University Of Tasmania

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The ecological costs and benefits of a feral cat poison-baiting programme for protection of reintroduced populations of the western quoll and brushtail possum

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 12:53 authored by Moseby, K, Hodgens, P, Bannister, H, Mooney, P, Brandle, R, Lynch, C, Young, C, Jeroen JansenJeroen Jansen, Jensen, M

Conservation practitioners implement management interventions for the protection of threatened species, but the benefits are rarely measured. We investigated the efficacy of aerial poison baiting for feral cats, a species identified as a threat to reintroduced populations of two Australian mammals. We measured individual survival, short-term changes in activity and longer term population trajectories in cats and reintroduced western quolls and brushtail possums before and after annual baiting events. Between 87% and 100% of radiocollared feral cats that remained in the baited area died from poisoning in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Camera detection rates significantly declined after each event (40-77%), and the proportion of cameras occupied remained lower after baiting commenced (20-60% before vs. <20% after). Cat decline on cameras was significantly higher in areas with low rabbit abundance, suggesting controlling alternative prey would improve baiting success. Importantly, none of 37 radiocollared quolls died from poisoning despite pre-baiting trials determining that they were the most common species removing baits (26%). We detected no negative impact of baiting on the quoll and possum populations but could not demonstrate a significant net benefit. Trapping data suggested no change in annual quoll survival after baiting despite a slight increase in survival of radiocollared quolls. Quoll detection rates on camera did not significantly decline after each baiting event. A decline in the last two years of monitoring was possibly due to drought conditions. Approximately 10% of radiocollared possums died from poisoning after the first baiting event, but trapping and camera detections suggested a stable or increasing population. Poison baiting successfully reduced cat abundance, and there was no measurable negative effect on populations of reintroduced species. Long-term monitoring through a range of seasonal conditions is required to determine the net benefit of predator control for reintroduced populations where paired impact and control sites are impractical.


Publication title

Austral Ecology










School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Blackwell Publishing Asia

Place of publication

54 University St, P O Box 378, Carlton, Australia, Victoria, 3053

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Environmentally sustainable animal production not elsewhere classified