Eleven feral cats caught in eight days at Newhaven

Eleven feral cats caught in eight days at Newhaven
Field Program
Feral cat and fox control

AWC’s Newhaven Walpiri rangers have completed an exceptional period of cat control at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, removing a total of eleven cats over a period of just eight days in late February. The extraordinary tally is testament to the rangers’ expert tracking skills, which are central to AWC’s feral predator control strategy on the property.

March 2017: Led by mother-and-daughter team Alice Henwood and Christine Ellis, plus Benedict Mosquito, the Newhaven Warlpiri rangers carried out intensive feral cat control in an area that harbours an important population of the threatened Great Desert Skink.  Feral cats are a major threat to the survival of the Great Desert Skink, systematically hunting around the network of burrows used by skink communities.

Newhaven Warlpiri rangers Alice Henwood (above) and Christine Ellis (top image) with feral cats. [Images: Rachel Paltridge, Desert Wildlife Services]

The rangers employ a combination of traditional hunting and leg-hold trapping. Christine and Alice have lifelong experience tracking feral cats, which are highly sought-after as bush tucker in Central Australia. A single pursuit may cover large distances over multiple days (Christine tracked one cat for six kilometres in late February). Tracking is most effective in hot weather, so the rangers often set out on foot in the middle of the day, when temperatures frequently exceed 35ºC. It’s physically demanding work, but cats tire quickly in these conditions, at which point they can be humanely dispatched. Leg-hold traps are deployed for cats that are especially elusive.

The cat control initiative in February was supported by Rachel Paltridge of Desert Wildlife Services, who has worked closely with the Newhaven rangers for several years.

Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary [Image: J Clarke]

In March, Newhaven will host a ‘Cat Camp’ for Indigenous Rangers working on predator control projects to protect threatened species. Rangers from the APY Lands, Kiwirrkurra Rangers and the Nyirripi Rangers who work on Newhaven will come together to share information about monitoring and managing feral cats.

Feral cats pose the single greatest threat to Australia’s mammals, and have been a major factor in almost all mammal extinctions. AWC has invested in leading ecological research to improve strategic feral predator control, and manages the largest network of feral cat-free areas in the country. Newhaven is set to host a ground-breaking project that will eradicate feral cats from an area of 69,000 hectares – the planet’s largest feral cat eradication - delivering major improvements in the status of at least ten nationally threatened mammal species.

Learn more about feral cat control and AWC's feral cat research programs here.

This project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.