posted 17 June, 2024

Stopping feral cats in their tracks, a toolbox approach to cat control on Bruny Island


Bruny Island, renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity, is grappling with a significant threat to its wildlife: feral cats. To address this, NRM South – southern Tasmania’s natural resource management organisation – has been working with partners to deliver projects that have explored a range of innovative management approaches.

NRM South has been trialling a ‘toolbox’ of approaches and exploring the feasibility of measures that have been effective in other regions – including Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

Through a collaborative approach and funding from the Australian Government, NRM South’s feral cat control initiatives on the Neck and across north Bruny Island have seen the removal of over 120 feral cats since 2019, representing a staggering 95% reduction in the local population. However, the potential for a new influx of feral cats from the southern part of the island remains a threat.

A recent feasibility study of cat barriers explored the technical, environmental, and social factors associated with feral cat control. It included consideration of the design, cost, maintenance, and the potential impacts on the island’s native plants, animals, and cultural heritage. The study found that while barriers could be a valuable component in limiting cat movement, a mixture of approaches is needed for successful feral cat management.

Dr. Cindy Hull, manager of NRM South’s Biodiversity Program, highlighted the complexity of the issue: “Strategies such as a cat barrier have the advantage of breaking up control areas into smaller, more manageable parcels. However, successful cat management on Bruny Island depends on several factors, including ongoing funding, clear roles and responsibilities, careful consideration of landscape and cultural values and extensive community engagement”.  

The project also highlighted the need for a contemporary Cat Management Plan that is tailored to Bruny Island’s unique conditions.

Effective feral cat management requires a suite of methods working together,” said Dr. Hull. “Our goal is to protect Bruny Island’s wildlife while respecting the island’s natural and cultural heritage.

This project, supported by the Australian Government, continues to adapt and innovate in its efforts to manage feral cats and protect the ecological integrity of Bruny Island.