Invasive animal research

Refining management of feral deer in Queensland

Project Leader: Matt Amos

Wild deer are widely distributed and increasing in abundance in eastern Australia, posing an increasing risk to communities (particularly as a road hazard), to agriculture and the environment.  Control tools are limited and their applicability dependent on site-specific factors such as landform, vegetation, human habitation, and target deer species. Efficacy of control tools is not well known but is needed for land managers planning control operations. To that end, this project will finalise assessment of the effectiveness of five current management programs in southern and central coastal Queensland. The assessment employed different methods for monitoring changes in deer abundance in different environments and deer densities. Those methods need to be documented for further use in deer management.

Evaluating breeding success of wild rabbits in various harbour types

Project Leader: Peter Elsworth

The European rabbit is a significant pest to agriculture and the environment. As a result of biocontrol activity (RHDV1, RHDV1 K5, RHDV2 and myxomatosis) and concerted harbour removal projects in south-east Queensland, rabbit numbers in the state are the lowest they have been for decades. Harbour removal has focused on “key breeding” locations, primarily large warren systems and long-standing log piles. Removing the key breeding sites is considered the key strategy to rabbit control, reducing the need to control in other areas given these are not self-sustaining. As stakeholders look to maximise benefit for lowest cost, this method is gaining momentum. However, this strategy is theoretical and needs supporting quantitative data on the breeding success of rabbits in different types of harbour, and whether this changes with different climatic conditions.

Pest animal control - toxin permit support

Project Leader: Matthew Gentle

With the transition away from state government supply and registration of toxins, there are a number of toxins (e.g. strychnine) and uses that require ongoing assessments for potential suitability, supply or alternatives under minor-use permits or national registration.  Pest animal researchers will consult with stakeholders and regulators and collate and evaluate data to ensure the optimal and safe use of suitable vertebrate toxins in Queensland. Applications are then made to the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority for the use of particular baits or toxins in Queensland.

Testing management strategies for feral pigs

Project Leader: Matthew Gentle

The effectiveness of feral pig control is hampered by the inadequate coordination of effort in time and space. There is a need for optimised control and monitoring practices supported by science-based information. While a variety of control tools are available, strategies for their optimal application are lacking or require field-testing. This project aims to improve the efficacy of management of feral pigs in northern Australia by refining and optimising control and monitoring practices with selected landholder groups on demonstration sites. In a related project, analysis of GPS tracking data and spatial modelling of feral pig habitat preferences is being used to model key strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of pig control (and monitoring).

Feral pig habitat modelling and monitoring for management of African swine fever

Project Leader: Matthew Gentle

Control programs aiming to reduce the density of feral pigs across a site should aim to maximise the proportion of animals that are exposed to control. Understanding feral pig habitat use will help identify preferred areas where pigs are more likely to encounter control (or monitoring) tools. Initial examination of feral pig habitat use has helped to identify some landscape features that are favoured (or avoided) by feral pigs. This project will complete further detailed analysis. The high use areas will be used to model alternative control strategies (i.e. trap placements/densities). Aerial survey data will also be analysed. Key parameters for modelling habitat suitability will be quantified. These data will refine maps of seasonal pig distribution and improve applications for modelling disease spread and management in feral pig populations.

Wild dog predation on cattle and wild herbivores in the Queensland dry tropics

Project Leader: Matthew Gentle

Wild dogs can have significant impacts on livestock enterprises. The effects of wild dogs on small stock are unequivocal. Impacts of wild dogs on cattle production enterprises range from significant to modest to advantageous. Similarly, impacts of wild dogs on native fauna can vary. Effective management of wild dogs requires an evidence-based understanding of their impacts and efficacy of control tools. This project evaluates several wild dog management approaches including cluster fencing and 1080 baiting and assesses the application of new technology for wild dog research purposes. This project will:

  • Trial new technology (video GPS collars and Ceres tags) to assess wild dog movement and predation at the interface of agricultural and conservation properties
  • Assess the use of cluster fences for livestock and biodiversity outcomes
  • Determine if dogs (Canis familiaris) can detect 1080 in meat baits and CPE capsules

Improving detection and response to red-eared slider turtles

Project Leader: Lana Harriott

Red-eared slider turtles (REST) are the most commonly-traded reptile in the world and have significant environmental impacts where they establish outside of their native range. In Australia, REST have been assessed as having an ‘Extreme’ risk of establishment. Established populations in south-east Queensland were the focus of control from 2005. Individuals were detected in September 2018 within an area of previously-established populations and control has again been undertaken.

This project aims to increase effectiveness of REST management and improve confidence of detection and eradication through improving understanding of REST behaviour, ecology and management. It will use analysis of operational, genetic and ecological data. The project will also work with an existing Centre for Invasive Species Solutions study to improve the use of environmental DNA to detect REST.

Development of surveillance tools for the Asian black-spined toad (Duttaphyrnus melanostictus)

Project Leader: Lana Harriott

As the most common vertebrate stowaway species arriving in Australia, the Asian black-spined toad (ABST, Duttaphyrnus melanostictus) is a species of significant biosecurity concern. ABST has established populations in several locations outside its native range in Asia, where causes significant economic and environmental impacts.  Much of northern and eastern Australia is suitable for establishment of ABST, including areas outside of the predicted range of cane toads. To better manage the risk of an ABST population establishing in Queensland there is a need for a targeted, robust surveillance and response network. A suite of new and developing tools could be applied in a such a network. We plan to test, optimise and determine the effectiveness of some tools beginning with cane toad audio lure traps. This will benefit Queensland through access to field-tested tools to respond to an ABST incursion.

Ecology and management of chital deer in north Queensland

Project Leader: Tony Pople

This project aims to determine the ecology, impacts and capacity for increase and spread of chital deer (Axis axis) in north Queensland to develop long-term management strategies. Limiting factors are likely to be a combination of wild dog predation and food supply. Basic ecological data (diet, reproduction, population dynamics, movements) have been collected. Future work assesses habitat use, regional distribution, disease risk, fawn and adult survival and causes of mortality.

Two cost-effective tools for controlling wild deer in Australia, aerial shooting and ground shooting, have been assessed on three deer species in four states. The effectiveness of the tools were evaluated on cost, reduction in deer abundance and humaneness.

A feeder that is selective for deer will also be trialled for chital deer.

Coordinated management of feral deer in Queensland

Project Leader: Tony Pople

This project will undertake coordinated management of feral deer in Queensland. There are currently four species of feral deer with expanding populations in the state. Three long-established populations are large and widespread, requiring control to both contain and reduce impacts. Outside these populations are small, satellite populations that could be eradicated or at least held at low density and contained. Clear, often differing objectives (i.e. early detection, eradication, containment and control) are needed to cost-effectively manage deer populations across regions and this is clearly articulated in the draft National Deer Action Plan. This will also underpin the current revision of the Queensland Feral Deer Management Strategy.