, research indicates that, unless the top predator can be replaced, having a small number of feral cats may be helpful to keep native animals within the fenced area ‘predator savvy’.”
It’s hoped the monitoring data will support the development of a more educated and targeted attempt at controlling feral cat populations.
This in turn could lead to a more sustainable population of cats within the predator exclusion fence and allow feral cats and native species to co-exist in the park.