Volunteer shooters keeping up with the feral cats

Admin Aridrecovery - Friday, June 16, 2017


It’s a great year out here for native wildlife… but also a great year for feral cats. Many bouts of rain over the last 18 months have seen the desert flush with growth. The rodents are booming and so are the feral cats.


Photo: Hugh McGregor


We’re fortunate to have a great team of volunteer shooters to help with this problem, and can announce that we’ve removed a record number of feral cats in the last 6 months – at just over 200.



Total numbers of cats and foxes killed in 6-month periods in the Roxby Downs region since 1985.


This graph shows all of the cats and foxes removed that we’ve recorded in the vicinity of Arid Recovery going back as far as 1985. There’s actually more activity in the region than this dataset shows because others (neighbours etc.) have been getting stuck into feral control and we don’t have all those records.

To see what feral cats and foxes have been eating, we have dissected as many as possible of the 203 removed this year (130 of them). It is always confronting seeing the sheer number of native animals they kill. We’ve found a total of 271 native animals in their stomachs, including 45 native mice, 216 reptiles and 10 birds. One small cat had 9 threatened Plains Mice in its belly.


8 Hopping Mice all found in the stomach of a single feral cat this year.


Despite removing so many cats we are finding that they are replaced fairly quickly. Even after some weeks where we’ve removed 20 or 30, we still see many the following week. While we’re not stemming the flow completely, feral cat numbers are lower than they would otherwise have been. If it wasn’t for the removal of these 200 cats, wildlife would be in worse shape. The stomach contents analysis shows that cats eat an average of 5 animals a night, almost all of them native. Extrapolating, by removing 200 cats we have saved the lives of 370,475 native animals just in the next 12 months.

If conditions dry out in the next few months we expect to see a downturn in the number of feral cats reinvading our control zone.


Field and Maintenance Officer John Crompton with a particularly large feral cat removed from around the reserve.

 

If you are interested in being part of this effort, please contact admin@aridrecovery.org.au and we’ll walk you through the approvals process.

Also, if you know someone who is controlling cats in our area let them know that we’d appreciate the carcasses to dissect and learn from them.



How many bettongs?

Admin Aridrecovery - Thursday, June 15, 2017
This May we did a big bettong trap up to estimate the population size for Red Lake and the Main Exclosure. We worked in four teams of 15 people (12 of them volunteers) trapping bettongs flat out for 8 nights straight (with some bonus bilby chasing thrown in for PhD student Aly Ross's project).

Kristi Lee was one of our volunteers and made this video with Katherine Moseby. Have a watch!



We caught 216 bettongs in Red Lake, showing that the population is still increasing despite coexisting with a small number of feral cats. In the Main Exclosure we caught 402 bettongs, a very high success rate: 72% of traps caught a bettong. We also caught 16 Western Barred Bandicoots, 5 Greater Bilbies and one Stick-nest Rat.





Mel Jensen returned to help with the trapping and lead a team. She previously did her Honours on Western Barred Bandicoots at Arid Recovery and was delighted to trap some bonus bandicoots. Photo by Kath Tuft




A Western Barred Bandicoot in a trap. It was a delight to catch several bandicoots which are now abundant enough within the reserve to be caught regularly in cage traps. Photo by volunteer Samantha Kirby




A subadult bettong snuggles up in a fleece bag. The mornings were cold for both us and the bettongs so we all rugged up - us in our woolies and the bettongs with cosy double bags over each trap. Photo by Kath Tuft




Volunteer Kim Thomas cuddles a bettong joey that was thrown out of the pouch by its mother. Bettongs are notoriously bad mothers and can eject their young when stressed. We spent some time with this joey and others tucking them back into their mothers' pouches and gently sealing them with light tape. This stops the mother from ejecting the young again when she is released down her burrow, where she'll easily pull the tape off later in the safety of the warren. Photo by Kim Solly


Thanks to all our excellent volunteers for your help!


A day in the life of an Arid Recovery intern

Admin Aridrecovery - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nathan Beerkens takes you through a day in his life as an intern at Arid Recovery



Bilbies rock! (Photo: Samantha Kirby)


How do I even write this? Since I’ve been here my jobs have changed week by week and day by day – you get one job done and move onto whatever is next. And here I’m going to say that my start time is 8-8.30am…ha! Not if you’re trapping! But, here goes, this is an average day where no trapping is going on (if it is, get ready for very early starts and very busy days…)


8 - 8.30am

Rock up to the office and start getting ready for whatever it is that your day holds. If it is going out to the reserve, you get your call-in forms organised, water bottles filled up and gear into the 4WD. If you have a school group or community day, you get your activities ready and put a big smile on your face.


I spend a lot of time mucking around with camera traps


9am – 3pm

Do your thang, whatever that is.

For the first few weeks of the internship this will mean going around with AR staff, familiarising yourself with the reserve and how things work around here. After a month or so, myself and my fellow intern Emily were given projects to work on, so this was the time to do that. Mine was looking at the potential for reintroducing kowaris to the reserve (they’re cool animals, look them up) and Emily was monitoring the effectiveness of our one way gates. Together we also trialled the use of false-floors in pitfall traps, as a way to protect small reptiles from mice.


Fellow intern Emily Gregg with a baby hopping mouse caught during our false floor testing project

Just because we had our own projects does not mean we were limited to this – you are often sidetracked helping out other people with their projects, office duties and all the small things that keep an NGO like Arid Recovery rolling.

You will also find yourself helping out with school groups and activities. There are school camps and daytrips, where you will run workshops on anything from plant surveys to cage trapping and radio-tracking. There are also community events, especially around Easter, when all the kids are excited to meet the Easter Bilby. At these events, and the monthly Saturday community market days, arts and crafts abound. We have also done an incursion to the local area school to teach the kids about who eats who in the animal world.


One of many beautiful art and craft creations (these are Popsicle Pollinators)


Have lunch and plenty of snacks in your bag and eat whenever you want.


3 – 7 / 8.30pm

Back to the office, finish up whatever you were working on and get ready for the next day. Then you can go out and run a sunset and spotlighting tour of the reserve, there’s probably some eager grey nomads coming through town.

After you’re done: Go home. Eat, sleep, whatever.


BONUS

Cos you’re a good little intern who wants to make the most of your time here, why don’t you volunteer for other things on top of what you already do? I’m sure someone would love some help with spotlighting surveys or bilby chasing as the moonlight shines…


Emily having a "bettong moment"

So, what’s the moral to this story? This internship is busy, but that’s what you want when you’re living in a remote town. You get to dabble in lots of things and also have the responsibility of your own project, which I really liked. The people are nice and happy to help and the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out.


Would recommend.

Nathan


The best "scale bar" for a stick-nest rat nest photopoint you'll ever see!


Photos by Nathan Beerkens



Arid recovery is a conservation initiative supported by:
bhp
adelaide university