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Effectiveness of the Felixer grooming trap for the control of feral cats: A field trial in arid South Australia
Context: Feral cats pose a significant threat to wildlife in Australia and internationally. Controlling feral cats can be problematic because of their tendency to hunt live prey rather than be attracted to food-based lures. The Felixer grooming trap was developed as a targeted and automated poisoning device that sprays poison onto the fur of a passing cat, relying on compulsive grooming for ingestion.
Aims: We conducted a field trial to test the effectiveness of Felixers in the control of feral cats in northern South Australia where feral cats were present within a 2600-ha predator-proof fenced paddock.
Methods: Twenty Felixers were set to fire across vehicle tracks and dune crossings for 6 weeks. Cat activity was recorded using track counts and grids of remote camera traps set within the Felixer Paddock and an adjacent 3700-ha Control Paddock where feral cats were not controlled. Radio-collars were placed on six cats and spatial mark–resight models were used to estimate population density before and after Felixer deployment.
Key results: None of the 1024 non-target objects (bettongs, bilbies, birds, lizards, humans, vehicles) that passed a Felixer during the trial was fired on, confirming high target specificity. Thirty-three Felixer firings were recorded over the 6-week trial, all being triggered by feral cats. The only two radio-collared cats that triggered Felixers during the trial, died. Two other radio-collared cats appeared to avoid Felixer traps possibly as a reaction to previous catching and handling rendering them neophobic. None of the 22 individually distinguishable cats targeted by Felixers was subsequently observed on cameras, suggesting death after firing. Felixer data, activity and density estimates consistently indicated that nearly two-thirds of the cat population was killed by the Felixers during the 6-week trial.
Conclusions: Results suggest that Felixers are an effective, target-specific method of controlling feral cats, at least in areas in which immigration is prevented. The firing rate of Felixers did not decline significantly over time, suggesting that a longer trial would have resulted in a higher number of kills.
Implications: Future studies should aim to determine the trade-off between Felixer density and the efficacy relative to reinvasion.
Publication titleWildlife Research
Department/SchoolSchool of Natural Sciences
Place of publication150 Oxford St, Po Box 1139, Collingwood, Australia, Victoria, 3066
Rights statementCopyright CSIRO 2020