Groups targeting cats in Kangaroo Island burned landscape

CAMERA TRAP: KI Land for Wildlife's Pat Hodgens with one of the camera traps used to record feral cat activity on Kangaroo Island. Photo Threatened Species Recovery Hub/Nicolas Rakotopare
CAMERA TRAP: KI Land for Wildlife's Pat Hodgens with one of the camera traps used to record feral cat activity on Kangaroo Island. Photo Threatened Species Recovery Hub/Nicolas Rakotopare
ENEMY #1: A feral cat trapped on the western end of Kangaroo Island by a private landowner. Photo KI Land for Wildlife

ENEMY #1: A feral cat trapped on the western end of Kangaroo Island by a private landowner. Photo KI Land for Wildlife

Efforts to take out as many feral cats from Kangaroo Island's burned landscape are intensifying with more than 250 cats trapped and poisoned on the western end this year.

This concerted effort is being undertaken by both government agencies coordinated by the new Landscape Board, as well as non government organisations such as KI Land for Wildlife.

Before the bushfires, it was estimated the Island had a total population of more than 1600 feral cats, a higher density than on the mainland, possibly because of the absence of other predators such as foxes.

It is not known how cats many died in the fires, however, ongoing monitoring is targeting control efforts where they're most efficient.

Since February, the KI Landscape Board and Department for Environment and Water have trapped 112 feral cats on western KI.

The non-government, not-for-profit group KI Land for Wildlife working with private landowners meanwhile has taken out 140 cats since the fires, and also continues its efforts to build cat-proof wildlife sanctuaries on private land.

CAT MAP: The Landscape Board map showing the areas of baiting and trapping for feral cats on both ends of the Kangaroo Island.

CAT MAP: The Landscape Board map showing the areas of baiting and trapping for feral cats on both ends of the Kangaroo Island.

On the eastern end of the Island, the Landscape Board's KI Feral Cat Eradication Program is using a range of techniques to target the species, helping support farming enterprises and native wildlife in their recovery.

The program was set up in 2015 as a partnership between the KI Landscape Board, then called the KI NRM Board, Deparment for Environment and Water, and the federal government.

The goal was to eradicate feral cats by 2030 in a staged way, starting with the Dudley Peninsula.

The majority of this work is happening on private land, due to the significant impacts of feral cats on agriculture as well as wildlife.

Since the 2019-20 bushfires, the KI Landscape Board has undertaken additional feral cat control in public lands on the western end of the island.

Partnering with environment department, a Landscape Board spokesperson said this work exploited the opportunity to target feral cats across fire affected areas and in remaining unburnt habitat to reduce the impact of predation on surviving populations of threatened species, including the Kangaroo Island dunnart.

There are currently 180 cage traps in burned areas and a further 20 were added in recent weeks.

While the two feral cat management programs were established for different reasons, they have complementary outcomes.

Further feral cat control activities is being undertaken by KI Land for Wildlife in partnership with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy on private land across western KI.

CRITTER CAM: KI Land for Wildlife's Pat Hodgens sets up a mesh barrier to direct small marsupials to a camera on the western end of Kangaroo Island. Photo Threatened Species Recovery Hub/Nicolas Rakotopare

CRITTER CAM: KI Land for Wildlife's Pat Hodgens sets up a mesh barrier to direct small marsupials to a camera on the western end of Kangaroo Island. Photo Threatened Species Recovery Hub/Nicolas Rakotopare

Pat Hodgens from KI Land for Wildlife believes that until cats were ever completely eliminated, an insurance policy of fencing off critical habitat was vital.

He was buoyed by how many of the critically endangered KI dunnarts had first survived the fires in their burrow and then gone on to subsist in the burned areas.

"We still have a lot of trepidation over the long-term future of the species," he said.

The three areas of focus were the wildlife refuge at Western River that was soon to expand to 400 hectares, and secondly the northwest conservation alliance of landowners at the DeMole River and Snug Cove areas and thirdly a group of landowners on Church Road further to the south.

He was working with landowners at these two locations to monitor and trap cats, as well as assisting endangered native species with devices to shelter from predators.

The Western River wildlife refuge was also on private land and its ongoing expansion was supported by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, the FAME organisation, Zoos SA and other non profits.

The KI Council has a program where they provide traps to the public and will dispose of any cats trapped.

One resident at Dover Farm on the outskirts of Kingscote has caught 16 feral cats on a five acre block in the past two years.

Dunnart update

Up until September 11, the Landscape Board had recorded KI dunnarts at 34 sites across the western end of the island. All sites are currently within national parks or wilderness protection areas.

At these sites, field officers have detected KI dunnarts on 104 separate occasions.

They have also removed a total of 112 feral cats using a combination of techniques, including cage and soft jaw leg hold traps, thermal shooting, and Felixer grooming traps.

"A baiting trial using Curiosity® over a large area of Flinders Chase National Park will determine the effectiveness of baiting in the burnt landscape," the spokesperson said. "This trial is near completion - we should have some results to share in the next month or so."

KI Land for Wildlife and the private landowners are also involved in the KI Dunnart Recovery Team.

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