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

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

The program manages introduced predators using a number of methods but most broadscale management across 3.7 million hectares of Parks and Wildlife Service and partnership land is conducted using baits containing the naturally occurring toxin, 1080.

Introduced killers

European red fox (Vulpes vulpes):

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 in the southern part of the State.

Foxes are highly adaptive and mobile predators that prey on a variety of small- to medium-sized animals. Foxes were deliberately released into Victoria in the 1860s for fox hunting. It followed the spread of the introduced rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

Feral cats (Felis catus)

Feral cats arrived in Australia during European settlement and they are now widespread across Australia. It is estimated that there are between 15 and 23 million feral cats across Australia (Woinarski et al., 2015).

Feral cats pose a substantial threat to WA’s native animals, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas where foxes are less common. Feral cats are the same species as domestic cats, but survive in the wild without human reliance or contact. They are a declared species under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 (BAM Act). Find out more about cats at agric.wa.gov.au/pest-mammals/feral-cats

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 manage 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.

What are the baits made of?

A naturally occurring toxin found in pea plants from the Gastrolobium genus provides Western Australia with a natural advantage in managing  introduced predators in our state. Many species of Gastrolobium  contan sodium fluoroacetate, which is synthetically produced under the name 1080. Native animals have evolved with these plants and have developed a tolerance to the toxin. However it is lethal, even in tiny amounts, to introduced foxes and feral cats, as well as domestic cats and dogs. Pet owners need to be aware and avoid taking domestic animals into areas managed for foxes and or feral cats.

Poison pea (Gastrolobium). Photo - DBCA

The 1080 poison is injected into salami-like sausages, called Probait®, which are 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 Service staff have developed smaller, tastier and moister 1080 sausage baits, more appetising to feral cats, called Eradicat®.

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.

All 1080 products used by the Parks and Wildlife Service 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 registered pesticides containing 1080, PAPP and strychnine.

What other management methods are used?

Other methods of fox and feral cat management, such as fencing, trapping, shooting, and baiting with other poisons, are used in specific locations to protect extremely vulnerable species or populations.


Where we bait

Western Shield's fox and feral cat baiting program is carried out over nearly 3.7 million hectares across the State, from Cape Arid National Park east of Esperance in the south, to Murujuga National Park near Karratha in the north. It includes forests of the south-west, rangeland sites and numerous Wheatbelt reserves.

  • The Parks and Wildlife Service deploys 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 across the whole 3.7 million hectares multiple times a year, and feral cat baiting once a year, using a specially modified aircraft, which can drop baits with great precision.

  • Researchers continue to conduct research on:
    - the risks of various management options to other animals
    - the most effective times to carry out baiting programs
    - how many baits are needed per hectare to effectively manage introduced predators.

  • The Parks and Wildlife Service is also developing efficient ways to monitor the numbers of foxes and feral cats, to show how successful the baiting program is, and where it worked best.

  • Ground baiting is also undertaken for more targeted control of foxes and feral cats, and in smaller, more isolated reserves (usually once a month), or in areas with highly sensitive species because foxes from surrounding, unbaited areas can quickly return to these areas.

When are baits laid?

Baiting activities, as well as other management options, are carefully timed. 

Eradicat is laid at times when prey is scarce, so feral cats are more likely to eat them. Probait is used year-round to control foxes. Baits are distributed aerially and from the ground by specially trained staff and contractors.

Areas subject to baiting by the Parks and Wildlife Service should be considered unsafe for domestic pets at all times.

Eradicat® baits. Photo - DBCA

Facts and figures

  • The Parks and Wildlife Service lays more than 900,000 baits each year — 400,000 fox baits and 500,000 feral cat baits.
  • During each quarterly baiting program, the bait plane flies approximately 50,000 km. That is the equivalent of flying around the world 1.25 times. 
  • 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 3.7 million hectares.
  • The plane is in the air for about eight months each year.

More about 1080


1080 can kill domestic animals. Always keep pets away from baited areas. Find out more: pdfPet owners beware flyer (PDF 990KB)
  • Be aware of 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 pets are not allowed in most national parks.

Other methods of fox and feral cat management, such as fencing, trapping, shooting, and baiting with other poisons, are used in specific locations to protect extremely vulnerable species or populations. But these other methods are all labour intensive and not practical on the large scale required to protect most species. In addition, other poisons can remain in the environment for a long time, and are dangerous for all animals, whether native, feral or domestic.