School of Science
Environmental damage caused by the intensification of agriculture may be compensated by implementing conservation projects directed towards reducing threatening processes and conserving threatened native species. In Australia, feral cats (Felis catus) have been a ubiquitous threatening process to Australian fauna since European colonisation. On Shamrock Station, in the north-west of Western Australia, the Argyle Cattle Company has proposed intensifying agriculture through the installation of irrigation pivots. There is concern that irrigating land and storing agricultural produce may indirectly increase the abundance of feral cats and European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) on the property, which in turn may negatively impact threatened bilbies (Macrotis lagotis) that also inhabit the property. Feral cat control is required under the approved management plan for this project to mitigate this potential impact. Our baseline study revealed a high density of feral cats on Shamrock Station (0.87 cats km2) and dietary data that suggest the current native mammal assemblage on Shamrock Station is depauperate. Given the high density of feral cats in this area, the effective control of this introduced predator is likely to confer benefits to the bilby and other native species susceptible to cat predation. We recommend ongoing monitoring of both native species and feral cats to determine if there is a benefit in implementing feral cat control around areas of intensive agriculture and associated cattle production.
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