And feral cats continue to pose a serious environmental threat for the island State.
With the demise of Tasmanian devil populations across much of Tasmania, feral cats are now taking their place as our No. 1 wild predator.
The feral cat is arguably the most effective predator in our bushland. Feral cats can take advantage of a wide diet of bush tucker from ground birds, lizards, small marsupials, nesting shore birds and frogs.
With a preference for freshly killed animals rather than carrion, cats certainly add to the pressure on Tasmania’s wildlife.
The rich biodiversity of bushland reserves surrounding cities and towns can plummet as a direct result of feral cats living off the local wildlife.
Silently gone are the blue-tongue lizards, the blue wrens, the green rosellas, the quail, the bandicoots & potoroos, the hooded plovers & little penguins and our bush robins.
Sadly, in many cases you don’t know what you had until they are no longer there!
Feral cats are efficient and secretive killers, but lately as their numbers increase they are making their presence felt – more cat sightings, cat faeces on tracks and even cat skeletons!
Cat scats are now commonly seen in national parks, conservation areas and urban bushland. Animal control professionals report alarming numbers of wild cats living in close proximity to popular recreation areas, picnic spots, playgrounds, schools, cemeteries, beaches, parklands and tips.
One of the surest indicators of increases in wild cats has been the rising incidence of Toxoplasmosis. This disease, maintained only by cats, has been increasing in sheep-grazing districts of Tasmania, and farmers are not happy.
A public health issue
It causes ewes to abort their lambs and can affect profitability of sheep farming. Toxoplasmosis is also a zoonosis – that is a disease that can infect humans.
Cat faeces in children’s’ play areas, especially sandpits, is a public health issue.
Cats generally will look for soft soil to defecate and children’s’ outdoor play areas need to be kept free of this dangerous threat.
With over six million dollars invested in fox control, the impact of feral cats remains one of our unresolved, ‘too hard basket’ issues.
Through the forthcoming public forum on Feral animals, Threatened species and the Role of the Community it is hoped that Tasmanians will become better informed of the serious long-term impacts that this creature as well as many other unwanted introduced ferals are causing in Tasmania.
For further information about the forum contact: Peter McGlone, Threatened Species Network (Phone: 62343552)
Dr David Obendorf is a veterinarian