Push for community to aid pest effort

Foxes are highly adaptable, resilient and cunning pests that prey on both native wildlife and livestock and are considered a threat to 14 species of birds, 48 mammals, 12 reptiles and two species of amphibians.

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A fox caught was spotted using infrared cameras in September last year. Foxes have been known to take shelter in coastal vegetation and around homes.

These predators have been declared ‘established invasive animals’ by the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994, and a single fox can consume thousands of native animals every year.

You can help to deter the predatory pests and support Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) and Surf Coast Shire Council fox control efforts by removing potential food and shelter sources from your property.

Surf Coast Shire Council Mayor, Cr Rose Hodge, said foxes were opportunistic, meaning people could easily unwittingly feed or shelter the pests.

“Within our coastal environments and around our homes, there is an abundance of food available for foxes,” Cr Hodge said.

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The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has played a significant role in the decline of ground-nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles. Photo: Vanessa Pike

“We can all help reduce these food sources by minimising the amount of food left outside, particularly overnight, by covering compost, ensuring rubbish bins are fully closed and cleaning up fallen fruit regularly.”

GORCC Environmental Projects Coordinator Alex MacDonald said homeowners should remove structures around their property where foxes may seek refuge or shelter including woody weeds such as boxthorn and blackberries, rubbish piles and old machinery.

“Fencing off rock piles, building materials, hay bales, woodpiles, and underneath houses will also help reduce hiding places foxes can live in,” she said.

GORCC and Council are working together to reduce fox numbers on the coast, with GORCC leading intensive on-ground eradication efforts and monitoring programs in coastal areas with Council funding support.

Council also runs separate fox eradication initiatives on land it manages as part of its annual pest plant and animal programs.

“Fox control requires an ongoing effort and our best chance of reducing numbers on the Surf Coast is for communities and land managers to work together,” said Ms. MacDonald.

Foxes are a particular threat to local, beach nesting Hooded Plovers, with the predators thought to have been behind the disappearance of multiple chicks, eggs and adult birds over the past two years.

“Point Impossible, Point Roadknight and Moggs Creek are being particularly targeted as these sites are known Hooded Plover breeding zones,” said Ms. MacDonald

For more information on pests on the coast and how you can help visit www.gorcc.com.au or www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au.

How do you help deter foxes and pest animals around your home? Let us know in the comments below. 

 

 

Research reveals pest’s adaptive abilities

New research has confirmed that an invasive species is rapidly adapting to different ecosystems along the coast, allowing it to spread fast and threatening the health of the marine environment.

A team of Deakin University researchers have been studying the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) in Australia to better understand its potential to expand its geographical range.

Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias Amurensis) adult. Photo: Mark Richardson
Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias Amurensis) adult. Photo: Mark Richardson

The invasive seastar species originates from Japan and is a voracious predator which has a major impact on the marine food chain, devastating marine wildlife.

Deakin University PhD student Mark Richardson has been conducting research to test whether its larvae have the ability to cope with elevated water temperatures, which may determine the seastar’s potential range.

“The experiments have established that Northern Pacific Seastar larvae from Port Phillip Bay have several genetic differences that allow them to adapt to the local environment.

Northern Pacific Seastar larvae viewed under a microscope in the experiment to analyse its adaptive abilities. Photo: Mark Richardson
Northern Pacific Seastar larvae viewed under a microscope in the experiment to analyse its adaptive abilities. Photo: Mark Richardson

“The same experiments were performed on native Japanese Northern Pacific Seastars to evaluate their genetic profiles and see whether the individuals living in Australia have developed greater tolerance to higher water temperatures.

“The results indicate the Northern Pacific Seastars in Australia have a higher ability to thrive in elevated water temperatures compared to the native Japanese individuals”, Mr Richardson said.

The heightened ability for the seastar to adapt to different water temperatures could pose a threat to the native marine wildlife along the East Coast of Australia.

The Northern Pacific Seastar spreads through ocean currents and could infest waters eastwards from Port Phillip Bay along the coast.

Project leader Dr. Craig Sherman from Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said the experiments conducted on seastar larvae would improve understanding about this invasive species in Australia.

“From this research we have developed a better understanding about how seastar populations are connected and how this species is adapting and spreading along the coast.

“We are interested in the ecological impacts the seastar is having on marine communities and the rapid evolution the seastar undertakes to survive in the environment,” said Dr Sherman.

The water temperature research will be able to provide information for future marine pest management strategies in Australia.

Marine pests threaten our local marine environments. To find out more about what marine pests to look out for click here.

Fluffy ferals prey on fauna

Cats may be cute but they can also be deadly, with both feral cats and pets wreaking havoc on Indigenous fauna.

Under the Surf Coast Shire cat curfew, cats across the shire, excluding the rural zone, must be confined to the owners’ premises between 8pm and 6am daily to help reduce attacks on Indigenous animals.

The Surf Coast Shire has a cat curfew to protect native wildlife.
The Surf Coast Shire has a cat curfew to protect native wildlife.

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee conservation officer Georgie Beale said the local coast was home to a range of threatened or endangered species such as the Swift Parrot, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Swamp Antechinus and Rufous Bristlebird.

“Once a cat is out of its domestic environment it’s feral and they cause death and destruction, decimating indigenous wildlife including threatened and endangered species,” Ms Beale said.

Under the curfew cats found at large in any public area or outside their owner’s property between 8pm and 6am can be seized.

The Domestic Animal Act states cats at large can cost their owners a fee of 1 penalty unit ($100) for a first offence and 3 penalty units ($300) for further infringements.

