Kangaroo Island Feral Cat Eradication Program

Aim

The aim of the Kangaroo Island Feral Cat Eradication Program is to eradicate feral cats from Kangaroo Island (KI) by 2030.

The program is funded by the Australian Government with contributions and support from Atkinson Livestock, Patagonia Foundation, Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, PIRSA, Nature Foundation South Australia and other public donations, and in-kind support from the Department for Environment and Water and the KI Council.

feral cats prey upon a range of native species
feral cats prey upon a range of native species

Why eradicate feral cats?

Feral cat predation is a major threat to the Island's valuable and endemic fauna, with up to 50 native animal species at risk including the:

• Kangaroo Island dunnart Sminthopsis fuliginosis aitkeni (Endangered)

• Kangaroo Island echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatus (Endangered)

• Southern brown bandicoot Isoodon obesuelus (Endangered)

• Hooded plover (eastern) Thinornis rubricollis rubricollis (Vulnerable)

Feral cats also spread livestock diseases (sarcocystis and toxoplasmosis) that have a huge impact on primary production and profitability, causing substantial economic cost to the Kangaroo Island sheep industry (approximately $2 million annually).

Please view the image gallery to learn more about the impacts of feral cats and follow these links ABC Landline and ABC.

echidna for feral cat sponsorship

What makes this so exciting?

Should the eradication program succeed, the Island would become the largest inhabited island to be free of feral cats - with all the benefits to the island's ecosystems and economy that it brings.

The Island provides a unique opportunity to control and eradicate feral cats across an entire environmental region given its:

  • border security (being an island)
  • community support for both domestic cat management and feral cat eradication
  • long history of feral cat management and research on the island to inform control techniques
  • absence of foxes, wild dogs and rabbits from the island
  • supportive local government on domestic cat management

Kangaroo Island joins Bruny Island, French Island, Christmas Island and Dirk Hartog Island on the Australian Government's list of five priority islands (announced June 2016) aiming to become feral cat free. 

How are we eradicating feral cats?

In May 2020 the eradication of feral cats across the Dudley Peninsula began, starting from the very eastern end (at Cape Willoughby).

As the team progresses westward, we will be contacting landholders and requesting permission to access land to control cats using a variety of techniques. There is a permission form we will provide which outlines the methods we hope to use and the advantages of each. If you would like to have a look at the control options we hope to use, or fill in the form in advance of us arriving near you, please let us know.

At this stage, it is very difficult to predict at what speed we can move across the Peninsula and clear regions of cats. As the work progresses, we will have a much better understanding of which control techniques work best in which habitats (woodland, farmland, coastal etc.) and the effort required to remove cats from these areas.

We will be regularly updating the community with our new feral cat newsletter, Nine Lives, which will provide details about successes to date and where the eradication is currently situated. It will be very important for us to know if cats are still present behind (to the east of) where we are working, so please check regularly and let us know asap via email (ki.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au) or using the FeralCatScan app as quickly as possible after sighting.

Edition 1: Eradication work on the Dudley Peninsula gets underway!

Edition 2: Feral cat baiting trial results, cat traps, what about the rest of the island?

 
Subscribe to the Nine Lives newsletter for all the latest feral cat control and eradication updates

feral cat  

Fence 

Construction of a cat barrier fence near Pelican lagoon commenced in late 2019 with all the fence posts being put in place through an in-kind donation from conservation group Softfoot Marsupial.

This fence spans the narrow isthmus of the island to prevent re-invasion from the west. It will initially have four “gaps” which will be monitored to study the movement of Macropods through the “gaps” and along the fence itself. Following a period of monitoring, decisions will be made on closing the “gaps” (where possible) and placing animal aversion techniques or cat-proof grids at others. 

The bushfires, then bushfire recovery work (as we diverted resources to help combat the fires then help with recovery), followed by COVID-19 restrictions and ongoing detailed negotiations with KI Links, the proposed golf course that neighbours the fence on the southern end, have delayed completion of the fence.

In February 2021, building of the barrier fence resumed and will hopefully be complete within a few weeks - watch this space!

Baiting trial

As you would have seen in the first edition of the Nine Lives newsletter, in addition to the main eradication work there are a few additional activities taking place. One such activity is the trialling of a newly-registered feral cat bait. 

All other island eradications have relied on a large scale knockdown tool to initially bring the population down by 80-90%. On Kangaroo Island we do not have that ability because; 

  1. broadscale baiting throughout farmland is not an option, and 
  2. the resources required to simultaneously remove 80-90% of cats using trapping and shooting over the entire 384 km2 of the Dudley Peninsula are prohibitively large.

We have also found that it is much harder to trap and hunt cats throughout woodland. Therefore, any advantage we can get from a knockdown tool throughout mostly inaccessible woodland areas will be a very large advantage towards the success of the program.

