Feral animals

Fox.

The fox is an introduced animal that is found in widespread areas of NSW. An active poisoning program in KNP has reduced the numbers there. Foxes live around ski resorts and huts where they find plenty of food scraps so care should be taken not to feed them or leave garbage or food scraps lying around. Otherwise foxes are a threat to the Mountain Pygmy Possum and the Broad Toothed Rat and they feast on the Bogong moth in the spring. They range all over the park up to the highest peaks in search of food and are only occasionally seen at close range. They can move very quickly on firm snow and are more active at night and early morning. 

  Like hares they leave reddish orange urine patches in the snow.

Hare.

Rabbits are not usually found above the snow line although colonies of them have been found around the Perisher Lodges where they can find shelter and food. Hares can survive in the snow and are found anywhere in the vicinity of trees, and tracks are to be found linking rocks and trees over a wide area. Hares are identified by their long legs and they can move quickly and are not frequently seen. They leave reddish orange urine patches in the snow.

 

 

 

Feral cat.

This healthy looking feral cat was seen on the ridge near Betts Creek about midday. It was walking slowly and left a track similar to a fox track. When frightened it bounded away leaving the track seen in the photo. 

The following report on feral cats comes from Dave Woods,
New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service
Environmental Liaison Officer
Resorts Division - Southern Directorate
 
Feral cats are well distributed both within and outside of Kosciuszko National Park, and unfortunately they are also present in some of the areas inhabited by the threatened Mountain Pygmy-possum and vulnerable Broad-toothed Rat.  A recovery plan has been prepared for the Mountain Pygmy-possum and a draft recovery plan is currently being prepared for the Broad-toothed Rat.  In both instances, foxes and feral cats have been listed as key threatening factors against the survival of both these species.  Furthermore, feral cats are a menace to other animals including lizards, birds, ground mammals and arboreal mammals.  To ameliorate the impact of foxes, a comprehensive fox-baiting program has been conducted for the past 5 years during the winter months, targeting foxes in the snow
country.  As for feral cats, such animals do not take buried baits and therefore poisoning is not an option given regulations, human safety and
desire not to impact on non-target animals.  However, catching feral cats in cage-traps is possible with reasonable success, particularly in the snow-country where food is limited and mobility reduced.  Furthermore, in the snow country there appears to be a higher density of cats in and adjacent to resort areas, suggesting that increased opportunities of foodscraps, shelter and mobility on firmer snow-surfaces enhance cat survival during the harsher winter period. Feral cats are found in more remote or higher elevated areas away from resorts, but their numbers do not appear to be as high.  In an effort to reduce feral cat numbers, a comprehensive cat-trapping program was undertaken last year in the Perisher Range, Charlottes Pass and Thredbo Valley.  Traps were set and monitored by staff from NPWS, Perisher Blue P/L, Kosciusko Thredbo P/L and Charlottes Pass Village P/L.  In summary, 30 feral cats were removed from the Perisher Range area between the 28th April to 20th September. Ten of these feral cats were removed from within and adjacent to Smiggin Holes before the first snowfalls, with 20 feral cats being trapped during the core of the snow season.  In addition, 10 feral cats were removed from areas along the Thredbo Valley between Bullocks Flat to Leather Barrel, but no feral cats were caught at Charlottes Pass.

Due to the large summer bushfires, additional fox baiting and cat trapping was carried out as a result of displaced feral animals into the 'island'
of unburnt vegetation around the alpine zone.  Unfortunately no feral cats were caught, but a number of fox baits were taken from the bait-stations.  So far during the course of this winter, 6 feral cats have been trapped in the Perisher Range and 2 in the Thredbo Valley.  In comparison to last season, not as many traps or trap-nights have been set but the number of feral cats caught this year for the effort made has been greater.  A more intensive trapping program will be implemented in the remaining weeks of the snow season, and some trapping will continue over the summer months.  To maximise trapping effort, people can help by reporting any cat sightings to NPWS, who will then (when and where possible) locate traps in the area of the sightings.  At least half of the cats caught in the Perisher Range last year were trapped after cats had been reported.

Whilst it would be desirable to increase the cat trapping program, other priorities and commitments exist for the wider park, although the effort in the snow country reflects the importance of limiting the impact of feral cats on the Mountain Pygmy-possum and Broad-toothed Rat.  There is however a poison called FST-2 that contains a compound that is between 15 and 30 times more toxic to cats than it is to other mammals.  Whilst the poison has been developed, trials are still continuing as to its effect on non-target animals and one of the main challenges that remains is how the poison will be delivered.  Cat poisons can't be buried like fox or dog poisons because they do not dig for food, and if the poison in capsulated and placed on the surface of the ground (assuming that current trials identify no impact on native species), then it has to survive long enough before breaking down in the environment, particularly from sunlight and rain.  Nevertheless, such a poison is encouraging for protecting our native wildlife and no doubt the poison will have the same types of regulations and protocols as '1080' that is used for targeting foxes and dogs.  In essence, it will not be available commercially to prevent pet cats from being poisoned.

If you would like to know more about feral cats or wish to pass on information about feral cat sightings, please contact NPWS Environmental Liaison Officer - Dave Woods on 6450 5616 or email: dave.woods@npws.nsw.gov.au