VETERAN farmer Lindsay Salmon knows first-hand how much damage feral cats can do to native animals.
He blames wandering felines for the deaths of three ring-tail possums and a sugar glider recently on his Scotts Creek property which has a virgin bushland corridor.
Last year his pet corella, which had been his friend for 15 years, was killed in its cage.
“They’re a pest, these cats,” the 88-year-old told The Standard yesterday.
“They wander for miles and can kill so quickly.
“I’m not against people having cats as pets, but they need to be more responsible in preventing them from wandering off.
“Over the years I’ve caught at least 12 cats with cages in the bush.
“I reckon many cats have been dumped by people.”
According to the Heytesbury District Landcare Network (HDLN) the problem is becoming worse and cats are causing almost as much damage as foxes.
The network has received complaints from a number of local landowners annoyed and angered by the loss of small mammals and birds.
In some cases there’s a double impact on local wildlife, with cats killing small mammals in addition to those eaten by foxes.
Network co-ordinator Geoff Rollinson said while farmers could take preventative action by catching cats in cages, the root of the problem was with irresponsible pet owners.
“Landholders are doing the right thing and trying to revegetate their properties and improve biodiversity, but their efforts are being compromised by feral cats,” Mr Rollinson said.
“Anecdotal evidence indicates that is becoming a bigger problem in the Heytesbury region.
“It is part of HDLN’s brief to increase biodiversity and therefore we are responding to those local concerns and drawing attention to this problem.”
Mr Rollinson said there had been more focus on devastation caused by foxes because they also killed farm stock, but cats had a greater impact on native wildlife.
“We are not suggesting snares or anything that involves cruelty to cats,” he said.
“However, there are options open to farmers to trap cats, make an appointment with their local council and move them on within 24 hours.” He said farmers were allowed to use a wire cage with a pressure-sensitive plate to trap cats, with cages available from some local councils.