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Research shows that the best way to ensure the survival of native animals in the wild is to control feral predators through baiting.

Without fox and feral cat baiting, the native species protected by the Western Shield program could be lost forever, or only found in small, fenced reserves.

A toxin that occurs naturally in pea plants from the Gastrolobium genus provides a natural advantage in controlling introduced predators in Western Australia. These plants contain sodium fluoroacetate, which is synthetically produced under the name 1080. Native animals have evolved with these plants and have developed a tolerance to the poison. However it is lethal, even in tiny amounts, to introduced foxes and feral cats, as well as domestic cats and dogs. Dog owners need to be aware.

Poison pea (Gastrolobium). Photo - DBCA

1080 breaks down quickly in the soil without any environmental side effects. However, baits, and the flesh of animals that have died from 1080 poisoning, can remain toxic to dogs and cats for months.

Salami-like sausages, called Probait®, are injected with the poison and then dried to make them hard and less palatable to native animals, although they are attractive to foxes.

Cats are very sensitive to 1080 but prefer live prey, so they do not normally eat the dried meat baits used to control foxes. Parks and Wildlife scientists have developed smaller, tastier and moister 1080 sausage baits, more appetising to feral cats, called Eradicat®.

The laying of baits are carefully timed. In arid areas, baits are laid at times when prey is scarce, so feral cats are more likely to eat them.

All 1080 baits used by Parks and Wildlife have been approved for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and are used according to the label or research permit requirement and the Department of Health's Code of Practice for the Safe Use and Management of 1080 in Western Australia.

Other methods of fox and feral cat control, such as trapping, shooting, and baiting with other poisons, are labour intensive and not practical on a large scale. Other poisons remain in the environment for a long time, and are dangerous for all animals, whether native, feral or domestic.