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Feral animal control at Gnaraloo station to help wildlife recovery

Foxes, feral cats and wild dogs have been controlled by Animal Pest Management Services (APMS) on Gnaraloo Station from near the coast through to the boundary at Lake McLeod.

This project during 2018/19, funded by Rangelands NRM through the National Landcare Program, aimed to continue feral animal control across Gnaraloo to help wildlife recovery.

Animal Pest Management Services undertook the eradication and control of feral animals during November 2018 and March 2019 with a follow up session in July 2019.

Managing Director of APM, Mike Butcher said trapping and baiting programs were
used that are based on extensive data collected and analysed over many years by APMS and the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation Inc (GWF) to improve both baiting and trapping results compared to typical outcomes.

Surveys and monitoring were undertaken to assess the presence of animals and to inform of where to target the animals and with what method.

“We conducted strategic baiting and trapping were baits and traps are laid based on both macro and micro assessment of the landscape and movement of target animals,” he said.

“Opportunistic control was undertaken using standard spotlighting techniques as well as using night vision gear which assists in shooting shy animals and those that avoid spotlights such as feral cats.”

Rangelands NRM Project Manager Mez Clunies-Ross said a total of 30,000 hectares was controlled, with trapping undertaken in areas where feral cats and
foxes were found.

“In this year’s program at Gnaraloo Station, wild dog captures were two and feral cat captures were five. No foxes were trapped but were found to be present again as fox tracks were found during the transect surveys.”

Mike said one control method cannot be relied on to remove all introduced predators.”

“Baiting with 1080 baits was used as the key control method, with trapping and shooting undertaken to mop up any animals left from the baiting program,” Mike said.

The surveying also assisted in identifying the presence of animals and the occupancy rates compared to the previous control undertaken at Gnaraloo under the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation.

During the 7 year Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program of the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation (2008 – 2015) foxes, feral cats and wild dogs had been successfully controlled across the station, to achieve zero % predation of turtle nests by feral animals in the targeted turtle rookeries. During the GWF’s work, feral animals were eradicated from 90,000 ha with occasional incursions being found and successfully removed before predation on turtle nests had occurred. During this long-standing GWF program, it has been estimated that 300,000 marine turtle hatchlings were protected from feral predation. “The GWF’s feral animal control program was possibly the most long-standing, successful control program for the protection of Australian marine turtle nests conducted over such a large scale” Mike said.

However, due to reduced funding being available for turtle conservation and feral animal control work from 2015, foxes and wild dogs are now being found increasing in numbers across Gnaraloo Station and surrounding coastal areas.