Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Rapid assessment of feral cats and other invasive mammals in Santa María key, Cuba

BORROTO, R., PLASENCIA, I. R., & ALBERNAS, J. H. 2013. Valoración rápida de gatos ferales y otros mamíferos invasores en cayo Santa María, norte de Villa Clara, Cuba. Solenodon, 11: 120-130. (In Spanish, with English abstract)

The presence of cats in touristic and natural areas was evaluated in Santa María key, North of Villa Clara, Cuba. Trapping methods in touristic areas produced a low index of 0.1 cats/trap-night, possibly due to the cat rejection of traps; however, visual counts resulted in a high index of 42.8 cats/ha, with a minimum of 1.7 cat/ha in two hotels. Trapping in natural areas was not successful due to the consumption of bait by ants, other reasons for trap failure are discussed, and the cat evaluation was indirectly evaluated. In touristic areas the dog/ha index varied from 11.3 to 0.1 and the dogs entered protected areas constantly. The presence of black rats was detected indirectly by skeletal and pellet remains in a cave and owl perchs (Tyto alba). The implication of the presence of cats and other invasive mammals in touristic areas and the importance of control and management to avoid faunal impacts in the protected area are discussed.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Cats on sand beaches

Sabino, R., R. Rodrigues, I. Costa, C. Carneiro, M. Cunha, A. Duarte, N. Faria, F.C. Ferreira, M.J. Gargaté, C. Júlio, M.L. Martins, M.B. Nevers, M. Oleastro, H. Solo-Gabriele, C. Veríssimo, C. Viegas, R.L. Whitman & J. Brandão (2014). Routine screening of harmful microorganisms in beach sands: Implications to public health. Science of The Total Environment, 472, 1062-1069.

Beaches worldwide provide recreational opportunities to hundreds of millions of people and serve as important components of coastal economies. Beach water is often monitored for microbiological quality to detect the presence of indicators of human sewage contamination so as to prevent public health outbreaks associated with water contact. However, growing evidence suggests that beach sand can harbor microbes harmful to human health, often in concentrations greater than the beach water. Currently, there are no standards for monitoring, sampling, analyzing, or managing beach sand quality. In addition to indicator microbes, growing evidence has identified pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and fungi in a variety of beach sands worldwide. The public health threat associated with these populations through direct and indirect contact is unknown because so little research has been conducted relating to health outcomes associated with sand quality. In this manuscript, we present the consensus findings of a workshop of experts convened in Lisbon, Portugal to discuss the current state of knowledge on beach sand microbiological quality and to develop suggestions for standardizing the evaluation of sand at coastal beaches. The expert group at the “Microareias 2012” workshop recommends that 1) beach sand should be screened for a variety of pathogens harmful to human health, and sand monitoring should then be initiated alongside regular water monitoring; 2) sampling and analysis protocols should be standardized to allow proper comparisons among beach locations; and 3) further studies are needed to estimate human health risk with exposure to contaminated beach sand. Much of the manuscript is focused on research specific to Portugal, but similar results have been found elsewhere, and the findings have worldwide implications.

Thursday 26 December 2013

Management preferences regarding feral cats in Hawai'i

LOHR, C. A., & LEPCZYK, C. A. (2013). Desires and Management Preferences of Stakeholders Regarding Feral Cats in the Hawaiian Islands. Conservation Biology. Article first published online: 20 DEC 2013 | DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12201

Feral cats are abundant in many parts of the world and a source of conservation conflict. Our goal was to clarify the beliefs and desires held by stakeholders regarding feral cat abundance and management. We measured people's desired abundance of feral cats in the Hawaiian Islands and identified an order of preference for 7 feral cat management techniques. In 2011 we disseminated a survey to 5407 Hawaii residents. Approximately 46% of preidentified stakeholders and 20% of random residents responded to the survey (1510 surveys returned). Results from the potential for conflict index revealed a high level of consensus (86.9% of respondents) that feral cat abundance should be decreased. The 3 most common explanatory variables for respondents’ stated desires were enjoyment from seeing feral cats (84%), intrinsic value of feral cats (12%), and threat to native fauna (73%). The frequency with which respondents saw cats and change in the perceived abundance of cats also affected respondent's desired abundance of cats; 41.3% of respondents stated that they saw feral cats daily and 44.7% stated that the cat population had increased in recent years. Other potential environmental impacts of feral cats had little affect on desired abundance. The majority of respondents (78%) supported removing feral cats from the natural environment permanently. Consensus convergence models with data from 1388 respondents who completed the relevant questions showed live capture and lethal injection was the most preferred technique and trap-neuter-release was the least preferred technique for managing feral cats. However, the acceptability of each technique varied among stakeholders. Our results suggest that the majority of Hawaii's residents would like to see effective management that reduces the abundance of feral or free-roaming cats.

