Feral Cat Project

Invasive species exact a huge toll on the Australian environment and all those who manage it.

The environmental fall-out of invasive animals is staggering. Feral cat predation on native birds, alone, has been figured at $144 million per year, and the feral cat population directly threatens 100 Australian species with extinction.

Beyond the environmental and economic impacts, invasive species also cause individuals and communities untold psychological and social distress.

Thankfully, UNE is leading ground-breaking research and collaboration into cost effective control measures and developing powerful new tools to equip and empower land managers and regional communities.

The NSW Environmental Trust has awarded the University of New England $14.6 million to tackle the devastating impact feral cats are having on NSW wildlife. This is the largest single grant ever awarded in NSW towards the control of feral cats and will fund innovative, on-ground research at sites in northern, southern and western NSW.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Feral Cat Management Project
What is the "Developing strategies for effective feral cat management" project?
  • UNE has been granted funds to develop effective, integrated management strategies for feral cats in NSW.
  • The grant is$14.7M with additional funds & in-kind support worth another $15.5M
  • The project will run for at least five years from August 2019
What will the project deliver?

UNE, in partnership with NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment:

  • Assess and refine existing feral cat control techniques, and test new control options.
  • Develop innovative online tools for feral cat and native species monitoring
  • Train practitioners and develop a predictive decision tool to assist with planning for feral cat control.
How will the project operate?
  • An adaptive management experiment at nine, 20,000ha sites
  • By building on local management efforts and monitoring responses in feral cats and native fauna via camera trapping, telemetry and live-capture techniques.
  • Sharing new information and results of the project with the public through field days, workshops and online material.
Why is the project needed?
  • Feral cats have been estimated to kill > 1 BILLION animals in Australia per year.
  • Predation by feral cats is recognised as a Key Threatening Process for native fauna across multiple jurisdictions.
  • Cats transmit Toxoplasma gondii which can lead to illness and death in a variety of fauna, including livestock. Toxoplasma gondii can also infect people.
  • There are currently no cost-effective ways to manage feral cats at useful scales to address and ameliorate the above impacts.
Is the project just about poison baiting?

No. This project will investigate the safety and efficacy of new feral cat baits as well as a range of other options, such as humane trapping and novel cat-control devices. The objective is to find the best combination of techniques leading to a reduction in feral cat impacts and recovery of affected native species.

Will you be investigating CRISPR or biocontrol options in this project?

No. CRISPR technology and biocontrol to manage feral cats are outside the scope of this project.

Why is it necessary to handle native animals and what happens to them?

Some native animals will be captured and released in accordance with animal ethics approval for reasons that include testing for cat-borne disease and monitoring responses to management actions.

What happens to trapped feral cats?

All captured cats will first be scanned for a microchip. Microchipped cats will be provided to local Government. Feral cats will be humanely euthanased by certified professional staff, either by shooting (in accordance with SOP and approved shoot plans) or by humane lethal injection.

How was the project developed?

Environmental Trust staff worked closely with stakeholders and subject matter experts as part of the Major Projects Prospectus 2018 – 2020 to refine and scope potential projects.

A sub-set of projects were selected by an independent sub-committee and approved by the Trust Secretary.

What if there are no viable control options for feral cats?

This would be a strategically important finding for conservation in Australia.  It would prompt managers and researchers to focus on other ways to conserve fauna threatened by feral cats. Our staff are well placed to lead this strategic change, if required.