Aerial shooting of feral animals is currently undertaken by highly trained
professional shooters within some NSW National Parks/Nature reserves as part of
feral animal control (in conjunction with other measures). Parks are closed
while this occurs and it appears to do the job quite well for control of
certain exotic, environmentally destructive species.
It is my understanding that the proposed arrangement is for non-professional
shooters being able to undertake 'sport' shooting in parks - a very different
From: Chris Sanderson
Sent: Friday, 15 April 2011 9:34 AM
To: Graeme Gallienne
It sounds like we are arguing two different points here. My point, which it
sounds like you agree with, was that hunting animals for sport has no place
in national parks and shouldn't be allowed to drive government decisions on
the environment. Your point was slightly different, that professional
marksmen could be hired to complete feral animal reduction and eradication
campaigns in reserves to improve their conservation value.
Briefly touching on my point - I was arguing this because that was what was
raised in regards to the discussion of the shooters party in NSW. It sounds
like others are continuing this discussion on the list so I won't add
anything further at this stage.
Your point bears a bit more careful thought. There are a few things to
consider when trying to control feral animals in a region. Control method
is a big one, both in terms of effectiveness and cost. Land managers have a
number of options in deciding what control methods to use. Shooting (direct
control) is one. Poisoning is one, and currently the most used method.
Others include live trapping (then euthanising or in the case of camels
shipping to an abattoir), exclusion fencing, and occasionally biological
control. Obviously each of these has its own pros and cons. The
effectiveness of a control method trails off as you remove more of the
So with shooting, the first visit to a reserve will probably be quite
productive, but as more animals are removed, the harder it gets to actually
find them, and the remaining animals get smarter and more gun-shy. Survival
of the fittest and all. Shooting is also very expensive. If there are
10,000 animals, and each bullet costs $1, and you are paying the shooters
say $20/hr for their time (probably an underestimate for a government
contract engaging specialists), plus the cost of wages for any parks staff
supervising the process, plus administration involved in closing the parks,
it all builds up very quickly to being extremely expensive. There is also
the question of effectiveness. A study in the 90s of feral Pig culls in NSW
conducted by helicopter (very very expensive!) removed between 65% and 80%
of pigs from the target area. In the following 12 months they estimated
numbers recovered by 77% (http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WR9930771).
Cats are worse, as they are naturally gun-shy and very difficult to find.
I believe direct control of horses and goats can have good success,
particularly if done from helicopters. Direct control of toads and rabbits
is nearly impossible, as they breed too quickly (a single female Cane Toad
can lay 50,000 eggs in one season, you literally can't kill enough of them
to have an impact).
Poison is currently favoured because of the combination of being relatively
cheap, and relatively effective. I.E. you get more impact on ferals for
each $ you spend. There are of course moral arguments to be made here.
There is no such thing as a kind poison, though some are worse than others.
There are risks of collateral damage (non-target species being poisoned),
and secondary poisoning (native predators eating poisoned animals). However
there are examples such as from New Zealand, where 100% of rodents and
mustelids have been removed from islands through poisoning. For most
species it is just more effective than any other control type. It is often
used against rabbits, though the risk of secondary poisoning is very high.
It is particularly good against canids like Foxes and wild dogs as they
will take often quite rancid baits, and will dig for food which helps reduce
collateral impacts. Cats mostly only take live food though, so poisoning is
out for them too.
