A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry has called for feral cats to be listed as established pests, which would allow them to be hunted in the same way as wild dogs.
The inquiry, chaired by a Labor MP and including MPs from across the major parties, found that current laws “prevent the effective control of feral cats”, and other options must be considered.
Among those options was a baiting program, with a bait known as Curiosity close to being released for the specific control of cats.
But the first step would be for any cat found a certain distance into a park be automatically classified as feral and authorities be allowed to destroy it on the spot.
Currently, feral cats can be destroyed by authorised officers if they are where animals or birds are kept for farming purposes, are attacking or harassing wildlife, or are on public land and reasonable attempts to capture them have failed.
Speaking to the inquiry, former invasive animals research scientist Michael Johnston said current legislation meant Parks Victoria did little work in controlling feral cats.
“There are small projects from time to time, but because we do not have access to the best possible tools or the most effective and cost‑efficient tools to do the job, it is not a very cost‑effective way to manage cats,” he said.
The inquiry also heard of the difficulties in transporting live feral cats for them to be destroyed by authorised officers.
Victorian wildlife manager Daryl Panther said it was impractical to trap feral cats.
“If you get a feral cat that is quite a large cat in a soft‑jaw trap and you have to take it into town, it does not work. It just does not happen,” he said.
“It turns into an OHS situation, because a feral cat will rip you to pieces.”
Shooting them could also be problematic, however.
The Invasive Species Council reported that cats are very hard to spot and ground shooting has “very limited effectiveness”. The council recommended using baits and traps.
The Shooting Sports Council of Victoria disagreed, believing that shooting was an important part of eliminating feral cats from North West Island in Queensland.
The inquiry recommended that the government declare feral or wild cats as “pest animals”, mirroring the way wild dogs are classified.
The inquiry’s report was released on Tuesday. The government must respond in six months.