FERAL ANIMAL MANAGEMENT
What is a Feral Animal?
A feral animal is a non-native faunal species that has escaped domestication, or been released into the wild, and has since established a self-sustaining population that cannot be easily controlled. A number of introduced animals such as cats, rabbits, foxes, goats and pigs have become feral and formed large, widespread populations across Australia.
Why are Feral Animals an Issue?
The impact of vertebrate pest’s on biodiversity have been estimated to cost Australia approximately $345.8 million per annum, with feral cats and foxes having the largest impact. The main consequences include direct predation, habitat modification through trampling, spread of disease and competition for food and shelter (1).
1. Mack R, Simberloff D, Lonsdale W, Evans H, Clout M, Bazzaz F. Biotic Invasions: Causes, Epidemiology, Global Consequences, and Control. Ecological Applications, 3 (10). 2000. Available from: https://www.esa.org/tiee/vol/v1/figure_sets/species/pdf/ESA_issue5.html
What is the Distribution and Abundance of Common Feral Animal Species in Australia?
Scientists play an important role in land management through applying knowledge from fire behaviour research. A greater understanding of how fire responds under different conditions has helped in the development of fire modeling and warning systems. These data analysis tools help predict fire spread and notify bushfire suppression systems, which help reduce risk and damage to lives and property.
Bushfire science is communicated to government departments to help inform policy and planning. This involves the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) Parks and Wildlife Service and Local Governments and their Bush Fire Brigades. Vegetation management plans are developed by State departments for conservation areas, whereas Local Governments are responsible for public areas within their district. These plans include strategies to manage fuel loads and may include prescribed burning, fire breaks, slashing, mulching or other methods. Where practical these departments will work alongside each other to conduct controlled burning.
Private landowners also have a responsibility to reduce the fuel loads on their property in order to minimize the intensity and spread of future bushfires. To find out how to reduce risk to you and protect your home visit the private home owners link below in the fire management resources.
How Does Feral Animal Management Differ Between Rural and Urban Areas?
The high density of humans and unchecked children and pets in urban areas mean consideration needs to be given to the types of controls used. Soft traps such as cages or padded leg-holds are typically used as they avoid significant injury, which is particularly important in the case of non-target species being caught. Under WA legislation, permits are required to set up traps in metropolitan areas. Selecting an appropriate location to place traps is extremely crucial in urban areas and should be set where the pest species is known to occur e.g. at the entrance to burrows out of sight from non-target species. PetSmarthas detailed a Standard Operating Procedure outlining site selection, trap arrangement and use of baits.
WHO MANAGES FERAL ANIMALS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA?
Private Land Owners
Feral animal control on private property is the responsibility of the landholder. Preventing invasion of feral animals on to the property is the most desirable option and can be achieved through fencing and keeping the land clean and tidy. Many local governments and community groups hire out trapping cages and have designated drop offs where euthanasia programs operate. Control and relocation of feral animals from private homes can also be achieved by registered pest control specialists.
- The resources below are available for private landholders to help manage feral animals on their property:
- Catalogue for fencing designs used to exclude feral animals
- Preventative measures for reducing the presence of ferals includes keeping your house and yard clean and tidy
- Best Practice Guidelines for the management of vertebrate pest damage have been developed by the Bureau of Resource Sciences (BRS)
- Responsible pet ownership is an important part of feral animal control. Under the Dog ActandCat Act, domesticated animals should not be allowed to roam and are required to be microchipped, sterilized and immunised.
Members of the community can establish groups that contribute to the management of feral animals through reporting sightings to relevant authorities.
Citizens may report sightings via the FeralScan appor by forming a Biosecurity Group (RBG) in their community, which is formally recognisedunder the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 (BAM Act).
It is the responsibility of local councils to manage feral pest species within their jurisdictions in order to minimize nuisance and harm to residents. Dedicated pest management plans outlining strategies for specific target areas may be developed by the local council or in tandem with consultants that have been hired to conduct a survey and help design the pest management strategy.
Examples of local councils with feral animal management plans are listed below:
The WA state government has legislated responsibilities of land managers and the use of specific tools in certain areas. The state funds and provides resources to the local councils to ensure successful control of pests.
- The National Animal Pest Strategy and threat abatement plans are valuable resources listed on the Department of Environment and Energy’s website that may provide guidance for a State pest management strategy.
- Knowing which pests are present, their ecology and behaviouris the first step in controlling their impacts. The PetSmart toolkits provide background information, identification tips and standard operating procedures to manage common ferals.
- The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is undertaking research on feral predator ecology and implementing trapping and fencing programs that can be applied to State strategies to reduce the impacts of feral animals on biodiversity and people