See also this post

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Thursday 19 December 2013

Introduced mammals as the first threat to Xantus' Murrelet

KEITT, B.S. 2005. Status of Xantus’s Murrelet and its nesting habitat in Baja California, Mexico. Marine Ornithology 33: 105–114.

A preliminary survey was conducted in 1999 to establish the status of the Xantus’s Murrelet Synthliboramphus hypoleucus in Baja California, Mexico. Seven island groups with prior evidence of breeding (Coronado, Todos Santos, San Martín, San Jerónimo, San Benito, Asunción and San Roque) and two potential breeding islands without prior evidence of nesting (Natividad and Adelaida) were examined. In 2004, additional work was conducted at Afuera Islet off Guadalupe Island. Presence of murrelets was detected through nest searches and by rough estimation of birds in nocturnal at-sea congregations using boat-based and land-based vocalization counts. Vocalizations were heard at six island groups (Coronado, Todos Santos, San Martín, San Jerónimo, San Benito and Guadalupe) and nests were found at four island groups (Coronado, San Jerónimo, San Benito and Guadalupe). Land-based and boat-based vocalization surveys both detected presence or apparent absence of murrelets at potential nesting islands, although boat-based vocalization rates were higher on average. Vocalization surveys cannot readily be converted to breeding population estimates, but overall population size of murrelets in Baja California appears to about 2300 pairs (range: 1000–4000 pairs), similar to previous estimates. Historically, nonindigenous mammals were introduced to most islands in Baja California; recent progress in removing introduced mammals should benefit Xantus’s Murrelets.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Unwanted kittens and misinformed owners

Welsh, C. P., Gruffydd-Jones, T. J., Roberts, M. A., & Murray, J. K. (2013). Poor owner knowledge of feline reproduction contributes to the high proportion of accidental litters born to UK pet cats. Veterinary Record, vetrec-2013.

‘Accidental’ litters contribute to population growth and the number of unwanted animals entering animal welfare organisations. Assessing the problem's extent and determining risk factors enables identification of education targets. Data were obtained from 715 cat-owning households in a cross-sectional telephone survey. Demographic and lifestyle factors were assessed for their association with accidental litters and with owner knowledge of cat reproduction. A total of 128 litters were reported from 552 female cats, and the proportion of accidental litters reported by owners was 80 per cent. Multivariable analysis identified that respondents were more likely to report an accidental litter of kittens if they believed a female cat should have a litter prior to being neutered, if they had more than one cat and if they rented rather than owned their home. Misconceptions relating to cat reproduction were common. The opinion that the youngest age a cat could get pregnant was five months of age (or older) was held by 83.5 per cent of cat-owning respondents, with over a quarter (26.4 per cent; 174/659) believing a queen is unable to conceive until at least a year of age. Almost half the respondents (49.0 per cent; 334/682) believed a female cat should have a litter before being neutered or were not sure; 38.8 per cent (264/681) thought that un-neutered, related cats would not mate or were not sure. This study suggests that improving cat-owner knowledge of the reproductive capacity of cats is likely to have a significant impact on the numbers of accidental litters born.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Roaming dogs in Bhutan

Strickland, P. (2013). The roaming dogs of Bhutan. Friend or foe?. CAUTHE 2013: Tourism and Global Change: On the Edge of Something Big, 780.

This paper investigates the tourists' viewpoint regarding the stray dog population in the Kingdom of Bhutan. After visiting Bhutan, it is clear that the roaming dog population is extremely large and increasing. The Kingdom of Bhutan has long been regarded as an isolated nation being land locked in the Himalayas until trade opened its borders to other nations including western influences since the coronation of the fourth king in 1974. International tourism has been on a steady increase and has exploded in the last few years (Bhutan Tourism Monitor, 2011). With an increase in disposable food products from other nations, food scraps and rubbish being dumped on the streets from locals, the roaming dogs of Bhutan continue to increase in population especially in cities and the main tourist destinations. The problem is aided by no local veterinary clinics, no laws regarding dog governance and little funding for sterilisation programs by non-government organizations such as Vets Beyond Borders. Using focus groups by international tourists visiting Bhutan, this study highlights the perceptions of tourists regarding the roaming dog population and how it may impact future tourists' experience. The findings indicate mixed viewpoints suggesting the dogs have little impact during the day (friend) but form packs and become aggressive at night leading to a cautious fear and sleep deprivation due to constant loud barking (foe). This research is important as tourists may start to negatively report on their Bhutanese experience due to their perception of the roaming dogs as 67% of surveyed tourists reported that stray dogs were an unreported issue. Future research may compare to other countries that have large roaming dog populations.

