Overhaul of feral animal control needed

Leading conservation organisations are urging the NSW Government to fully implement the recommendations of the NSW Natural Resources Commission’s Pest Animal Management Review, which was released today.

The groups strongly endorse the review’s recommendation that feral deer now be declared a pest species and managed appropriately. Currently deer are managed as “game” and government policies are assisting their spread.

“Until now the NSW Government has been unwilling to act decisively on the growing threats of expanding populations of feral deer,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said today.

“Feral animals such as foxes, cats, deer, carp and pigs are the silent killers of NSW wildlife. As numbers of ferals increase they wipe out populations of rock wallabies, bandicoots, native fish and endangered plants. New invasive species are set to exacerbate these pressures.

“This review is a credible, evidence-based response to a complex issue. It balances environmental and agricultural needs with animal welfare requirements. The NSW NRC report confirms an already compelling case for change in NSW feral animal management.

Key findings

  • The impact of pest species is growing despite 100 years of control efforts
  • The risk of new pest animal incursions is rising with rapidly growing global trade
  • $170 million a year is spent to control ferals, including rabbits, carp, pigs, foxes, wild dogs, goats and birds.
  • Feral deer have caused nine fatalities and 100 collisions with trains in the Illawarra region

Key recommendations

  • Strong action against feral deer, which are “recognised as the most important emerging pest animal threat”.
  • Strong action against feral horses, including aerial and ground culling.
  • Stronger controls on cat ownership including mandatory desexing, annual cat licences, declaration of containment areas and licencing for cat breeders.
  • Prevention and eradication of new incursions must become government priorities
  •  Funding for more research.
  •  Between coordination between government agencies, and between government agencies and private landholders.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “We are pleased to see pest declaration proposed for feral deer and feral cats, which pose a serious and increasing threat to our native wildlife and bushland.

“We also welcome the proposal to use the whole suit of options for control of feral horse populations that are damaging alpine and sub-alpine environments in Kosciuszko National Park.

“The report increases pressure on the government to conclude its interminable consultation on feral horse control and to act decisively to protect our fragile alpine ecosystems.

CEO of the NSW National Parks Association Kevin Evans said: “The NRC has comprehensively debunked the perception that the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is not pulling its weight.

“NPWS accounts for more than one third of all government-funded pest activities. There is no better neighbour than the NPWS when it comes to pest control.

“Importantly, the NRC found that hunting is the major problem rather than a solution to our feral animal problems. Hunting rules limit kill rates and hamper landholder control.

“The report also highlights the importance of dingoes for conservation as our largest predator, and notes the potential for rewilding to contribute to healthy ecosystems. NPA plans to further investigate this potential.

“To make a real difference on feral animals, we will need to see delivery of meaningful action on the ground. Government leadership and support from landholders and the wider community will also be key.”

The draft report is open for comment for six weeks until 18 May after which final recommendations will be provided to the NSW Premier in June.

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