Our threatened species team take on feral cats in Kakadu

You may have seen in the media a study by researchers under the Australian Government’s National Science Environment Program found that feral cats now occupy more than 99.8 per cent of Australia.

Feral cats pose one of the biggest threats to our small native mammals. Unfortunately the Top End of Australia is not immune.

That’s why Kakadu’s threatened species team have been developing an efficient strategy for management of feral cats.

Feral cat caught in soft jaw leg hold trap. Photo by James Speed

The Top End is a unique environment. At 20,000 square kilometres, Kakadu is one of Australia’s largest national parks. That’s an area around the same size as Wales or Israel.

There’s also the extreme humidity of the Top End, which leads to rapid bait deterioration, making this an impractical and an economically unviable solution. Baits also pose a risk to non-target species such as quolls, dingoes and birds of prey.

That’s why our skilled rangers are working with feral animal specialist, James Speed, from Biosecurity Queensland, to focus on cat trapping in localised areas.

Soft jaw leg hold traps set in elevated pits with scent lures have been identified as the most appropriate method of trapping in the current climate in Kakadu. A trial is underway to determine whether this will be the most successful for us.

We’ve set up elevated pits without the soft jaw leg hold traps, monitoring them over the next month to ensure they pose minimal risk to our native wildlife. If successful we will then add the soft jaw traps to the pits, again closely monitoring the results.

We also cull feral cats opportunistically. Small scale trapping in tomahawk traps is also assisting us manage feral cats in the meantime.

Parks Australia policy in regards to the euthanasia of animals is carried out in accordance with the model codes of practice and standard operating procedures for the humane capture, handling or destruction of feral animals in Australia. When it is necessary to kill an animal, humane procedures are always used. These procedures must avoid distress, be reliable, and produce rapid loss of consciousness with minimal pain until death occurs.

Feral cat trial – set up. Photo by James Speed