Eradication of feral cats from Gabo island, Victoria

Twyford, B. K. L., Humphrey, P. G., Nunn, R. P., & Willoughby, L. (2000). Eradication of Feral Cats (Felis catus) from Gabo Island, south‐east Victoria.Ecological Management & Restoration, 1(1), 42-49.

Concerns about the effects of predation by Feral Cats (Felis catus) on native fauna, particularly breeding seabirds, precipitated a decision in 1987 to control and eventually eradicate cats from Gabo Island. The size of the population prior to control was at least 30 animals. A control programme, undertaken between 1987 and 1991, centred on shooting, trapping and an extensive 1080 poison-baiting programme. Trapping and shooting were ineffectual. Poisoning was the most successful and effective technique for the rapid and widespread reduction in the Feral Cat population on Gabo Island. The effectiveness of dead 1-day-old chickens as a poison carrier was demonstrated. Effective poison baiting was attributed to bait selection and strategic timing of baiting to periods when prey was at low levels. Outcomes from the trapping programme and post-control monitoring strongly suggested that the cat population had been reduced to only two or three animals, possibly of the same sex. Monitoring between 1992 and 1998 failed to record any evidence of cats, indicating that the cats remaining after poison baiting had been unable to sustain a viable population. On the basis of the available evidence, Feral Cats appear to have been successfully eradicated from Gabo Island.

Monday 16 December 2013

Cats domesticated themselves

Hu, Y., Hu, S., Wang, W., Wu, X., Marshall, F. B., Chen, X., Hou, L. & Wang, C. (2013). Earliest evidence for commensal processes of cat domestication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201311439.

Domestic cats are one of the most popular pets globally, but the process of their domestication is not well understood. Near Eastern wildcats are thought to have been attracted to food sources in early agricultural settlements, following a commensal pathway to domestication. Early evidence for close human–cat relationships comes from a wildcat interred near a human on Cyprus ca. 9,500 y ago, but the earliest domestic cats are known only from Egyptian art dating to 4,000 y ago. Evidence is lacking from the key period of cat domestication 9,500–4,000 y ago. We report on the presence of cats directly dated between 5560–5280 cal B.P. in the early agricultural village of Quanhucun in Shaanxi, China. These cats were outside the wild range of Near Eastern wildcats and biometrically smaller, but within the size-range of domestic cats. The δ13C and δ15N values of human and animal bone collagen revealed substantial consumption of millet-based foods by humans, rodents, and cats. Ceramic storage containers designed to exclude rodents indicated a threat to stored grain in Yangshao villages. Taken together, isotopic and archaeological data demonstrate that cats were advantageous for ancient farmers. Isotopic data also show that one cat ate less meat and consumed more millet-based foods than expected, indicating that it scavenged among or was fed by people. This study offers fresh perspectives on cat domestication, providing the earliest known evidence for commensal relationships between people and cats.

Presence of domestic dogs in Atlantic forest in Brazil

Srbek-Araujo, A. C., & Chiarello, A. G. (2008). Domestic dogs in Atlantic forest preserves of south-eastern Brazil: a camera-trapping study on patterns of entrance and site occupancy rates. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 68(4), 771-779.
Presence of exotic species in forest remnants is a major concern for the conservation of wild species, not only on islands, where potential impact is higher. Although the problem is widespread and increasing, there are few studies on Neotropical forests. Here we quantify the occurrence of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) in an Atlantic forest reserve in south-eastern Brazil (Santa Lúcia Biological Station - SLBS). Throughout two years of monitoring with camera traps (2,142 camera-days), 25 records of 16 individual dogs were obtained in the interior of SLBS, making dogs the fourth most frequently recorded species of mammals in general and the first-ranking among Carnivora, ahead of the ocelot and puma, the top two terrestrial predators present in SLBS. Dogs entered the forest year round, in almost half of the sampled months (48%), and predominantly during daytime (89%). They were detected in various trails inside the reserve, but mostly in areas nearest to the reserve's border (<200 m from the edge). Record rates of domestic dogs did not correlate significantly with climate variables, with frequency of mammal records and richness in general, or with any particular mammal species (Spearman rank correlation, p > 0.05 in all cases), suggesting an erratic, non-seasonal pattern of entrance in the reserve. Data indicate that domestic dogs can be abundant and frequent visitors to little disturbed Atlantic forest reserves even when these are located in regions of low density of human population. The potential impact to native fauna is discussed.

