Conservation dogs deployed in the fight against feral cats in the Otways

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Dogs have long been portrayed as cats’ mortal enemies, but one dog in particular has been training-up to help in the fight against feral cats in the Otways region of Victoria by sniffing out their scats.

Escorted by his handler Fiona from Skylos Ecology, Sonny has notched up 12 days of sniffing on his mission, to find out more about how his feline nemeses are using and exploiting the forests and heathlands of the Otways.

Across Australia cats kill 1.4 billion native animals every year and the Otways is home to a feral cat population density more than three times the national average.

Part of the problem in the Otways is that the rugged nature of the landscape and thick vegetation gives cats plenty of places to hide, making them hard to find, let alone study, or control.

The data collected from Sonny’s hard work will provide a more dynamic picture of feral cat ecosystem use than camera traps alone, offering valuable insights into cat diet, movement, sheltering behaviour and genetics, providing an important addition to the feral cat monitoring kit.

Sonny’s deployment is being funded through the Community Grants of the Australian Government’s Wild Otways Initiative, and complements the Fox and Cat Management Program, being undertaken by the Conservation Ecology Centre under the same scheme.