CSU ecologist David Watson calls for multifaceted approach to tackling feral cats, says bounty hunting could be included

EXPERT VIEW: CSU professor David Watson has called for an multifaceted approach to tackling feral cats across the country. Picture: Supplied
EXPERT VIEW: CSU professor David Watson has called for an multifaceted approach to tackling feral cats across the country. Picture: Supplied

A CSU ecologist has called for a “concerted” and “multi-faceted” approach to Wagga’s feral cat outbreak, one that could conceivably include bounty hunting.

It follows a decisive poll conducted by The Daily Advertiser in which 950 people voted for and against the shooting of feral cats on sight.

At 2.30pm, Tuesday, March 13, 875 residents had voted “yes, feral cats are a pest” while only 65 has voted in favour of rehoming felines.

A further 10 residents were undecided, but one of Australia’s top ecologists has a more refined view.

CSU professor David Watson believes hunting feral cats could, if combined with other management techniques, have its merits.

Results of DA poll on shooting feral cats in Wagga (correct at 2.30pm Tuesday, March 13)

Results of DA poll on shooting feral cats in Wagga (correct at 2.30pm Tuesday, March 13)

“Feral cats are like rabbits or cane toads in that there’s no silver bullet approach to pest management,” he said.

“I think there needs to be a consistent and concerted effort using a range of different approaches and a bounty system could be one of those approaches.”

Professor Watson said introduced species - and feral cats in particular - were a national problem.

“Things can get emotional very quickly when we talk about feral cats because quite a few people have cats or kittens at home and they’re special to those families,” he said.

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“I’m not saying cats are inherently bad, but what people need to realise is that feral cats are efficient and capable predators, the likes of which native animals have never dealt with.”

Ecological research conducted in Australia has shown the sheathed claws of a feline are unlike any other introduced or indigenous predators and can cause severe damage and infection to local fauna.

“If a fox attacks a native animal, they either kill and eat them or the native animal escapes, but if a feral cat even scratches a native animal, they will likely die a slow death through septicemia.”

“One nick to the lizard and it’s probably going to die, as will the wren, the crow, or even the cute hopping mouse.”

PROBLEM: Stray cats have been earmarked as a national concern.

PROBLEM: Stray cats have been earmarked as a national concern.

Professor Watson pointed to interstate developments in cat poisoning and trapping but reaffirmed the need for a multifaceted approach.

“Sure, shooting a few cats might make a farmer feel better, but it won’t help in the medium term, let alone the long term,” he said.

“Ecologists are developing new baits and spray gels to kill feral cats, so it’s something we’re making progress with.

“Hunting and bounty systems are a good way of sparking a mature conversation on this topic, because the reality is that feral cats are smashing our wildlife.”