From Western Australia comes yet more proof that recreational hunters can form part of a cost-effective strategy for reducing the impact of feral animal species in regional areas. The ‘Red Card’ program is a co-ordinated, community-based pest control program that draws together the respective resources of hunters, local government, farmers and rural businesses to cull thousands of foxes, feral cats and rabbits each year. Not only that, the Red Card program raises money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service at the same time. You wouldn’t think there’d be too many people who could object to such a program – yet the WA state government continues to make it more expensive and more difficult to own a firearm in that state.
According to the latest report from Red Card, the program has been running for about 10 years in the south-west of Western Australia. Community and sporting groups, local governments and individual landholders come together to run the program. On certain weekends in autumn, culling of foxes, feral cats and rabbits occurs at the same time, maximising the impact of the effort.
In 2014, the ‘Stockbrands Community Fox Shoot Weekends’ were held over 56 shires in the south-west of Western Australia in February and March. In some localities there were two events, while others held one. Altogether there were 29 co-ordinated events on the February weekend, and 31 co-ordinated events in March. Over just those two weekends this year, there were 9774 feral animals culled: 4538 foxes, 394 feral cats, 4842 rabbits. Truly an outstanding and inspiring effort.
Since 2008, the Stockbrands company (they sell livestock identification systems) have been involved in the Red Card activities because they are concerned about the damage that foxes and feral cats cause to the native wildlife. The company provides extra incentive for hunters to become involved by donating $5 for every fox and feral cat culled to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Prior to 2014, $101,000 dollars had been raised. Hats off to Stockbrands!
The two weekends also represent many volunteer hours by the co-ordinators. In a general survey asking people to provide information on their experience with Red Card, it was estimated that it took at least 16 hours of volunteer time to co-ordinate a fox shoot event. This represents at least 960 hours of volunteer work, which at $25/hour equates to $24,000 worth of labour. As well as that, it is conservatively estimated that 1069 shooters are engaged. Making a rough estimate that each community shooter put in 8 hours of labour, this equates to 8552 hours. At $25/hour, that’s a further $213,800 worth of labour. All up that’s nearly a quarter of a million dollars of free labour donated by recreational hunters and their supporters in the name of pest management – not to mention the other costs of travel, equipment, ammunition and so forth.
Autumn is considered to be a good time to target foxes in particular as young foxes are finding new territory so there are plenty of foxes to be seen in the paddocks. In addition, farmers are preparing to lamb and are keen to reduce predators, while most paddocks are bare enabling foxes, feral cats and rabbits to be seen more easily.
Along with the Stockbrands Community Fox Shot Weekends, Red Card holds a HOTBAITING period, which in 2014 ran from February 15 to April 15. During the Hotbaiting Period, landholders are encouraged to control foxes and rabbits using 1080 baiting. Baiting is also effective in autumn because there is minimal feed around, which increases the likelihood of pests taking the baits, and the young foxes have not yet got their “street smarts”.
Overall the program is a wonderful example of what can be achieved in terms of pest management when like-minded people put their heads together. It should illustrate to the WA government the contribution that recreational hunters are willing and able to make to assisting our rural industries and native wildlife. If you live in WA and you’d like to get involved, you can do so HERE. Alternatively, if you’d like to congratulate Stockbrands on their involvement you can do so HERE.