Closing in on island’s final 100 feral cats


THE federal government has given $335,000 to help eradicate the estimated 100 feral cats remaining on French Island.

About 1100 feral cats have already been removed from the island but their total eradication is described as an “ongoing challenge”.

The money from the environment restoration fund is aimed at protecting species such as the king quail, orange-bellied parrot and long-nosed potoroo.

Flinders MP Greg Hunt said the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, Parks Victoria and French Island Landcare had been working with landowners on a cat control program on the island which is said to be fox free.

“Tens of thousands of waterbirds from around the world flock to French Island every year as part of their life cycle and, recently, Zoos Victoria introduced the eastern barred bandicoot,” Mr Hunt said. “This program to eradicate feral cats completely will not only help local populations but help protect the future of mainland species. It builds on some outstanding work from the local community.”

French Island Landcare group president Judith Metcher said the money would be managed by the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority.

Cage traps, “curiosity” baits and soft jaw leg-hold traps are already being used to catch the feral cats, many of which were deliberately released in the past.

The 35 pet cats on the island have all been de-sexed.

Eradicating feral cats from Bruny Island, Kangaroo Island, Christmas Island and Dirk Hartog Island has also been identified as a priority under the restoration fund’s strategy.

Feral cats kill up to eight million small animals each day, experts say.

“French Island is a wonderful ecologically diverse place that is home to over 580 indigenous plant species and more than 230 bird species,” environment minister Sussan Ley said.

“Once predator free, safe havens like [it] can prove vital in establishing ‘insurance’ populations, maintaining habitat for migratory birds and repopulating areas after bushfires and other emergencies.

“Through the ERF we are looking to significantly broaden the nation’s network of safe havens in line with the Morrison Government’s threatened species strategy.”

First published in the Western Port News – 23 September 2020


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