Integrating feral cat (Felis catus) control into landscape-scale introduced predator management to improve conservation prospects for threatened fauna: A case study from the south coast of Western Australia
School of Science
DBCA State NRM (WA) Commonwealth Government South Coast NRM Inc Friends of the Western Ground Parrot
© 2020 CSIRO. Context: Feral cat predation has had a significant impact on native Australian fauna in the past 200 years. In the early 2000s, population monitoring of the western ground parrot showed a dramatic decline from the pre-2000 range, with one of three meta-populations declining to very low levels and a second becoming locally extinct. We review 8 years of integrated introduced predator control, which trialled the incorporation of the feral cat bait Eradicat® into existing fox baiting programs. Aims: To test the efficacy of integrating feral cat control into an existing introduced predator control program in an adaptive management framework conducted in response to the decline of native species. The objective was to protect the remaining western ground parrot populations and other threatened fauna on the south coast of Western Australia. Methods: A landscape-scale feral cat and fox baiting program was delivered across south coast reserves that were occupied by western ground parrots in the early 2000s. Up to 500 000 ha of national parks and natures reserves were baited per annum. Monitoring was established to evaluate both the efficacy of landscape-scale baiting in management of feral cat populations, and the response of several native fauna species, including the western ground parrot, to an integrated introduced predator control program. Key results: On average, 28% of radio-collared feral cats died from Eradicat® baiting each year, over a 5-year period. The results varied from 0% to 62% between years. Changes in site occupancy by feral cats, as measured by detection on camera traps, was also variable, with significant declines detected after baiting in some years and sites. Trends in populations of native fauna, including the western ground parrot and chuditch, showed positive responses to integrated control of foxes and cats. Implications: Landscape-scale baiting of feral cats in ecosystems on the south coast of Western Australia had varying success when measured by direct knockdown of cats and site occupancy as determined by camera trapping; however, native species appeared to respond favourably to integrated predator control. For the protection of native species, we recommend ongoing baiting for both foxes and feral cats, complemented by post-bait trapping of feral cats. We advocate monitoring baiting efficacy in a well designed adaptive management framework to deliver long-term recovery of threatened species that have been impacted by cats.