The Peel-Harvey Catchment Council, along with the Department of Environment, is asking locals to report any feral cat sightings to a new website as part of a program to remove Australia’s biggest killer of native animals.
Feral cats impact heavily on Australia's unique native wildlife through predation, and also spread diseases that affect humans and livestock.
Already, 28 mammals have been made extinct by feral cats, with more than 100 native animals currently at risk of feral cat predation.
FeralCatScan is a new project by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and Australian Government Department of the Environment, and is supported by communities Australia-wide to improve knowledge about feral cats to help protect Australia's threatened wildlife.
The community-driven mapping project basically revolves around an interactive digital map, available at the FeralCatScan website, on which anyone can tag and identify feral cat sightings.
FeralCatScan project coordinator Peter West said the resource provides the community the opportunity to make an impact to feral cat predation on a national level.
“We know that feral cats are substantial predators, and cause enormous damage to native wildlife,” he said.
“They’ve been implicated in the decline of 20 to 30 different mammal species across the country, and as importantly, they are responsible for the spreading of a couple of diseases which are devastating certain native populations.”
Feral cats are defined as those that live and reproduce in the wild (e.g. forests, woodlands, grasslands, wetlands etc) and survive by hunting or scavenging – none of their needs are satisfied intentionally by humans.
“The Peel-Harvey Catchment Council (PHCC) supports the FeralCatScan concept, and encourages individuals and community groups to report any sightings of feral cats on the website and app,” PHCC science adviser Steve Fisher said.
“Feral cats cause considerable damage to our native wildlife, and identifying and further understanding the problem and the locations of feral cats helps us all to better target management activities and reduce the impacts feral cats have on our landscape.”
FeralCatScan received the prestigious Banksia Award late last year in the Science and Research Excellence category in recognition of the program’s potential.
“It was one of the standout achievements because of its capacity to engage with communities across the country,” Mr West said.
Information recorded will help to identify practical and humane solutions to managing feral cats to reduce their impact on Australia’s unique and precious native wildlife.
To access the map, go to feralcatscan.org.au.