Feral animals are non-native animals that have established themselves in wild landscapes, they tend to out compete native animal species and also may destroy habitat.
The main feral animal species affecting the Top End are-
Buffalos can cause great erosion and destruction to wet landscapes.Buffalo occur in floodplain, woodland and sandstone escarpment habitats in areas where surface water is available. The range of buffaloes in the Northern Territory is restricted mainly to areas that receive greater than 1000 mm of rainfall annually. The range occupied by feral buffaloes in the Top End of the Northern Territory appears to be increasing with the majority of the Territory herd in Arnhem Land, but many can be found in wet areas in the river and wetland system of the rural areas. The main control method is shooting and water courses or wet areas can be fenced.
“Strong evidence suggests that feral cats have played a significant role in the demise and extinction of native fauna, particularly in central Australia. To date, 63 species of native vertebrate have been identified in the stomach contents of feral cats from throughout the Northern Territory including mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. Although feral cats have been eradicated from islands using a combination of techniques, broad scale control on the Australian mainland has proved problematic. Because feral cats rarely scavenge, it appears that successful control can only be achieved by distributing poisoned baits at times of low prey abundance. A problem associated with controlling feral cats with toxic meat baits is their impact on non-target species including dingoes which are protected in the Northern Territory.” It is possible to borrow cat traps and then target only wild cats. These can borrowed from City of Darwin Council, and a form needs to filled in.
Responsible cat ownership is very important as even domestic cats can cause harm to wildlife. If you really feel the need to have a cat, keeping it inside or in a run and accompanied as much as possible is a good tactic as well as putting a collar with a bell on it. Always de-sex your pet cat, so that you do not contribute to an increased feral cat population or unwanted cats.
EVERY CAT is a great website developed by the Top End re-homing group for the NT and gives lots of information about responsible pet ownership and feral cats http://everycat.com.au/
Wild dogs can also have an impact on the survival of remnant populations of endangered fauna. These are not to be mistaken with Dingoes, which have an important place in the ecosystem after 4000 years in Australia! Wild dogs are descended from domestic dogs or a mix of dingoes and domestic dogs. You can trap wild dogs and hire traps from Litchfield Council
Responsible dog ownership is also important as pet dogs can harm wildlife habitat or disturb native animals, particularly birds, reptiles and small mammals. You can train your dog to not chase wildlife, keep them restricted to a particular area of your property and only take them further when accompanied. Also de-sex your pets when possible and feed them well, so they don’t need to hunt wildlife! Litchfield Council has some factsheets on dog ownership.
“The main threat posed by cane toads occurs when other wildlife attempt to eat them. When cane toads are threatened, they release a toxin (bufotoxin) from the glands behind the eyes and across their back. This toxin is present in both the adults and tadpoles, meaning that cane toads may negatively impact a wide diversity of wildlife.”
“While it has been very difficult to quantify the losses to native animals as a result of cane toad invasion, evidence suggests that the northern quoll, goannas, snakes, fish, freshwater crocodiles and egrets are particularly affected by the invasion of cane toads. In parts of Queensland, populations of some of these animals were dramatically reduced when cane toads first arrived, although it seems that many have recovered since that time. This recovery has mainly been attributed to a change in behaviour, as native animals have learned to avoid cane toads as a food source.”
Cane toads can be caught easily by picking them up by the back legs and giving them a sharp blow to the head, on a rock or something similar. They can also be placed in a dark bag and then frozen. It is best to try and kill them as kindly as possible and compost their bodies in a closed bin or bury them to avoid other wildlife eating their poisonous bodies. Toadwatch has some catching techniques and identifying techniques.
The black rat is native to Asia, but has become common in many areas throughout Australia, including many locations in the Northern Territory. This species prefers warmer habitats, and is generally displaced by the brown rat in cooler locations. The black rat is highly successful in its introduced range because it has a very wide diet and it breeds prolifically.
The black rat eats small invertebrates, eggs, fruits and seeds and is often found in human dwellings. To keep rats away try and keep all food in closed containers, remove rubbish and don’t leave out pet food.
If you are to kill rats, use a live cage trap and then drown them rather than a snap trap or poison if you are not completely sure they are the introduced black rat. The native Black-footed tree rat, which is listed as vulnerable can be mistaken as a black rat and is found in the rural area.
Wild Pigs are very destructive and reach sexual maturity at 7 to 12 months, and are able to produce one to two litters per year. They are wide spread across the north of Australia. Control includes baiting and shooting. If you have a wetland it can be fenced to keep feral pigs out.