Farm­ers take up arms against feral threat

South Western Times - - News - Billy Kerr

FARM­ERS have a bit on their plate at the mo­ment and spend a fair bit of their time look­ing sky­wards in the hope the gods are go­ing to be pleased enough to drop a bit more rain onto their pad­docks.

There is no doubt work­ing the land is a risky busi­ness and while the re­wards in the good sea­son may be high, the un­pre­dictabil­ity of the sea­sons and the mar­ket place keeps them on their toes.

For a bit of light relief once a year, the boys and girls of the bush load up the utes with enough weaponry to start a small war and head off into the pad­docks to hunt down and kill any feral that is un­for­tu­nate enough to cross their path.

Os­ten­si­bly they go out look­ing for foxes but be­ing a cat or a rab­bit is also quite life chal­leng­ing on Red Card for Foxes and Rab­bit Night.

This year the shoot­ers again did re­mark­ably well and all up 814 peo­ple armed to the teeth took out 150 cats, 589 rab­bits and 2428 foxes which in any­one’s lan­guage is not a bad ef­fort.

Re­search shows, how­ever, that in some ar­eas there could be hun­dreds of foxes in a 10sq km ra­dius and these foxes can cause lamb losses of up­wards of 20 per cent. Lit­tle won­der that ev­ery time a fox is popped, the ca­pac­ity to in­crease the profit mar­gin on a farm goes up.

The is­sue of feral an­i­mals has long dogged this coun­try and de­spite bait­ing and the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of new viruses, we still strug­gle to come to terms with non-na­tive species.

It does not help ei­ther when we turn a blind eye to the num­ber of cats that we keep as pets know­ing full well that ev­ery one of these cats has the po­ten­tial to turn feral and cre­ate havoc on the en­vi­ron­ment.

We spend hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars each year on pest erad­i­ca­tion and yet we still con­done the keep­ing of cats as pets.

Maybe it is time to bite the bul­let and de­clare an end date for the cat. This would mean that ex­ist­ing cats could live out their lives but not be re­placed and then long-term any re­main­ing cats could be shot out.

The cat lovers as­so­ci­a­tion would not be too happy with this sce­nario but we have got to get our pri­or­i­ties right in terms of our farm lands and our na­tive species.

Be­sides there are a num­ber of na­tive an­i­mals that could eas­ily re­place the role cats play which can only be a good thing.

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