With this in mind, the KI Feral Cat Program has been investigating ways to examine the effectiveness of "Curiosity®" (which contains PAPP), as a knock-down tool throughout woodland on the Dudley Peninsula. Curiosity contains PAPP which is more carnivore-specific than other baits, so if an animal such as a possum does consume a bait, it will not be affected. This baiting is being delivered during the winter months when goannas and other reptiles are not active. 

Given there is very little information to date on the densities, distribution and ranging behaviour of feral cats in woodland areas on Kangaroo Island, it was unknown whether Curiosity will be an effective knock-down tool in this area. Therefore, we aimed to fill some of these gaps in knowledge with a study using a contractor, in collaboration with KI Landscape Board staff.

The aims of this study were to:

  • Estimate pre and post-baiting densities of feral cats in woodland areas of the Dudley Peninsula
  • Examine trap success throughout woodland in comparison to baiting
  • Examine ranging behaviour of cats and use this information to help decide where to distribute baits (within the constraints of the Directions for Use)
  • Examine persistence of the baits in the environment once deployed

The report outlining the Curiosity® feral cat bait trial carried out in the southern woodland sections of the Dudley Peninsula is now available. 

In short, feral cats are very difficult to control in woodland because access is difficult and feral cats move long distances both within woodland and throughout the rest of the peninsula. Curiosity® feral cat baits present a good addition to the tools available for the eradication program because the off-target uptake (i.e. impacts on native animals) is very low and the toxin, which is contained inside a tiny pellet in each bait (not spread throughout), is much more humane than 1080. The eradication team is now planning how this can best be used to our advantage during the winter of 2021 as the eradication front rolls forward. 

If you have any further questions about the use of baiting, Curiosity bait or any other part of the eradication program you can get in touch with us at ki.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au

Bandicoot sightings! 

bandicoot-chappo-gal_1.jpg

As part of monitoring of native species across the Dudley Peninsula, the eradication team have been searching for Southern Brown Bandicoots in places where they have been previously detected, as well as in new spots that have suitable bandicoot habitat. Although some previous locations do not appear to have bandicoots present, these marsupials have been detected in woodland on the southern Dudley. Reassuringly, these bandicoots were detected at Curiosity® baiting trial sites, meaning that the baits were not having an effect on this population. 

Focussed monitoring of this group and continued searching for others is planned for the coming months. 

If you have recently seen a bandicoot on the island, please email the location, number and any other details to ki.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au 

Have you seen a feral cat recently?

A new website and an app called the ‘Feral Cat Scan’ has been created to help our community record sightings of feral cats anywhere on the Island. Information you record will help to identify hot-spots for feral cats and identify solutions to the feral cat problem across the Island. Please register your details and login to record feral cat activity in your local area. You can record sightings, impacts (such as predation on native animals) or control activities in Feral Cat Scan. Please visit the website or download the FeralCatScan App.

If you would like to learn more about trapping feral cats in your area, please download the feral cat trapping on KI brochure

You can also email us at ki.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au if you see a cat behind (to the east) of where we are working. 

Please provide as much detail as you can about what you saw, when and where (as precisely as possible). At this stage we’re only interested in cats east of our front line, because those areas are ones that should be free of cats; we want to get on top of any incursions as quickly as possible.

Help us continue our work

Help us to remove an invasive predator and secure a future for native species and KI’s livestock industry with your tax deductible donation. We have worked with our partners at Nature Foundation to establish a fund for people to help support the campaign to rid KI of feral cats, your contribution - no matter how small - will help us carry out vital conservation work. Please click here to download a donation form.

All donations $2 and over are tax deductible. Thank you for your support!

You can also donate via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to:

Bank details: BSB: 105900 Account No: 963747240
Name: Nature Foundation
Description: (Your name and) FCEP
Please email NatureFoundationSA@nfsa.org.au to advise you have made an EFT.

Responsible (domestic) cat ownership

Did you know that Kangaroo Island has the strictest laws relating to domestic cat ownership in Australia?

Since 2007 the KI Council has had in place strict bylaws governing the ownership of domestic cats. Cats on Kangaroo Island must be:

  • Registered
  • Micro-chipped
  • De-sexed*
  • Contained to your premises (House) unless in a contained run
  • Restricted to no more than two cats per premises*

A person must not, in any circumstances, bring or cause, suffer or permit to be brought onto Kangaroo Island an un-spayed cat that is not registered with the Council as a breeding cat at the date this By-law commences operation.

A full version of the bylaws can be downloaded here

*Registered cat breeders can be given permission from the Council to more cats, registration must be made with the Council on an annual basis, registered catteries are also exempt.

 


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