The cat-proof fence that now divides Kangaroo Island at its narrowest point is almost complete.
The cat eradication program is well underway at the east end of the island and the electrified fence is intended to prevent cats from entering the east end when complete.
The full length of the fence has been installed, two of the three designated openings along the fence have now been closed, leaving the gaps between Hog ââBay Road and Pelican Lagoon.
Workers are still putting the finishing touches on the fence before the official opening.
Residents fear the now-closed fence may appear to have negative effects on kangaroos and potentially other native wildlife.
Questions also remain about how native wildlife and vehicles will interact at the openings of Hog Bay Road alone.
The Kangaroo Island Landscape Board is pleased with the progress, however, and is comfortable with any impact on native wildlife.
General manager Will Durack said the fence is about to be officially opened next month.
“As the lead agency for the feral cat eradication program, the KI Landscape Board has worked hard to plan and execute the fence so as to minimize impacts on native animals, while ensuring the success of the eradication program. cats, âhe said.
“This was done in conjunction with the RSPCA. During the construction of the fence, we also closely monitored the behavior of the animals and are not currently concerned with welfare issues.”
The feral cat steering committee, which includes representatives from the RSPCA, community members and other experts, oversees the entire cat eradication program, he said.
Local landowner Indiana James has been monitoring kangaroo movements for nearly five years, building its census and database.
A major concern for him and other landowners was the kangaroos being forced down the road and the only gaps in the fence.
Kangaroos traditionally moved around the area to access water and it was not uncommon to see 20 or more crossing the road each day, he said.
“I think the fence openings should be left open until the impact on the movement of kangaroos and other wildlife can be properly monitored,” Mr James said.
He would like to see data collected by authorities on the number of road fatalities, and his research indicated that there was not much official data available.
Landscape Board experts were of the opinion that the 20-meter gaps on either side of the road would be enough for kangaroos to move without using the roadway. The council is also exploring a range of technologies for use away from the road.
KI’s council and the state’s Department of Transportation discussed vegetation clearing and speed limits along this section of Hog Bay Road, but it was not clear if any progress had been made.
The islander asked about the movement of native wildlife during the fence planning process in 2019.
Here’s our past coverage of the fence:
At the time, state government agencies said the loopholes would initially be left open to allow movement of wildlife.
And that they would be monitored with cameras and potentially armed with technology targeting cats.
“Spaces will be left in the fence to allow native animals, including kangaroos to cross, as well as for Hog Bay Road, the main east-west road of the island. The movement of cats in the spaces will be monitored for sight. to study various technologies to ultimately stop crossing cats, âthe agencies said at the time.
The decision had now been made to close the doors to advance the cat eradication mission.
Mr Durack said his agency had observed that “the kangaroos quickly realize that there is a fence there and find where to travel to get around them, as they do with the many fences around the island.” .
“The people involved in this program are experts in their field,” said Mr. Durack.
Likewise, the board was not concerned about kangaroos or other native wildlife tumbling down the cliff face where the fence ends at its southern end at the edge of the cliff.
Mr James was also curious if there had been any evidence, photographic or otherwise, of cats moving through the gaps in the fence since construction began.
His take was that the fence was also impacting other native wildlife on the ground, such as goannas and wallabies.
The KI Landscape Board was in the midst of its process of eradicating cats from the Dudley Peninsula and Mr Durack was pleased with its progress.
Cats were much more difficult to eradicate than pigs, currently targeted at the West End, or goats which were successfully eradicated about three years ago.
The council took a slow and systematic approach, eradicating the cats from the Dudley Peninsula in a line that constantly moved west towards the fence.
An overhanging roof and electrical wires on the west side of the fence were meant to prevent cats from returning to Dudley Peninsula.
The idea then was to start eradicating cats at the western end of the island, he said.
Regardless of the impact of feral cats on native wildlife, the agricultural industry also wants feral cats to be eradicated as they are the main vectors of several diseases such as toxoplasmosis and sarcocystosis that hit farmers’ pockets hard.