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The new guard: the arrival and impacts of cats and foxes

Abbott, I.J., Peacock, D. and Short, J. (2014) The new guard: the arrival and impacts of cats and foxes. In: Glen, A. and Dickman, C., (eds.) Carnivores of Australia : past, present and future. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Vic, Australia, pp. 69-104.


Even though cats (Felis catus) had occupied mainland Australia and several of its larger islands before the fox (Vulpes vulpes), the evidence that feral cats on mainland Australia were the primary cause of declines of native fauna is indefinite and still subject to dispute. Proponents of a significant impact by feral cats argue that there were two waves of extinction of native fauna: an earlier one focused on the smaller medium-sized mammals (such as many of the larger rodents amid small bandicoots) and confined largely to arid and semi-arid Australia; amid a later one, initialled by the spread of the fox, that engulfed a broader suite of species (including many of the smaller wallabies and rat-kangaroos) and occurred in most ecosystems in southern Australia. Others argue that purported declines of native fauna before colonisation by the fox either did not occur or can be parsimoniously explained by other factors, especially disease. In contrast to the ambiguities and uncertainties regarding the role of the cat, the later role of the fox in the widespread decline and extinction of native species of mammal and bird seems unequivocal. Interpretations of decline have been hindered by sparse historical records, particularly records of occurrence based on vouchered specimens of cats, foxes and native mammals and birds in museums, but have been augmented in recent times by the collation of in formation published in newspapers or held in archives. These have clarified our understanding of when and where declines took place. We present 10 regional case studies and discuss the timing of declines of native species in terms of the establishment of cats and foxes, as well as rabbits (which provide prey for cats and foxes, and compete with native herbivores).

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
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