Control and/or elimination of feral animal pests and over-abundant species was one of the main initial management actions in the Sanctuary. As part of its preparation for managing the Sanctuary, the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, in conjunction with the Invasive Animals CRC, established a working group which prepared a Pest Management Strategy. It has been used in the program to guide the removal of feral pests from the Sanctuary.
The aim of the strategy is to:
Minimise and where possible eradicate the fox, feral cat and wild dog and their predation impacts on native wildlife and impacts of feral and over abundant herbivores in conserving the natural habitat within the Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.
Feral Predators – Foxes and Cats
Control programs consisting of baiting and shooting these pests have been carried out since the Sanctuary was ‘closed’. It is now free of these pest species.
Feral Herbivores – Rabbits and Hares
Intensive efforts were made to remove all rabbits and hares as soon as possible after the fence was closed. This was due to their capacity to increase rapidly in numbers in the absence of predators and is essential before some mammal species could be re-introduced.
Broad scale measures to control rabbits included ripping of warrens, poisoning and shooting. As part of the initial establishment phase of the Sanctuary, warren ripping and poisoning were carried out, followed by monitoring for evidence of the continued presence of rabbits. Evidence of rabbits can be observed from their faecal droppings, active entrances into warrens, soil disturbance near warrens and, by carrying out spotlight surveys. The remaining rabbits and any hares present are removed whenever the opportunity occurs.
These measures were supplemented by the use of specially trained detection dogs, which have been successfully used to ‘flush’ out rabbits in locations such as Macquarie Island. The dogs were used in December 2011 and April 2012 to detect rabbit warrens that were then destroyed.
On-going monitoring of the Sanctuary is essential to ensure any warrens, rabbits or hares that are missed during the initial control programs are found and destroyed.
Monitoring for feral animals
Monitoring strategies used for foxes, dogs and cats include sand pads for tracks, scats and spotlight surveys. If and/or when it is known that predators have gained new entry to the Sanctuary, immediate measures to eliminate them are taken and maintained until they are no longer present.
To date there has been no evidence of incursion of new feral animals into the Sanctuary.
Regular searching for rabbit warrens and other signs of rabbits and hares is carried out in the Sanctuary. This is supplemented by night-time spotlight surveys. When necessary the Sanctuary is closed to visitors to enable appropriate control measures to be carried out.
Domestic Dogs and Cats
Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and the adjoining Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve are designated by the ACT Government as being places where the entry of domestic pets is prohibited because of the ecological and conservation significance of the reserves. Information about this can be found on the ACT Government’s web site.
The suburbs adjacent to Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve (Forde and Bonner) are declared
cat controlled areas whereresidents are required to keep any pet cat confined to their land 24 hours a day.
However, at times these conditions may be breached either deliberately, inadvertently, or if a dog or cat has been allowed to roam free. A continuing effort to educate visitors is important, especially when small native mammals re-introduced into the Sanctuary as part of its programs. The mere presence of a dog – even if restrained – can be enough to cause injury and death to animals fleeing into the fence.
Managing the risk of pets gaining access to the Sanctuary is focused on:
Dogs or cats gaining access into the Sanctuary: Notices informing visitors of their responsibilities in relation to dogs and cats at Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and the Sanctuary, are provided on entry gates and public information stations. The notices also include information about any operational programs that are taking place in the Sanctuary.
Dogs taking baits intended for feral predators: Local veterinarians are advised of any toxin used to control predators so that they can consider what precautionary steps they might take in the event of a pet accessing the Sanctuary and taking a bait. The toxin recommended by the Invasive Animals CRC to control foxes is designed to have an anti-toxin available in cases where dogs are the unintended targets. There is a window of opportunity to treat a dog but this is limited to an hour or two after ingestion.
Pets found in the Sanctuary or caught in feral animal traps: When a dog or cat that appears to be a domestic pet is found roaming free, or is caught in a trap set-up to capture dogs or cats, it will be captured and returned to its owners, via the ACT Government pound or RSPCA facility.