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Sometimes pest managers encounter unusual pests, ones that require a specific, targeted approach when it comes to control. Australian Feral Management offers its services to pest managers for those times when a little specialist assistance is required.

Owner of Australian Feral Management (AFM) Steve Cope has been helping to manage Sydney’s pigeon population for over 30 years. Feral pigeon control represents one of AFM’s key areas of expertise and the company is often contracted by pest control firms that provide commercial, industrial and local government pest management services. AFM steps in to assist with the control of avian and other vertebrate pests in particularly challenging circumstances.

Pigeons are more than just a nuisance. Many pest managers find their clients are keen to reduce bird numbers because of their links to diseases such as pigeon ornithosis, encephalitis, aspergillosis, as well as mite problems – all of which have adverse effects on humans.

In Mr Cope’s experience, pigeons – and other feral urban pests – can be successfully controlled through strategic culling.

As Mr Cope sees it, the best solution for controlling avian pests is one that keeps costs down without compromising on results. Pest managers who engage his services can meet their costs while ensuring that their clients are supplied with the most effective solution.

“Culling offers great client savings,” said Mr Cope. “With other methods like netting, the cost can be in the thousands. We’ve found that between one and three culls is all that’s needed to remove pigeon flocks upwards of 80 birds. With follow-up services as needed – generally every three to six months – the site is kept under control,” he said.

But AFM does not solely specialise in pigeon control, it provides contract feral pest management services for a wide range of birds, urban foxes, feral cats and rabbits.

AFM utilises a wide range of feral pest management techniques including shooting, trapping, proofing and baiting with alphachloralose, 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) and pindone, applying the best method for the pest at hand, the situation and the client. Modern technology is used alongside traditional methods for maximum effectiveness. A thermal imaging camera and night-vision scope is used to shoot under the cover of darkness.

Culling is a cost-effective method of controlling problem birds

A pest manager with a specific feral pest problem will engage AFM’s services on a contract basis. The advantage, Mr Cope believes, is that the pest manager can call on AFM to offer as little or as much support as needed in order for the feral pests to come under control, whether it’s giving advice or assuming control of the site on the pest manager’s behalf.

“AFM will be your contractor under your control,” said Mr Cope. “If your clients look elsewhere for help, they may find another pest manager who will try and pinch your clients. That’s not our style – and we don’t do insect pest control. By engaging our services to help with feral pests, pest managers can retain their clients, offer additional specialist services and keep their customers happy.”

A key part of the AFM service is following up a culling program by providing a post-service report that details the outcomes. Daniel Buckley at Waratah Environmental Services said, “The detailed post-service report is really handy, and I can stay abreast of the service outcomes.”

After nearly four decades in the business, Mr Cope has seen it all. His family’s firm was sold to Rentokil in the mid eighties and Mr Cope developed and sold several successful pest control businesses himself while retaining AFM. He cautions against poor practices in the business of pest control, including breaches of the rearms regulations.

“We have seen the damage from part-time shooters – they are using cheap .177 or .22 calibre air rifles. The problem is that these small projectiles travel very quickly, tearing through the bird and the roof sheets behind,” said Mr Cope.

The team at AFM uses a large, high quality, silenced .25 calibre rifle made in the US. “The upside with this unit is the larger, heavier, wider projectile, which travels slower and will not exit a pigeon punching holes in your clients roofing sheets,” explained Mr Cope. “Plus, the firearm is in the hands of a full-time shooter – that’s all he does every day, so he is an accurate shot.”

Mr Cope warns that he has seen an alarming trend of pest control shooters who are in breach of the Firearm Act 1996 as they are not properly licensed or trained to discharge a rearm in a public, commercial or industrial space. “Not only is this illegal and potentially dangerous, it can place your business at risk,” commented Mr Cope. “Our clients recognise the benefits of hiring an expert in the field. It achieves a better result, reduces risk and stress, and keeps their customer happy.”

For well over 15 years AFM was the only rm in Sydney and Wollongong providing pest management of urban fox, feral cats, rabbits and all birds. While new feral pest management companies may have sprung up in recent years Mr Cope knows that a pest manager looking for a reliable contractor will seek out someone with skill, knowledge and expertise, all of which AFM provides its customers with daily.