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Control of feral cats for nature conservation. III. Trapping

Short, J., Turner, B. and Risbey, D. (2002) Control of feral cats for nature conservation. III. Trapping. Wildlife Research, 29 (5). pp. 475-487.

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We present comparative success of various trapping methods trialed during control of feral cats at a site for the reintroduction of threatened mammals at Shark Bay, Western Australia. Our results come from 31 703 trap-nights that caught 263 cats (an average of 0.83 per 100 trap-nights). Cats differed markedly in their vulnerability to trapping depending on whether they primarily scavenged at rubbish tips or around human settlement or whether they hunted for their food in the bush. Cage traps were an effective means of controlling the former, with 9.4 cats captured per 100 trap-nights. Scavenging cats included a higher proportion of sub-adults and kittens and lower proportion of adult males than hunting cats. Variation between years in capture success for hunting cats was largely explained by the abundance of rabbits relative to that of cats and whether the rabbit population was increasing or decreasing. These factors accounted for a nine-fold difference in trap success. The number of cats caught in any particular trapping session could be explained by location (rubbish tip or town versus bush), trapping effort (typically greater effort yielded higher captures), abundance of cats at the site (captures were highest when cats were abundant), and season (captures were highest in the first half of the year when the young of the year were becoming independent). Concealed foot-hold traps, in a range of possible sets, provided effective methods for capturing cats that hunt, except where capture of non-target species was a critical limiting factor. Cage traps caught cats at a comparable rate to foot-hold traps for standard sets, but caught a significantly different cohort. Concealed foot-hold traps caught a higher percentage of adult cats, particularly males, than did cage traps. Mouse carcases and rabbit pieces were significantly more effective as lures when rabbits (the major food of cats at the site) were at low densities, whereas the success of commercial scent lures was unrelated to food availability. Significantly more cats than expected were caught using food as an attractant at times of food shortage (late summer, autumn and early winter) for both scavenging and hunting cats. In contrast, scent lures caught significantly more cats than expected in spring and summer when cats were defending access to mates and/or territory. Hence, no single trap type, trap set, or lure provided unequivocally superior performance over others. Control is likely to be best achieved by a variety of trapping methods and lure types used in combination, supplementing well timed poisoning efforts. Trap success is likely to be maximised by trapping at times when the dominant prey of cats are scarce relative to the number of cats and are decreasing in abundance.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
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