Live trapping is not cost effective. Someone has to run the traps and check
them regularly, and that costs a lot of money. However it does nearly
completely remove the risk of non-target species being harmed, as you can
just release any native that gets trapped by accident. Combined with
baiting traps, you can target particular groups quite well. This method
works well for wild dogs, and even for cats. Trials in Canberra have also
had some success with Indian Mynas, where attempts to poison would be
disastrous for our natives, and shooting is not practical given the urban
Biological control is problematic. The first issue is that biological
control by definition cannot be 100% effective. You are looking for a
natural agent that keeps the population low, like a disease or a predator,
but these natural processes will not wipe out the animal. For diseases,
once immunity is in the population it will spread and the numbers will climb
again, as has happened with rabbits post-myxomatosis and calici virus. For
predators you are introducing a new animal into the environment, with no
idea how it will impact on native species. Sometimes insect and fungal
agents are also used, and these appear to have more success, but again are
not necessarily going to work they way they were intended when released. A
friend of mine spent his PhD investigating the impact of an insect released
to control Lantana. Only the buggers didn't control Lantana, but instead
started living on Fiddlewood, a popular garden plant! The "classic"
biocontrol story, that of Prickly Pear and Cactoblastis moth, is
particularly ironic. It turns out that it wasn't the moth that actually
saved the day, but a fungus accidentally introduced with the moth. The
moths alone would have made the problems worse as they just fragment the
plant, but Prickly Pear can regenerate from even small fragments, meaning
the moth would just have spread the problem further, and made the plant
infestations more dense. The fungus however actually killed the plants and
brought their population back to manageable. Of course it was the moth that
spread the fungus, but are happy accidents like these worth relying on when
they could just as easily have introduced a fungus that kills Eucalypts (and
if you think that is far-fetched, check out
Anyway, the point here is that each control method is fraught, and anyone
managing a property has to make a decision on three fronts: how much money
do you want to spend, how much collateral damage to natives are you willing
to cause, and how effective do you want your control to be? While I agree
shooting has the potential to be of benefit, at the cost of hiring
professionals it is probably too expensive, and the potential cost of
allowing amateurs/sporting hunters into National Parks in terms of
collateral damage may be too great to bear. There is a time and a place for
each control measure I mentioned, and no doubt shooters will be used from
time to time, particularly for aerial culls of pigs, horses and goats, where
positive benefits have been proven. I don't doubt there are people like
Wesley out there who actually care whether they kill a rabbit or a Kangaroo,
but there are a lot more out there who don't, and how on earth are Parks
staff meant to know the difference? And that is without getting into issues
of whether lead shot is used, potential noise impacts on natives, damage to
sensitive habitats from numbers of people moving through and so on.
Anyway, hope this hasn't been too boring for people. It's only a very
brief, mostly layman treatment of the subject (I am definitely no expert on
feral control), but hopefully people have a better idea of the options now.
ps. please do check out the DPI link on Myrtle Rust (
http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/4790_19791.htm), it is a truly frightening plant
disease making its way into QLD right now.
On Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 7:01 PM, Graeme Gallienne <>wrote:
> Hi Chris,
> I totally agree with Point A in your email - we definitely don't need any
> new animals introduced to our country and I'm not supporting that, nor am I
> supporting the Shooters Party, I'm merely trying to get birders to see a
> different side of the story.
> In relation to Point B, I think you missed my point where I said shooting
> in National Parks, if ever allowed by any Government, would need to be
> strictly controlled and the only shooters permitted should be specially
> licensed. I expect NPWS would have stringent rules and these would be
> overseen by NPWS staff. I'm not in favour of just any shooter having
> access, it would have to be a contractor, paid per carcass produced and who
> undertook a rigid examination of his ability to 1. Identify his target and
> 2. Hold his trigger finger and nerve until the target has been identified -
> something akin to a police sharp-shooter or army sniper. It wouldn't be
> their hobby/sport, it would be their income. There are shooters out there
> that are that good - international competition grade and Olympic grade. I
> don't believe feral animals can ever be eradicated either but they can be
> reduced and that would give native wildlife a fighting chance. We once had
> a feral dog baiting program run by QPWS and Gold Coast City Council in our
> area - it didn't work - the feral dog numbers didn't change and I later on
> found out that Spotted Quolls are susceptible to 1080, the poison used,
> something we were not told at the information session. I will not support
> another one as Spotted Quoll Scats have since been found at a neighbouring
> property in our road. Also for the record, we have lost 6 calves to feral
> I was at a meeting yesterday on behalf of our bird club about wetlands -
> one of the speakers produced a photo of a new boardwalk being used by a
> Swamp Wallaby - great, we all thought. However, the next slide he showed
> was of a fox using the same boardwalk - these are the places, where there is
> a clear view of the target, where a sniper type shooter would be useful.
> Point C - if sharp shooters were after feral animals - why would they be
> shooting at birds? Unless of course, they were permitted to shoot Common
> Mynahs - then they would only need to be able to identify one type of bird -
> if it's not a Common Mynah don't shoot it. I am totally against duck
> shooting in any form and am glad it is illegal in Queensland - it is truly
> an unnecessary activity and should be banned Australia Wide but feral
> animals are damaging our environment and the livelihoods of farmers. Feral
> Pigs cause massive damage to the environment by digging up pastures for
> roots and leaving large bare patches where weeds such as lantana get a
> foothold, wallowing in mud along waterways and dam edges causing erosion and
> once more leaving areas for weeds to take root. I can only speak from my
> experiences but I spend large amounts of time trying to control the damage
> caused on my property and imagine that the same damage is occurring right
> across our nation.
> As an ecologist, do you have a solution to the feral animals problem?
