Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Are red-tailed phascogales (Phascogale calura) at risk from Eradicat® cat baits?

Abstract

Context: Feral cats have benefitted from effective control of foxes in south-western Australia and, consequently, their impact on some threatened mammal species has increased. Control of feral cats in the region can be enhanced by use of the Eradicat® cat bait, but its impact on non-target animal populations requires investigation before widespread use. Aims: The aim of the present study was to determine through field trials whether consumption of Eradicat® baits by resident red-tailed phascogales, following a broadscale baiting operation to control feral cats, was sufficiently frequent to cause significant rates of mortality in wild populations of phascogales. Methods: Nine radio-tagged red-tailed phascogales were monitored through an Eradicat® baiting event to determine their survival. Removal and consumption of toxic and non-toxic rhodamine B-labelled baits by a range of species were monitored with camera traps and by subsequent trapping of red-tailed phascogales and other mammals to sample whiskers for evidence of rhodamine uptake. Key results: Although some phascogales showed interest in baits and sometimes moved them from the deposition site, all radio-tagged phascogales survived for at least 1 week after baiting, by which time very few or no baits remained. Examination of whiskers sampled from individuals exposed to rhodamine-labelled baits showed that consumption of non-toxic Eradicat® baits by phascogales was negligible; only one phascogale of 62 sampled showed any rhodamine banding. Conclusions: The present study provided no evidence that red-tailed phascogales in the study region are at risk from an Eradicat® baiting episode in autumn. Implications: The risk to red-tailed phascogale populations through the use of Eradicat® baiting to control cats in their habitat in the Great Southern region of Western Australia is likely to be low. Further research to elucidate any impact of repeated baiting on populations of this species at several locations is recommended.