CAT-astrophic impacts on arid zone fauna

Developer 2 (MM) - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cats are the perfect predator for small animals. They have evolved efficient techniques to catch and kill animals and are now found across Australia, in all environments. Feral control will assist in decreasing the numbers of feral cats around significant populations of native mammals, but understanding of the problem and the impact that cats can have on our native species is just as important as control.

Arid Recovery is contributing to the understanding of arid zone ecology by examining the stomach contents of all cats that have been caught near the Reserve. This joyous task of dissections, can include at times the examination of up to 10 cats in the one session. All the information collected goes into a database that has been used since Arid Recovery’s inception.

Image courtesy of John Read, this image shows the stomach contents of 23 cats shot in March in the APY Lands.

“We work together to weigh and sex the animals, before carefully slicing them open using a scalpel. Once the skin has broken through and the stomach is located amongst the other organs it is sliced open and the content is pulled out and examined, ensuring the stomach is completely empty before the animal is disposed of at our designated carcass dump”. Says Cat Lynch, Arid Recovery’s ecologist who generally coordinates ‘D-day’ explains how the dissections are performed

“The stomach content is sorted through very carefully, with distinguishing features such as tails, feet and heads are used for identification”. 

In the past year Arid Recovery has dissected 131 feral cats with their stomach contents containing a total of 291 mammals, 44 reptiles and 3 birds.

This averages out to at least two small animals for every feral cat.

It is estimated the feral cat population of Australia is currently between 15 and 20 million animals, and if each of these cats are eating one to two small animals each, that could be 30 to 40 million individual animals we lose EVERY DAY! 

For more information on feral cats see our feral cat fact sheet: http://www.aridrecovery.org.au/fact

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Arid recovery is a conservation initiative supported by:
bhp
adelaide university