PORT of Newcastle has promised an investigation following a controversial attempted cull of the cats living at the Stockton breakwall.

Community groups reported late last week finding several cats injured from gunshot wounds as well as “trails of blood”.

The Stray Cat Project, which has been working with the cat colony for several years, said it managed to reduce the colony from 100 felines to around 40, something apparently achieved via a trap-neuter-release program and also rehoming of some cats.

The group said it was not consulted by the port prior to the cull taking place and numerous cats were still missing.

The Port of Newcastle said in a statement that it commissioned the attempt to cull the feral cat population that took place on 17 December.

“Port of Newcastle has been seeking to humanely remove the cats from the Stockton breakwall for many years in order to keep the site safe for our community, protect native flora and fauna and align with government advice on the issue,” the statement said.

However, given the outcome of this activity was “distressing”, the port suspended all animal control activities on 18 December and engaged an expert to urgently look for any other injured animals and get them assessed. This will continue throughout the week.

The port has also committed to covering the cost of the veterinary bill of the injured cat taken to Mayfield Veterinary Hospital.

The contractor engaged by the Port of Newcastle was required to ensure that all animal control activity was done “safely, humanely, professionally and in strict accordance with the law”, according to the port.

“The outcome is distressing and does not meet our expectations nor align with the values of the organisation.

“The Port has launched an investigation and is engaging external experts to examine all aspects of the activity,” the statement said.