It started innocently enough: I borrowed two 24-hr wildlife cameras, and set them up on my 2-acre rainforest retreat.
Can you imagine my horror when amongst the cute snaps of pademelons, the lace monitor, wallaby mums with joeys in the pouch, and yes, a hurrying koala, I saw a big tabby cat?
I was shocked to say the least. Then the other camera revealed a second fat brindle cat, and even a fox!
My image of our property as a wildlife sanctuary crumbled.
I moved the cameras into different positions; daily checking of the footage gave me anxiety, as I realised both cats were regular visitors, and even walked up and down my verandah. Then a friend arriving for dinner said she’d seen a third black cat at the top of my driveway- I nearly cried.
In outrage and despair, I rang my local Landcare member Alan, and reached out to other community members who had cat trapping experience and advice.
I borrowed a big cage, and the Trapper brought me another 4, thanks to BioDiversity Queensland funding: thus began my trapping mission.
Almost every night for a month, I did the rounds of setting traps, using the cameras to gather intel on what was happening in the dark of night; I caught a few rats, a bush turkey, and the resident echidna. So annoying.
But I also caught all three cats! Typing that makes my smile wide, as it gives me such a good feeling and sense of achievement. Feral cats cover 99% of Australia, and are the Number One threat to our native wildlife (foxes are 2nd).
“On average, each feral cat in the bush kills a whopping 740 animals per year. In a year with average conditions there are about 2.8 million feral cats, but that figure can double when good rain leads to an abundance of prey animals.
“On average each pet cat kills about 75 animals per year, but many of these kills are never witnessed by their owners.”
Professor Sarah Legge from The Australian National University (ANU), Professor John Woinarski from Charles Darwin University, & Professor Chris Dickman from The University of Sydney: Cats in Australia: Companion and killer (2019).
My top 5 tips:
- Use wildlife cameras to make smart decisions about where to place traps, plus who is visiting them and when
- Liaise with experienced community members, plus Landcare, and your local trapper
- Be persistent: I set my traps with bait every night at 8pm, and the big tom I was really after started appearing at 8.10. I also wore gloves, to prevent too much human smell, and oiled all the traps’ moving parts so the mechanisms were smooth
- Make the cage floor stable or even solid: I caught all 3 cats in a small trap in the same place, using leftover sand to camouflage the wire floor
- It’s all about bait: on advice, I used Dine cat food, KFC drumsticks, bloody lamb kidneys, and drops of smelly fish oil. They all worked!
Let me tell you: nothing is more satisfying than seeing a cat caught in a cage, knowing you’ve just saved hundreds of birds and small mammals. I love domestic cats- kept indoors- but have hardened my heart to the feral versions, and the final big tomcat hissed and span in circles in the trap, clawing madly and spraying everywhere to no avail.
Feel free to contact me for any further advice or inspiration, and my family now proudly call me ‘Trapper G’, which is a very unexpected outcome of my move to a forest idyll.
Now for the fox…