Nature Stuff

What’s a feral animal, really?

Most people think they know what a feral animal is. They talk about cats and foxes living in the Australian bush as feral animals. According to the true definition, wild cats living in the bush are likely to be feral, but not the foxes. So what’s the real story?

Feral Pigeon

Feral Pigeon

A feral animal is one which has escaped captivity or domestication and gone on to survive in the wild without assistance. So a cat which has stopped returning to its human carers and settled into living wild in the bush can be called feral. Likewise, the pigeons we see living wild, like the one in the photo above, are the result of homing pigeons escaping domestication and establishing wild populations. They qualify as being called feral.

Cane Toad

The Cane Toad is an introduced species. Photographed in south-east Queensland


The rabbit can be part feral and part introduced

By comparison, foxes were always meant to look after themselves when they were released into the Aussie landscape. They were put there deliberately. So they don’t fit the true definition. Instead, they are defined as introduced animals.

Now I’ve said that, I don’t think anyone’s going to get upset if you call foxes feral animals, because introduced animals and feral animals have a lot in common, and sometimes the line which separates them is difficult to find. For example, introduced and feral animals can interbreed.


A lot of Australians are surprised when they see a wild deer. I sure know I was when I saw this one. This was in the Southern Highlands region of NSW. Australian wild deer are an introduced species


The Indian Myna is another introduced species in Australia

Some escaped pet rabbits, for example, if they can survive attacks by dogs and cats might go on to live in the wild (feral) then breed with wild individuals (which were introduced). So that not only helps to muck up the Australian environment, but also mucks up a precise definition for them! So, like I said, I don’t think anyone’s going to get upset if you see a rabbit in the Australian bush and call it feral.

Some examples of feral animals in Australia


Looks like a rabbit, but it’s actually a hare. Hares are another animal introduced to Australia. This one was in south-east Queensland.

Some examples of introduced animals in Australia

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