Feral cats out of control

ONE landholder shot 460 feral cats in two days as the battle to stop them destroying native wildlife in North West Queensland ramps up.

The man is one of scores of shooters and station owners who are calling for urgent action.

Marsupials, emus, lizards and birds are under threat from the feral cats estimated to be in their tens of thousands in the region.

Duncan Fysh from Proa Station, near Julia Creek, says the population of feral cats is out of control and something needs to be done.

Mr Fysh said Proa Station was a nature reserve home of the Julia Creek dunnart - a small, carnivorous marsupial on the endangered list.

"Dr Pat Woolley and Greg Miffud were here for six years studying the dunnart and told us that the dunnart were here because of our control of feral animals," Mr Fysh said.

"Even with control we fear for our ground nesting birds and little animals like lizards."

"The cats that live in the deserts can live without water, they get enough fluid out of their prey."

He said the blue tongue lizards and skinks were already extinct at Proa and dunnarts, planigales and emus were in grave danger.

"The emu is a ground nesting bird and will be gone within 20 years if something is not done soon," Mr Fysh said.

Richmond Shire Council Acting Acting Chief Executive Officer Clint Weber said his council paid a bounty of $5 per tail, which was reduced from $10 per tail in February this year.

"There is no doubt we have a feral cat problem," Mr Weber said.

"Last financial year (2010-11) council spent approximately $23,000 paying bounties and it is already $17,000 for the current financial year," he said.

The McKinlay Shire Council also offers a bounty of $5 per feral cat tail.

Biosecurity Queensland policy and strategy manager Dr Frank Keenan said recent findings had shown an increase in rat numbers, creating a rise in the number of feral cats in the area.

"Broad scale control is difficult but a range of management options are available to individuals and local governments to assist in minimizing feral cat impacts," Dr Keenan said.

"They can be controlled by shooting, trapping and baiting, as long as it is done in a humane manner."

"Promoting responsible cat ownership and limiting food sources for strays are effective strategies that assist in feral cat management."

The Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act 2008 promotes responsible cat ownership by requiring owners to microchip and register.

Mount Isa City Council CEO Bhan Pratap said the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry managed the issue of feral cats and the council provided assistance to people living in town, including Camooweal.

"Cat traps are available to residents from the council and local laws officers pick the cats up on a regular basis," he said.

A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. They eat 4-6 small animals every night.

There are an estimated 18 million feral cats living in Australia except in dense rain forests, and can hunt over an area of 38 sq. km.