My work experience involved two days of fieldwork with the NSW Parks and Wildlife Services Pests and Weeds Team learning about a variety of pest control management options currently being explored or used in the Tinderry Nature Reserve and throughout the Brindabellas.
Feral goats are more common around the ACT and its surrounding regions than what I previously expected. Their over abundance creates a wide range of significant ecological issues such as – competition with native herbivores, intense destruction of foliage and soil erosion due to decreases in plant cover. The existing methods of feral goat control are either inefficient or too costly for the current scale of environmental damage.
In order to tackle these issues a specially designed feed structure has been developed by Rob Hunt, whom I conducted my work experience with. This project looks at the use of an ungulate-specific feed structure as a potential tool for controlling feral goats in Australia’s forest ecosystems. The Tinderry Nature Reserve is the location for the development of this project, a sub-alpine bushland with forest and coastal shrubland spread throughout a mountainous terrain.
THE FEED STRUCTURE:
The feed structures currently being developed for this project are unique in the sense that they use a steel grid mesh to exploit differences in foot size and structure between the main non-target species (native macropods) and feral goats and the occasional red and fellow deer. The distinctive size and shape of a feral goat’s foot allows it to step on the steel mesh, triggering the feed structure to open and enable it to gain access to a salt block. They love to lick these blocks, as the minerals in the salt are deficient in their natural environment. The overall objective of the salt blocks is to eventually incorporate cyanide with them, providing a quick and humane death for the pest animals. The cage has been specially designed so that macropods such as the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Swamp Wallaby, Wombat and Brush Tail Possum can’t gain accesses to the salt blocks.
The feeding sites have been designed so that large populations of goats can interact with the cage area; this brings with it the potential for improved aerial shooting methods, as the goats would be located in large numbers around cleared sites.
WILD DOG CONTROL:
The second day of my work experience involved travelling into the Brindabella ranges to locate areas of wild dog activity. Once a site was selected we set up 4 different ejector traps, although they only had strawberry jam in them. These bait head ejectors were made of slow cooked deer, this had a very strong scent. Once the traps were set along game trails a camera was positioned next to the bait in order to monitor wild dog activity in the area. Wild dogs throughout these mountains and Australia bring enormous pressure on farmers as they target livestock. These ejector traps are widely used around Australia for both livestock protection and conservation means.
Over the course of my work experience I learnt a great deal about pest management around the ACT and NSW and how some of these projects have been adapted and introduced nation wide. They way certain species are being targeted is a great example of adaptive management.
I’d like to thank Rob Hunt for sharing his copious amounts of expertise with me.
Hunt R, Claridge A, Fleming P, Cunningham R, Russell B, Mills D, (2014), “Use of an angulate-specific feed structure as a potential tool for controlling feral goats in Australian forest ecosystems”, Ecology Management and Restoration, V:15
Short clip on mechanical ejectors for wild dogs and foxes – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tdq7FKxeO8