Impacts of 'Curiosity' baiting on feral cat populations in woodland habitats of Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Rosemary Hohnen, James Smith, Josh Mulvaney, Tom Evans, Trish Mooney

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Abstract

Context: Across Australia, feral cat (Felis catus) control and eradication programs are conducted to conserve threatened and vulnerable species. Controlling feral cats effectively at a landscape scale, particularly in remote woodland habitats, remains a significant challenge. Unfortunately, some standard feral cat control methods, such as shooting and cage trapping, require road access. Poison baiting is one of the few methods available to control feral cat populations in remote and inaccessable areas. 

Aims: We aimed to examine the impact of a Curiosity® (Scientec Research PTY LTD, Melbourne, Australia) baiting program on the feral cat population found in continuous woodland habitat of the Dudley Peninsula, on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. 

Methods: The density of cats was monitored using camera traps set up across both treatment and control sites using a before-after control-impact approach. Feral cat density was calculated using a spatially explicit capture-recapture framework. In addition, 14 feral cats were GPS collared at the treatment site, and their status and location, before and after baiting, was monitored. 

Key results: At the treatment site after baiting, feral cat density fell from 1.18 ± 0.51 to 0.58 ± 0.22 cats km-2. In total, 14 feral cats were GPS collared, and of those, eight were detected within the treatment zone during and after bait deployment. Six of those eight cats died shortly after baiting, likely from bait consumption. A new individual cat was detected in the treatment zone within 10 days of baiting, and within 20 days, four new individuals were detected. Both before and after baiting, the number of feral cat detections was highest on roads, suggesting cat recolonisation of baited areas may be assisted by roads. 

Conclusions: Curiosity baiting was found to be an effective method for reducing the density of feral cats in continuous woodland habitats of Kangaroo Island. Roads may act as access routes aiding cat recolonisation. Implications: Curiosity baiting programs on Kangaroo Island (and elsewhere) would benefit from incorporating follow-up control, particularly along roads, to target feral cats re-colonising the area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalWildlife Research
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Apr 2022

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