In an interesting development in Australia’s long-standing war against feral cats, the authorities have trained a border terrier dog whose name is Marbee to track down feral cats whereupon they are captured and euthanised.
This is probably not the first time a dog has been used in this way but it certainly is the first time that I have run into it on the Internet and perhaps the first time an Australian local authority has done it. Phillip Island is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state of Victoria, Australia. It is about 140 km south of Melbourne. The feral cat population is considered high on the island.
At the moment Marbee is a puppy but she will be fully trained in 12 to 18 months time. She will be the island’s first cat detection dog. The authorities want to eradicate feral cats from the island completely. I can understand this. Although the impact upon wildlife by feral cats is ofen exaggerated especially by Australians; on islands, feral cats have caused more wildlife damage than on the mainland. That has to be admitted even by cat lover. Although it needs to be also admitted that feral cats are only there because of the carelessness of people who once lived on the island.
Like any dog trained to sniff something out, Marbee has been trained to smell the scent of a cat. The report on ABC News Australia states that feral cats have been “implicated in” 28 of the last 29 mammal extinctions in Australia. I find that hard to believe and the online newspaper does not provide any supporting evidence. The word “implicated” is a way of hinting that cats caused the extinctions without saying it more connclusively. I hope too that feral cats are not the only targets for conservation. What sort of impact have people made on wildlife on the island?
I’m pleased to note, however, that the authorities will check any cat caught to ensure that they are not trapping and killing someone’s domestic cat companion. They will be referring cats that look as though they are owned to the local council who can check on their database and if necessary return them to their owners.
They openly state that feral cats will be “humanely euthanised” as part of the Nature Park’s program using “State Government approved techniques”. I hope and assume that the process is genuinely humane.
However, I would like to read some details about how Marbee indicates that she has located a feral cat and how thereafter they manage to trap the cats. It seems to me that when a dog approaches a feral cat that the feral cat is likely to run away. It’s all very well for a dog to locate a cat but what happens next? That will be the difficult part of the operation. There is a dearth of information about this process.