Pest Species on the WCL
Pest species are plants and animals that have negative environmental, economic and social impacts and are most commonly introduced species. Pests can have impacts across the range of park values, including impacts on biodiversity, cultural heritage, and scenic values. The Lower North Coast Pest Management Strategy 2012–17 (OEH 2012) identifies pest species across the region’s parks and details priorities for control, including actions listed in the Biodiversity Priorities for Widespread Weeds (NSW DPI & OEH 2011), Threatened Species Priority Actions Statement and threat abatement plans prepared under the TSC Act.
The overriding objective of the pest management strategy is to minimise adverse impacts of introduced species on biodiversity and other park and community values whilst complying with legislative responsibilities. The pest management strategy also identifies where other site-specific or pest-specific plans or strategies need to be developed to provide a more detailed approach.
Introduced animals present in the WCL include foxes, cats and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Wild dogs (Canis lupus subspp.) are present in the WCL from time to time. This reflects fluctuations in the wild dog population within the broader Port Stephens region in response to successive favourable seasons. Foxes and cats threaten small mammal populations in the forested areas of the WCL, and shorebird populations, including the threatened little tern and pied oystercatcher. Foxes suppress native animal populations, particularly medium-sized ground-dwelling and semi-arboreal mammals, ground-nesting birds and freshwater turtles. Foxes have also been implicated in the spread of a number of weed species such as bitou bush and blackberry (Rubus fruticosus agg.) and are known to prey on domestic stock.
Predation by the European red fox was declared a key threatening process in 1998 under the TSC Act. The NSW Fox Threat Abatement Plan (Fox TAP) (OEH 2011b) was initiated in 2001 and revised in 2010 with the primary objective of establishing long-term control programs to protect priority threatened fauna species and populations. Foxes are being controlled at priority sites across NSW to protect biodiversity.
Vertebrate pest control in the WCL has focused on fox control. This is part of a cooperative program stemming from participation in the Port Stephens Feral Animal Management Committee, and dates back to efforts to protect koala populations in the Port Stephens area. Sites in the WCL are also being considered for baiting as part of the Fox TAP program, given the threat posed to beach nesting shorebird species.
Wild dogs, including dingoes, are a declared pest under the Local Land Services Act 2013 due to their impacts on livestock. The Board therefore has a statutory obligation to control wild dogs on the WCL. The fluctuating population, impacts on livestock, neighbouring residential areas and the need for a cooperative, cross-tenure approach are factors to be considered.