Wild dog management a template for feral cat and fox control

Strategies proven under the National Wild Dog Action Plan are set to help work undertaken by the new National Feral Cat and Fox Management Coordinator.

Environmental scientist and ecologist Gillian Basnett, of Launceston, Tasmania, has been appointed to the new role with the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, funded by the Australian Government as part of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Regional Bushfire Fund.

Gillian specialises in fire ecology, wildlife management and community engagement, environmental education and science communication.

She has worked with many landholder, community and student groups, agencies and not-for-profit organisations across Australia.

 Ms Basnett said the standard operational procedures and best practice guidelines established by NWDAP would be used as a model.

“The National Wild Dog Action Plan will be really useful as a template for landscape scale, cross-tenure, coordinated, collaborative, community driven feral predator management,” she said.

“Key learnings of what has worked and what hasn’t will help with planning and engagement particularly for fox control.”

The National Feral Cat and Fox Management Coordinator role joins a network of national vertebrate pest coordinators covering wild dogs, deer and feral pigs.

“As national coordinators with a focus on individual species, we can provide specific information on our pest species that is relevant to landholders, groups, projects, planning and legislation,” Ms Basnett said.

“This is important but we also recognise in most, if not all, landscapes there are multiple threats and pests, often interacting and needing to be managed together to have the desired outcome.

“By having the four coordinators, who work closely together, we can be both targeted in our approach and provide best practice management information, and access to a wider range of networks and partnerships across multiple species.”

Ms Basnett will initially focus on seven priority bushfire-affected regions ranging along the east coast from South-East Queensland to East Gippsland and Kangaroo Island, as well as priority threatened species.

She will be reaching out to landholders, Landcare, and others to help them with community led approaches that mitigate the impact of feral cats and foxes in their local areas.

More broadly, Gillian will be coordinating action and best practice management approaches to control feral cats and foxes nationally. She will serve on the National Feral Cat Taskforce, chaired by the Threatened Species Commissioner, meaning local action will connect with national action, and build on the feral cat work already being undertaken.

“We all watched in horror as huge bushfires burnt through large areas of Australia in the summer of 2019-20,” she said.

“It has been estimated 3 billion native animals were killed or displaced during these fires. As areas start to regenerate, our wildlife has a chance to recover.

“But cats and foxes will significantly hamper this recovery through increased predation of wildlife sheltering in small areas of unburnt vegetation and more efficient hunting in recovering, but exposed habitats.

“In order to protect the surviving wildlife and help with recovery, it is vital we manage introduced predators effectively and coordinate efforts across the landscape, and I look forward to working with others to help make this happen.”