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Efficacy and safety of Eradicat® feral cat baits in eastern Australia: population impacts of baiting programmes on feral cats and non-target mammals and birds

Abstract

Reducing the damage caused by feral cats (Felis catus) to wildlife, livestock and human health is a key objective for many land managers and human health agencies globally. The lack of safe and efficacious lethal control tools in many regions, however, makes the control of feral cats and their impacts challenging. We performed a baiting trial in central Queensland to measure the efficacy and safety of Eradicat®, a feral cat bait currently approved for use only in the state of Western Australia, as a potential tool for the broadscale control of feral cats in eastern Australian environments. We used camera traps, cat-borne GPS collars and chemical residue analysis to monitor mortality and changes in feral cat populations following baiting. We also used camera traps and bird count surveys to monitor the response of key at-risk non-target species, specifically wild dogs (Canis familiaris), common brush-tailed possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and 10 bird species at risk of consuming baits. Feral cat abundance reduced significantly (29–40%) following baiting, with reductions observed across 83% of the site. There were no significant changes in wild dog, possum or potentially bait-consuming bird populations following baiting. Our findings suggest that Eradicat® could potentially be a safe and efficacious tool for the landscape control of feral cats at some sites in eastern Australia. Future research is required to test the safety and efficacy of Eradicat® at other sites in eastern Australia, as suites of non-target species will vary among sites in different environments.

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The data used in this manuscript are available from the authors on request.

Code availability

All R packages used are indicated in the manuscript and are freely available from https://cran.r-project.org/

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Acknowledgements

We thank Doug Olive, Peter McKenzie and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for allowing access to their properties to conduct this trial, and Peter Mowatt, BreeAnna Wykes, Paul Lawless-Pyne, Barry Nolan, John Augusteyn, Carlin Burns, Peter Cremasco and volunteers from the SSAA Conservation Branch for assistance with field work. We also thank Malcolm Kennedy, Tony Pople and two anonymous referees for providing comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. This baiting trial was conducted with approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority under APVMA Research Permit PER81817.

Funding

This study was funded by the Queensland Government Feral Pest Initiative.

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Correspondence to Bronwyn A. Fancourt.

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This study was approved by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Community Access Animal Ethics Committee (Permit CA 2016/02/946).

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The original article is revised: the correct version of Table 2 is provided.

Communicated by Christian Imholt.

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Fancourt, B.A., Harry, G., Speed, J. et al. Efficacy and safety of Eradicat® feral cat baits in eastern Australia: population impacts of baiting programmes on feral cats and non-target mammals and birds. J Pest Sci (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10340-021-01433-9

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Keywords

  • BACI
  • Bait
  • Control
  • Non-target impacts
  • Efficacy
  • Feral cat
  • Felis catus