The Dominion Post

Feral cats, hedgehogs among pests in hit-list

- Nicholas Boyack

Feral cats, wallaby, deer and hedgehogs are all on a Greater Wellington Regional Council hit list.

The council’s Pest Management Plan 2019-2039 is bad news for feral cat population­s in rural areas.

As well as spreading diseases, including bovine TB and parasites that cause abortions in sheep, cats are a major threat to native birds.

Pest animals team leader Glen Falconer said in rural areas, the plan allows the council to target feral cats.

In rural areas, it is not uncommon for people to drop an unwanted litter in remote areas and then return regularly to feed them.

Including cats in the plan lets the council prosecute anyone who dumps and supports feral cats under the Biosecurit­y Act.

Wellington City is not covered as the city council has its own rules for cats, including microchipp­ing and dealing with feral cat colonies.

A ‘‘pest cat’’ is defined as being ‘‘free living, unowned and unsocialis­ed’’ with little or no reliance on humans.

Forest & Bird regional manager Tom Kay welcomes any move to deal with feral cat population­s.

‘‘It is a huge problem around the greater Wellington area in general. There are lot of feral cats that people do not know about.’’

In Wellington City the growing number of tui and ka¯ ka¯ had made people much more aware of the threat that cats pose, he said.

He believes attitudes are changing towards cats but one animal people often do not realise is a major pest is hedgehogs.

Kay said one of the big issues with hedgehogs, is they eat the worms and insects that native birds rely on for food.

People view them as cute ‘‘critters’’ without realising they are just as a big a threat to native birds as possums and stoats.

Deer have been retained in the plan despite a move to remove them. There have been issues with deer in areas in the Hutt Valley, including Eastbourne and Wainuiomat­a.

Hunter and former Hutt City Council reserve manager Craig Cottrell said deer numbers throughout New Zealand are at the highest level seen in decades.

Deer in urban areas can do a lot of damage to private gardens and it is important that the regional council has the tools to control them, he said.

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