Tweed shire councillors have been urged to look at minimising the impact of domestic, stray and feral cats which are decimating native fauna in the shire and across the state.
A report to be tabled at tonight’s Tweed Shire Council meeting outlines what can be done locally to address the problem, which other councils with large rural areas around Australia are faced with, and recommends a workshop and a local cat management plan.
The report, which mayor Gary Bagnall called for last year, also gives a summary of current research on the interactions between cats (domestic, strays and feral) and native wildlife on the eastern seaboard, and some of the measures successfully employed by other Australian councils to reduce their impacts.
Tweed shire currently has cat bans at the Tweed Coast residential estates of Koala Beach and Black Rocks under local development control plans, as do several Victorian councils.
Other control measures include areas of Pottsville Waters where cats have to be confined to the owner’s property at all times (unless under the control of a leash).
There are also cat curfew (dawn to dusk) covenants on titles at Seabreeze estate and some sections of Casuarina estate.
But council staff say that ‘due to the multiple, different types of development controls for new estates these controls have been difficult to enforce’.
The report says that free-roaming or unconfined owned cats are also a source of neighbour aggravation and nuisance to Tweed Council, because of their excessive noise at night, defecating in neighbours gardens and attacking other pets.
‘Neighbour aggravation also arises where neighbourhood cats encroach into gardens intended to provide habitat for native wildlife,’ it said.
‘Since February 2011, there have been 345 complaints made to Tweed Shire Council about cats.’
The report also found that many natural areas in Tweed shire were fragmented, representing ‘island habitats’ in which native fauna, particularly threatened fauna, were subject to increased risk from cats.
A monitoring study in the Tweed recorded a pet cat roaming 1.5km from its home in an urban area into an important bushland area and killing native fauna.
The report says a number of measures have been successfully by councils across Australia to mitigate the impact of cats on native fauna, but that ‘foremost among these’ are measures to control ‘owned’ or pet cats.
The range of cat related by-laws and policies include dusk till dawn cat curfews, 24-hour cat curfews where cats must be confined to an owner’s properties at all times unless on a leash (such as on the Gold Coast and Logan City), restricting the number of cats permitted per household, mandatory de-sexing (registered breeders excluded), cat ‘no go’ zones and even a’ Last Cat’ policy on island communities, such as Bruny Island and Lord Howe Island, phasing out cats altogether.
Tweed Council loans cage traps to community members for trapping of cats on private property, and since June 2012, 67 cats have been caught and sent to council’s pound for assessment and re-homing. Gold Coast City Council lends soft jawed traps to rural areas and cage traps to urban areas for the control of roaming owned, stray and feral cats.
The report says the impacts of feral cats on native fauna across Australia are ‘well researched and clearly established’ and the animal had been listed as a Key Threatening Process under both Commonwealth and NSW legislation. A federal Threat Abatement Plan was developed for the control of feral cats in 2008.
‘Predation by cats has been implicated in the extinction of up to seven species of small mammals on the Australian mainland,’ the report said.
‘Whilst it is recognised that eradication of feral cats is unlikely to be achieved on the Australian mainland, properly coordinated and resourced control programs can achieve meaningful benefits for threatened fauna populations.’
A study undertaken in Canberra found that 75 per cent of owned cats hunt, and a total of 67 different species were predated.
‘Estimates based on this study indicate that owned cats in the Canberra urban environment hunt approximately 480,000 animals each year, including 20-27 per cent of the total number of native birds present,’ the report said.
‘A recent study (2013) employing the use of ‘KittyCam’ video cameras found that cats bring less than a quarter of their captures back to their place of residence.
‘This suggests that previous studies of cat predation that depended on data collected from ‘prey returns’, such as the Canberra study outlined above, may have vastly underestimated the total take of hunting from owned cats.’
Many cat owners, the report said, were unaware of the hunting behaviour of their owned cat, as many cats that are hunters do not bring home any ‘trophies’.