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The Secret Life of Mudgee Cats Exposed!

Mick Callan

The secret lives of Mudgee’s wandering cats have been exposed as part of a Domestic Cat Tracking project organised by Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

During the project GPS motion sensing devices were attached to 12 domestic cats in and around the city of Mudgee to track their every movement for up to 10 days.

The citizen science project funded through the Commonwealth’s National Landcare Program was designed to educate cat owners and promote awareness of the surprisingly large distances domestic cats can roam if given free access to the outdoors.

Land Services Officer Julie Reynolds says the results shocked some owners.

"People will tell you their cat just lays around the house, that it doesn't go anywhere, however the tracking data has shown many cats are far more active than their owners realised,” said Julie.

"Most of the cats regularly roamed up to two blocks from their homes and many wandered half a kilometre away on a daily basis.”

Mudgee cat, Mason, was recorded wandering up to 2 kilometres away from his home base, and stayed out for several days.

“We wanted to track Mason because he would disappear for a few days at a time,” said Mason’s owner, Margaret Hoffman.

Mason’s family assumed he was off visiting his girlfriend at a neighbour’s house, but it turns out Mason was travelling much further afield.

“We desexed him because we thought it would stop him wandering but he still disappears and when he comes home he sleeps for two days. Now we know why,” said Michael Hoffman.

The cat is a very important companion animal, however Local Land Services is urging cat owners to restrict the movement of their pets to the house, the backyard, or a cat enclosure.

Researchers estimate pet cats kill approximately 61 million birds every year, with cats likely to significantly increase the extinction risk faced by some bird species in Australia.[1]

Keeping your cat in at night can halve the number of wildlife killed by your pet. Other options include putting a bell on your cat’s collar and desexing to reduce your cat’s drive to roam, and more importantly to stop unwanted kittens being born.

“We’re hoping this research will encourage more cat owners to keep their pets from roaming and reduce their impact on native wildlife,” said Julie Reynolds.

Controlling cat movement will also protect pets from traffic accidents and fights with other cats, while reducing exposure to infections such as feline AIDS.

The Cat Tracker project is supported by funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.

________________________________

[1] Report compiled by John Woinarski, Brett Murphy, Leigh-Ann Woolley, Sarah Legge, Stephen Garnett and Tim Doherty, published in

The Guardian 4 October 2017  https://theconversation.com/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-cats-kill-more-than-a-million-australian-birds-every-day-85084


Photo Caption: Mudgee cat, Mason, was tracked wandering up to 2 kilometres away from his home base

Research into habitat restoration wins scholarship

Mick Callan

Climbing up trees searching for possums and endangered birds is just another day in the office for PhD candidate Reannan Honey.

Reannan Honey conducting field work, climbing trees is all part of the fun. Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

Reannan Honey conducting field work, climbing trees is all part of the fun. Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

It’s all part of Ms Honey’s current research project investigating habitat restoration for animals that are dependent on hollows.

“Tree hollows take a very long time to form—usually over one hundred years,” Ms Honey said.

“With native forestry, we tend to cut down the trees that are over a hundred years old because they are the big ones that provide the most wood.”

The current strategy to solve this problem is using nest boxes. But so far, they haven’t proved to be very effective, with many endangered animals often rejecting the nest boxes.

Ms Honey’s research is looking at whether artificial hollows can provide an alternative option to nest boxes.

“Artificial hollows are basically hollows that are cut into the tree itself,” she said. “The face plate is removed, the trunk is hollowed out and then the face plate returned with a hole in it, so the animal can enter and exit.”

The project is in its early days with Ms Honey often travelling into the bush, trapping possums and sugar gliders in order to microchip and track them to see which animals are using the artificial hollows, and how.

Now Ms Honey’s research has received a generous boost thanks to the 2017 AWS Wildlife Ecology Science Research Scholarship, which she will spend on data logging equipment that will allow her to effectively measure temperature and humidity.