> *From:* Chris Sanderson
> *Sent:* Thursday, 14 April 2011 5:10 PM
> *To:* Graeme Gallienne
> *Subject:* Re: [Birding-Aus] Shooters
> Hi Sandra,
> I definitely agree not all shooters are bad people, and I also believe you
> when you say birding and shooting are not mutually exclusive. My
> grandfather co-founded the Ballandean Gun Club down near Stanthorpe, and his
> wife, my grandmother, was the major influence in my life that got me into
> birds and birdwatching. That's all well and good while what you are
> shooting at is a paper or clay target. My objections start arising when I
> hear things like "want to introduce new mammals like Antelope", or "want
> permission to shoot in national parks", or "want to reintroduce a duck
> season". Seriously, forget for a minute we are talking about shooting and
> guns, and read the subtext here from an environmental point of view.
> Point A could be better phrased as "want to introduce a new and potentially
> damaging feral animal into the Australian environment" (like we really need
> any more).
> Point B could be "we want an excuse to shoot in national parks, but we'll
> never actually get rid of feral animals because then we won't be allowed
> back in anymore". Really, where is the incentive to actually remove ferals
> from an area when they can't continue their hobby/sport if they succeed?
> Assuming it could even be done, and that there wouldn't be collateral
> damage through native fauna being shot accidentally (which I highly doubt is
> possible on both counts).
> Point C, sadly, reads as "non bird experts trying to identify birds in the
> dark in a fraction of a second before pulling the trigger". The results of
> which, clearly, leave a lot to be desired currently, with Freckled Duck and
> other non-target species taking a hit.
> Honestly, I have no issues with people who want to shoot as a sport. But
> at non-living targets, in places not designated for the protection of
> wildlife, and in ways that don't further damage our environment please.
> Chris Sanderson
> On Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 2:54 PM, Graeme Gallienne <>
> Hi all,
> It seems to me that a lot of birders know nothing about shooters. I do,
> married to one - a very responsible one! Does the birding community know
> anything about how the SSAA properties are run? All the properties I know
> of in Queensland are run as NATURE REFUGES - all native wildlife is
> protected and the SSAA is happy for birders to do surveys etc on these
> properties. I know for example that Bundamba Lagoon at Ripley is on a SSAA
> property and is a site that is monitored monthly by local bird clubs.
> I have been to the SSAA property at Captain's Mountain (Milmerran) several
> times in the past few years with "The Gold Coast Gun Club" of which my
> husband is a member. I have access to the entire property in complete
> safety, the only stipulation being that I stay away from the various ranges
> - all of which are for target only shooting. In fact, if an animal such as
> a Grey Kangaroo or a bird such as an emu (and yes once when I was there an
> emu with 7 chicks walked onto the range) the entire shooting competition is
> stopped until the animal walks off the range and is at a safe distance away
> before the competition can resume. All competitions are supervised by a
> Range Officer and the rules are adhered to with every "i" dotted and "t"
> crossed to the letter of the law.
> The attitude of the club members to a "mad keen birder" in their presence
> has slowly changed over the times I have attended. To start with I was
> somewhat of a curiosity and the butt of some jokes about greenies but the
> last time I went out there (and I took a friend from my Club) (March 2011)
> lot of the shooters were even becoming interested in birds and what we were
> seeing, especially the Glossy Black Cockatoos as these are a bird they've
> heard about due to the GBC Conservancy efforts on the Gold Coast and GBC's
> are also found on the Captains Mountain property. In May, members of our
> birding club (BrisBOCA) have been invited out for the weekend, once more
> with the Gold Coast Gun Club. The subject of duck shooting is bound to
> arise but what better opportunity to change someone's viewpoint - there's
> plenty of opportunity for shooting without ducks needing to be the target
> and that's the message we need to get across - not one of banning
> responsible shooting altogether.
> It seems to me that the birding community could do more to engage with
> shooters and also possibly fishermen instead of being so negative. After
> all, we are all people who enjoy the great outdoors. Education and
> friendship wins a lot more battles than criticism and judgemental attitudes
> based on prejudices. And, on the question of feral animal control - I own
> a property and my husband and daughter have between them shot 16 feral pigs
> and 3 feral dogs in the 11 years we have lived here - no native animals
> been harmed, a lot of my property is being allowed to return to native
> vegetation and my birdlist is at 156 species, some of which are on the
> Vulnerable list. A shooter who also cares about wildlife lives here!
> Shooting in National Parks is an entirely different proposition and would
> need the park to be "closed" for a certain period if feral animal control
> was the aim. It would need to be strictly controlled and limited to
> specially licensed shooters.
> Sandra Gallienne
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