Vertebrate pests

Vertebrate pests – an overview:

Vertebrate pests include birds, mammals, or reptiles that cause damage to agricultural crops. A number of introduced animals – including rabbits, feral cats, foxes, house mice, wild dogs, Indian Myna, and pigs – have established large and widespread populations in Australia and are pests to crops and livestock.

Types and damage caused:


Include Indian palm squirrel; long-haired or plague rat; and mice. Significant damage is caused by mice plagues. They attack all cereal and grain crops, as well as many vegetables and fruits.

Native and exotic animal pests

Include bats; possums; and ferrets. Commonly damaged vegetable crops include broccoli, tomatoes, capsicum, celery, lettuce.

Feral cats

These are domestic cats which survive and reproduce without close association to humans. However, their status is variable and feral cats may live either in close proximity to human habitation or be completely isolated in the bush.


Or the red foxes are pest animals and known to kill livestock, particularly the young, and also damage vegetable and fruit crops.


Feral or wild populations of rabbits selectively feed on certain species of plants at critical stages of development such as seeding and seedling establishment. Vegetables often targeted include beans, peas, beet, broccoli, carrot, lettuce, and herbs like parsley.

Feral pigs

Feral pigs are the descendants of domestic pigs that escaped and have bred in the wild. They spread widely and rapidly throughout the northern and eastern regions of the country, creating considerable amounts of damage wherever they became established. They rest and shelter in crops, eat crops during harvest time, trample pasture, and cause serious soil disturbance when they uproot large tracts of ground – often new crops – in search of roots and young plant shoots.

Wild dogs

Wild dogs can be a major pest threatening livestock and production in Australia.


Include cockatoos; other parrots; and Indian Myna. Pest bird problems are increasing in Australia, particularly with recent expansions in the grape and wine industry, together with the olive industry. More than 20 species of birds conflict with primary production by significantly reducing the profitability of a wide range of crops in horticultural industries.

Pest management:

There are a range of methods available to control feral animals. However, ensure you check which methods are legal in your state or territory.
  • Methods of pest bird control include non-lethal techniques such as scaring devices, chemical repellents, habitat manipulation, use of decoy food sources, and exclusion netting.
  • Feral cats are widespread throughout Australia, and therefore, no large-scale control methods can be applied to them. However, traditional control measures such as shooting and trapping can be used.
  • Baiting, trapping, shooting, exclusion fencing, and adoption of good animal husbandry practices are some of the methods to manage and control wild dogs.
  • Fox populations are very resilient to conventional methods of control. Rapid re-invasion of areas occurs after control measures are applied. A control program must ensure that all of the species is at risk from the control measures chosen. Effective control integrates a knockdown effect from large-scale poisoning programs combined with den fumigation; exclusion fencing; strategic shooting; and appropriate animal husbandry.
  • An integrated rabbit control (IRC) program is the combination of several measures used to achieve long-term results which is used to minimise the rabbit impact. Poisoning; removal of above ground surface harbour (fallen timber, log heaps, rocks, introduced weeds, briars, and discarded building/fencing materials); warren destruction (rabbits need burrows to breed and survive predators); fumigation; night shooting; and trapping.

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