All domestic cats should be micro chipped, registered and wear a registration tag to ensure lost and wandering cats are returned to their owners.

Otway Community Conservation Network (OCCN) facilitator Luke Hynes said cats have a huge impact on fauna.

“It’s essential that we reduce their impact on our coast,” he said.

The OCCN hires a humane cat cage free of charge, with a $50 refundable deposit, to capture wandering cats.

The cage is only hired out under special conditions to ensure cats caught are unharmed and users must adhere to strict guidelines for use.

It’s an offence for residents to set up inhumane steel jaw traps to capture wandering cats on their properties.

RSPCA Victoria Senior Inspector Daniel Bode said they see up to 100 cases of animal cruelty each year in Victoria arising from the use of traps including steel jaw traps.

“It is illegal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to set a steel jaw trap due to the potential they have to cause extreme injury, pain and suffering to animals.”

Ms. Beale said cat control was a complex task but that all cat owners could take simple steps to minimise the harm cats cause.

“Have your cats desexed and have them home at night.   If they’re not wandering, they’re not killing our precious wildlife.”

For further information on the Cat Curfew visit the Surf Coast Shire website.

This story appeared in the Surf Coast Times Green the Coast Column.

Learn more about how you can protect wildlife.

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Environmental destructors: the common rabbit in focus

When Thomas Austin introduced rabbits to Geelong in 1895, it is hard to imagine he had any idea of the problems this would cause. Nearly 118 years on, rabbits have become one of the coasts (and indeed Australia’s) biggest pests and show no sign of disappearing.

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Why are rabbits such a big problem?

While they may look cute and fluffy, rabbits cause large amounts of damage to crops and immeasurable damage to the environment, explains Surfcoast and Inland Plains Network Pest, Plant and Animal Project Manager Brian Vagg.

“Rabbits are suspected of being the most significant known factor in species loss in Australia [although] the loss of plant species is unknown at this time.

“They are also responsible for serious erosion problems as they eat native plants, leaving the topsoil exposed and vulnerable to sheet, gully and wind erosion,” Mr Vagg said.

What can we do to control the current rabbit population?

Mr Vagg said education and people working together on a large scale is the most effect means to control rabbit populations.

“Land managers/holders are responsible for controlling pest animals on their land, but many simply do not know where to start,” he said.

Control which takes place on a gradual month by month, year to year level is proving to be the most effective with neighbours working together using a variety of methods.

Successful methods can include fumigation, baiting, trapping, filling in existing warrens and removing possible burrow sites such as wood piles and gorse.

“Most rabbit control methods are quite labor-intensive and need to be done on a regular basis en mass ideally.

“Poisoning is probably the most widely used of the conventional techniques, as it requires the least effort. Two commonly used poisons for rabbit control are sodium fluoracetate (1080) and pindone,” he said.

For more information on rabbit control in the Surf Coast area contact Brian Vagg on scipn@bigpond.com

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Who let the cats out?

They may seem like friendly members of the family but cats can be ferocious hunters and a threat to native animals.

Cats on the Surf Coast are endangering native wildlife, which is why it’s so important that owners keep their pets inside at night.

President of local environmental volunteer group, Friends of Point Addis Marine National Park, Bronwyn Spark says that people need to keep an eye on their cats, especially at night.

The Surf Coast Shire imposes a curfew for cats between 8pm and 6am to help reduce the number of attacks on native animals, such as this unfortunate galah.

“As native marsupials are nocturnal most people don’t realise cats are threatening them.

“Cats are problematic because you can’t see them and they threaten bird nests and small native animals,” she said.

Have you seen any feral cats in your neighbourhood?

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee Coastal Reserves Manager Mike Bodsworth says the coast’s unique native wildlife is under threat on a number of fronts.

From cats and foxes to litter and road traffic our coast is a minefield of dangers for local wildlife.

“From cats and foxes to litter and road traffic our coast is a minefield of dangers for local wildlife.

“It doesn’t take much to help to minimise such threats so that our native animals have the best chance of survival, and keeping your cat indoors is just one of the ways you can help,” he said.

For more information about threatend species on the Surf Coast click here

The Surf Coast Shire has implemented a ‘cat curfew’ to reduce the impact feral cats are having on native animals.

Under the curfew cats must be confined to the owner’s premises between 8pm and 6am daily.

To read about the Surf Coast Shire’s cat curfew click here

The council can seize cats found roaming in any public area or outside their owner’s property in this period and cats seized and not reclaimed within eight days may be destroyed.

Surf Coast Shire Mayor Brian McKiterick says its important owners register their cats.

It is particularly important that all cats are registered and are confined during the curfew hours; for their welfare and for the sake of native wildlife.

“It is particularly important that all cats are registered and are confined during the curfew hours; for their welfare and for the sake of native wildlife.

“Cats that are allowed to roam at night can have huge impacts on our environment and are also in much greater danger of being lost or hit by a car.  I urge people to be responsible and look after their pets,” he said.

Under the Domestic Animal Act the owner of a cat found at large can be fined $100 for the offence and up to $300 for further infringements.

Click here to check out the Australian Government’s fact sheet on feral cats.

For more information about the cat curfew or if you notice any lost or feral cats in your neighbourhood contact the Surf Coast Shire ph: (03) 5261 0600, email:info@surfcoast.vic.gov.au or visit their website www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au

 For more information on how you can protect native wildlife on the coast, visit www.gorcc.com.au.

This column appeared in the Surf Coast Times fortnightly Green the Coast Column.

Do you have any suggestions about how we can reduce the number of feral cats on the Surf Coast?

We’d love to hear from you!