The fight against feral cats is underway along the North West Cape with a public education campaign and control program.
The Cape Conservation Group and the Department of Parks and Wildlife (now the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA)) undertook the program between February and June 2017 with support from Rangelands NRM through funding from the National Landcare Programme.
Rangelands NRM Southern Rangelands Project Manager Mez Clunies-Ross said the aim was to reduce the impact of introduced predators, particularly feral cats, on the North West Cape.
She said feral cats and foxes are implicated in the local extinction of over half of the small native mammals species that formerly occurred on the North West Cape.
“Feral cats are predating turtle hatchlings on the Ningaloo Coast as well as a high proportion of native species, including small mammals, reptiles, and birds,” she said.
The program incorporated feral animal control, education of cat owners, and encouraging community members to report sightings of feral animals through the Feral Scan app.
It focused in Jurabi Coastal Park, where three species of threatened marine turtles nest over summer (Green, Loggerhead, and Hawksbill).
Derek Sandow from Parks and Wildlife said a significant aim of this project was to improve people’s understanding of the impacts of feral cats.
“We want to foster change in how ‘responsible domestic cat ownership’ is viewed,” he said.
“It is our goal to change the perception that it is ‘ok’ to let your pet cat out at night, or that it is ‘ok’ to leave food out for stray cats”.
The program also promotes responsible cat ownership and adherence to the Cat Act 2011 which requires cat owners to microchip, register and sterilise their cats, and encourage owners to contain their cats at all times.
Community members were also shown how to report sightings of feral animals using the Feral Scan app.
Additionally, feral cat trapping was undertaken by professionals and analysis of stomach contents made.
“This provides data to help educate the public, and improve management techniques for feral cats on North West Cape,” Mr Sandow said.