Thursday, July 20, 2017

Australia Gun Culture (part 7): The Feral Predator Problem

Australia has a feral predator problem. Feral dogs and dingo/feral mixtures kill large numbers of lambs and calves. They predate on native species. But as bad as feral dogs and dingo/feral mixes are, the top predator in most places is the feral cat. Exotic foxes, that were imported from England are considered pests.

Restrictions on gun ownership and hunting have made the feral predator problem worse.  The government could encourage people to carry rifles and shoot feral predators. Instead, the government puts out 1080 ejector capsules. When an animal pulls at the bait, the spring loaded ejector propels the poison capsule into the animals mouth. Death comes quickly.

 Professional hunters also cull wild dogs. To hunt feral dogs, feral cats, or foxes on public land requires a restricted hunting license in New South Wales. It takes a bit more effort than a general license, but is available to those who take a test and belong to an approved hunting organization.

Tom Varney was a legendary wild dog hunter in Australia.

Link to video

Feral cats are extremely destructive to Australian wildlife. The ejector capsules do not work with them. Shooters are encouraged to reduce the feral cat population whenever possible. From
Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said the cull, which goes until 2020, did not target domestic cats, nor was driven by bloodlust.

"They are the single biggest threat to our native animals, and have already directly driven into extinction 20 out of 30 mammals lost," he said.

"We are not culling cats for the sake of it, we are not doing so because we hate cats.

"We have got to make choices to save animals that we love, and who define us as a nation like the bilby, the warru (Black-footed rock-wallaby) and the night parrot."
Members of the Eykamp family told me that local hunters had some success in baiting and shooting feral cats.

Feral cats are said to kill up to a thousand native animals apiece each year.  One feral cat was confirmed to have killed 102 bats in one week.  Shooters who are helping to control feral cats in Australia say that the .22 rimfire can work, but more powerful calibers work better. From
Feral cats can be tough to eradicate so with a .22 rimfire close in shots are best and shots to the head or neck with high velocity .22 ammo are recommended. I have witnessed the Editor put a .22 LR High Velocity HP into the chest of a feral cat marauding around a warren from 30 metres and it ran away to be unrecoverable.

Depending on the size of property for the reason of safety, the .223 and other similar centrefire calibers will do a good humane job on feral cats. Also the fox whistle and predator type callers can help in attracting the feral cat and also glassing around rabbit warrens can be productive in finding them in the first place.
Natural selection seems to be favoring larger feral cats. From
“There’s no question there is a selection for bigger cats,” he said.

“The bigger a cat is, the more likely it is to survive in the wild and catch prey which means it is more likely to be successful at breeding.”

He said other factors such as the animals feral cats eat and their movements probably didn’t have as much of an impact.

“I think it’s got to be genetic,” he said.
A large feral cat in Gippsland was projected to be 170 cm long, or five and a half feet, long, including 60 cm or two feet, of tail. The record length for a domestic cat was claimed to be 121.9 cm.  The head of the Gippsland specimen was destroyed in the accident that killed the animal.

Foxes can be a problem for farmers, and are often shot in populated areas. They kill many native animals.

Exotic (non-native) foxes shot by a farmer in NSW, Australia.

Feral predators are a large problem in Australia. In America, before 1960, there were bounties placed on animals that caused problems.  Encouragement of widespread gun ownership and the hunting of pests can be part of the solution to feral and exotic pests in Australia.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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