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Habitat use in a population of mainland Tasmanian feral cats, Felis catus

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Schwarz, E (1995) Habitat use in a population of mainland Tasmanian feral cats, Felis catus. Honours thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This study examined various aspects of the spatial ecology and diet of a mainland
Tasmanian population of feral domestic cats, Felis catus, to provide data relevant to
planning and implementing feral cat control programs.
Radio telemetry was used to quantify home ranges in three cats, two males and one
female. Home ranges were relatively small for wild living feral cats, mean range
area being 125 ha for males and 35 hectares for females. Home range size varied
seasonally in males but not in females. Increases in male home range area, unusual
movements and changes in den use occurred in July and August indicating this to be
the mating season. Male cats ranged widely in search of receptive females.
Home range overlap varied extensively depending on sex and season. Inter-sexual
overlap was extensive, all cats overlapped with at least one cat of the opposite sex.
Intra-sexual overlap between males varied between the non-mating and mating
season. Overlap was extensive in the non-mating season with adult males sharing
core areas. However, overlap in the mating season was minimal and restricted to the
edges of ranges. This suggested that seasonal territoriality occurred between the
males in response to competition for a limited number of female cats.
Feral cats exhibited habitat preferences favouring habitats which included at least
some ground cover and avoiding habitat where ground cover was absent, even where
prey was abundant. Patchy type habitats were the most utilised and was favoured for
foraging activity. This reflected prey availability in those areas, and the cover which
the habitat provides for hunting. Dense habitat was favoured for the location of den
sites.
The feral cats at Sandford were active throughout the period between dusk and dawn,
while little activity occurred during the day. Distances travelled per hour were
greatest at dawn and dusk, probably indicating that the (male) cats were moving to and from foraging areas as opposed to actively hunting. Hunting probably occurs
throughout the night, as the main prey species were nocturnal not crepuscular.
The diet of the feral cats at Sandford was dominated by introduced mammals, in
particular rabbits. However, diet did not reflect prey availability. The occurrence of
~mall native mammals in the diet was not consistent with their apparent abundance
in the study area. This indicated that cats may selectively prey on these species.
The study concluded that the control of feral cat populations on a large scale in
mainland Tasmania is not justifiable. However, selective control may be necessary
and beneficial in special cases, such as to protect seabird rookeries and vulnerable or
endangered populations of native animals.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Keywords: Schwarz, E
Additional Information:

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Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2014 01:19
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2017 01:06
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