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Western Shield is actively reducing the impact of threat of foxes and feral cats on WA's native animals, particularly threatened species.

It focuses on controlling these introduced predatorsthrough baiting with the poison 1080 across nearly 3.9 million hectares of national parks and other conservation reserves.

Introduced killers

European red fox (Vulpes vulpes):
   Foxes were deliberately released into Victoria in the 1860s for fox-hunting.
   The fox is a highly adaptive and mobile predator.
   It followed the spread of the introduced rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

The arrival of the fox in the south-west in the late 1920s coincided with a steep decline in the numbers of smaller native mammals.

Cats (Felis catus)

  • Cats arrived in Australia with European settlement and now occur across Australia.
  • Feral cats pose a substantial threat to our native animals, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas where foxes are less common.

Fox and cat control is essential to the recovery of wildlife in Western Australia.

European red fox. Photo - DBCA
Feral cat. Photo - DBCA

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.

Where we bait

Western Shield's fox and feral cat baiting program is carried out over nearly 3.9 million hectares across the State, from Cape Arid National Park east of Esperance in the south, to the Murujuga National Park near Karratha in the north. It includes forests of the south-west, rangeland sites and numerous Wheatbelt reserves.

  • Parks and Wildlife drops most 1080 fox and feral cat baits from the air, as this is the most effective way to cover large areas.
    • It carries out aerial fox baiting four times a year, and feral cat baiting once a year, using a specially modified aircraft, which can drop baits with great precision. 
  • Parks and Wildlife researchers are continuing to look at:
    • the risks to other animals
    • the most effective times to carry out baiting programs
    • how many baits are needed per hectare to be cost effective.
  • The department is also developing efficient ways to monitor he numbers of feral cats, to show how successful the baiting program is, and where it worked best.
  • Some ground baiting is also undertaken for more targeted control of foxes, and in smaller, more isolated reserves (usually once a month), because foxes from surrounding, unbaited areas can quickly return to these areas. 
Eradicat® baits. Photo - DBCA

Facts and figures

  • During each quarterly baiting program, the plane flies approximately 50,000km dropping baits, more than a 40,000km trip around the world!
  • Parks and Wildlife lay more than 900,000 baits each year—600,000 fox baits and 300,000 feral cat baits.
  • It drops 1,000 aerial baits per hour of flying.
  • It lays five fox baits per square kilometre (or one bait for every 20 hectares).
  • It drops 50 feral cat baits dropped per square kilometre (or 10 baits for every 20 hectares).
  • Fox baiting generally takes place every three months, but once a year for feral cats.
  • It takes eight weeks to aerially bait the 3.9 million hectares.
  • The plane is in the air around eight months each year.

More about 1080

1080 can kill domestic animals. Always keep pets away from baited areas.
pdfPet owners beware1.12 MB brochure.
  • Look for these signs in and around baited areas letting you know about the baiting program and the risk to pets.
  • Pet owners - always assume that there are toxic baits in baited areas.
  • Baits can remain toxic for a many months, and can be anywhere in baited areas.
  • The flesh from animals that have died from 1080 poisoning can remain toxic to dogs and cats for many months.
  • 1080 baiting is a major reason dogs are not allowed in most parks.