“Thermochron and hygrochron are the size of a button-battery and they can collect three months of data, such as temperature and humidity every hour—so they’re pretty cool,” Ms Honey said.

Reannan’s research will investigate whether artificial hollows can provide an alternative option to nest boxes for animals, like this possum. Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

Reannan’s research will investigate whether artificial hollows can provide an alternative option to nest boxes for animals, like this possum.
Image courtesy of Reannan Honey.

Ms Honey’s PhD project is also generously supported by the Central Tablelands Local Land Services, the Wettenhall Environment Trust and the Central West Councils Environment & Waterways Alliance who created over 200 artificial hollows to increase habitat for the Superb Parrot.

Ms Honey has been at UTS for six years, starting in a Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry, before transferring into a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences. Last year she completed her honours research year investigating whether incubation temperatures affect the learning abilities in hatching geckos.

Ms Honey is also part of the Student Promotional Representative of UTS (SPROUT) team at UTS Science, and is passionate about science communication and talking to the general public about scientific discoveries.

“Communicating science is challenging, there’s a lot more things that both scientists and the media could be doing to help explain scientific research better,” Ms Honey said.

“I enjoy communicating my work to difference audiences and that’s something I hope to develop more at as I progress through my PhD.”

You can follow Reannan Honey on Instagram @reehoney17.

*This article was written by Filip Stempien and originally appeared at www.uts.edu.au

Carp Control Community Briefing Session Bathurst - Monday 27 November

Mick Callan

Central Tablelands residents are invited to attend a community briefing session hosted by the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP) and Central Tablelands Local Land Services on Monday 27 November from 6.00-8.00pm.

The community briefing session will be held at Bathurst Panthers Club (on the corner of William and Piper Street, Bathurst) and will provide participants with an opportunity to hear firsthand from the NCCP and Local Land Services as well as for local residents to contribute feedback to the plan.

The NCCP is investigating ways to control carp centered on the use of a species-specific virus known as Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (the carp virus) as a biocontrol agent, while also ensuring that risks associated with the potential use of the carp virus are identified and mitigated.

Operating through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) on behalf of the Australian Government, the $15 million NCCP initiative will provide detailed information to enable governments to make a well-informed decision on the best approach for carp control at the end of 2018.

NCCP National Coordinator Matt Barwick says waterways are the lifeblood of many rural and regional communities and they need to be rehabilitated.

“While these community briefing sessions are important for us to share the background, context and desired outcomes of the NCCP, they also provide an opportunity to hear from community members about how the prevalence of carp impact on them, their lifestyle or their business,” Mr Barwick said.

“We want to work collaboratively with the local community - as healthy river systems and waterways result in healthier communities.”

“We value the opinions and beliefs of people in the Central Tablelands region and we want to understand the ecological values of affected river systems and waterways and any likely direct or indirect impacts, be they social, environmental, economic or cultural, that may eventuate,” Mr Barwick said.

Central Tablelands Local Land Services is working with the NCCP to ensure local issues are considered in the National Carp Control Plan.

“We encourage all members of the community to participate in this briefing session and ask any questions they may have in relation the plan.

“The NCCP is a process, not a foregone conclusion so we encourage residents to share their thoughts and opinions and help shape the recommendations to government,” said Senior Land Services Officer, Casey Proctor.

This event is one of more than 40 community briefing sessions which will be held in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, the ACT, Queensland and Western Australia in coming months.

The community briefing session will cover research underpinning carp biocontrol, and summarise work underway under the NCCP and what is yet to come. Central Tablelands Local Land Services will provide an update on the issue of carp in our region and a question and answer session will end the evening.

A workshop will be held prior to the community briefing session to allow representatives from key stakeholder groups to inform the NCCP about the prevalence of carp in local waterways, how the waterways are being used by the community and the benefits or impacts carp reduction may have on the community.

To find out where other community briefing sessions are being held and to be kept up to date on the NCCP please visit www.carp.gov.au.