Dogs among the threats to wild carnivores in Brazil

Whiteman, C. W., Matushima, E. R., Palha, M. D. D. C., & da Silva, A. D. S. L. (2007). Human and domestic animal populations as a potential threat to wild carnivore conservation in a fragmented landscape from the Eastern Brazilian Amazon. Biological Conservation, 138(1), 290-296.

Hydroelectric projects are one of the well known factors responsible for habitat loss and fragmentation in the Amazon. The Tucuruí Lake Protected Area (Tucuruí Lake APA), in the state of Pará, Brazil, Eastern Brazilian Amazon, is under the influence of the Tucuruí dam. Zones of wildlife protection (ZWPs), where no human activities should be allowed, were created inside this protected area. However, human populations and their domestic animals still reside within the ZWPs. Domestic carnivores have been implicated in wild carnivore population declines, particularly in Africa, as a consequence of disease transmission, especially involving the canine distemper virus. This study examined the seroprevalence of antibodies to this pathogen in domestic dogs from the ZWPs and its immediate surroundings at the Tucuruí Lake Protected Area, and revealed 27% seropositivity. Wild carnivore species such as the jaguar (Panthera onca), puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), coati (Nasua nasua), among others, inhabit the ZWPs and information provided by the local community indicates their close contact with the human and domestic dog populations. Such evidence supports the concern that relates the presence of the domestic dogs to disease transmission and conservation risks for wild carnivores in the ZWPs of the Tucuruí Lake APA.

Cat-exclusion areas to reduce impact in reserves

Metsers, E. M., Seddon, P. J., & van Heezik, Y. M. (2010). Cat-exclusion zones in rural and urban-fringe landscapes: how large would they have to be?.Wildlife Research, 37(1), 47-56.
Context. The process of urban sprawl brings the human population and their domestic cats (Felis catus) in close contact with wildlife in areas that were previously remote, including reserves and conservation areas created to protect populations of vulnerable or threatened species. Various mitigation measures have been proposed, including devices designed to hinder cat hunting ability, desexing to reduce wandering and nuisance behaviours, containment at night or at all times and regulations governing cat ownership. Such regulations may aim to reduce cat densities by limiting the number of cats per household, or they may define zones around sensitive conservation areas where cat ownership is prohibited.

Aims. The present study sought to establish the necessary size of cat-exclusion zones in rural and urban-fringe landscapes where vulnerable prey species may also reside.

Methods. With GPS collars, we tracked 38 domestic cats at three sites (one rural, two urban fringe) where small reserves contained threatened lizard species.

Key results. Home ranges (95% kernel density estimates) were considerably larger for cats at the rural site (0.3–69 ha) than at urban-fringe sites (0.35–19 ha at Kaitorete Spit and 0.2–9 ha at Otago Peninsula), and were larger at night than day. Resource selection ratios indicated avoidance of open areas with little cover, such as cultivated areas (farmland), tussock grassland and duneland, whereas sources of cover such as trees and buildings were preferred. Maximum distances moved and large variability between individual cats suggest buffers in rural landscapes would need to be at least 2.4 km wide, whereas those in urban-fringe habitat could be half as large.

Conclusions. Despite significant home-range size differences exhibited by cats living in rural v. urban-fringe habitats, exclusion zones would need to be wide to account for considerable inter-cat variation in movement behaviour.

Implications. The size of an effective cat-exclusion zone should represent the specific landscape, amount of residential development and substantial variability between individual cats.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Biology and impact of domestic cat in the Pacific

Duffy, D. C., & Capece, P. (2012). Biology and Impacts of Pacific Island Invasive Species. 7. The Domestic Cat (Felis catus) 1. Pacific Science, 66(2), 173-212.

This article reviews the biology, ecological effects, and management of the domestic cat (Felis catus) in the Pacific basin. The cat is one of the most controversial invasive species in the Pacific region because of its complex relations with humans. At one extreme, well-fed domestic house pets are allowed outdoors where they may hunt native animals; at the other, unsocialized feral cats have replaced native predators as apex predators or occupy a new niche on oceanic islands, where they have devastated native faunas. In the middle are stray cats that are still socialized around humans. Feral and stray cats can be reservoirs of diseases that infect free-roaming domestic cats, humans, and wildlife. Given these problems, the best response would be to keep domestic cats indoors, restrict cat breeding, and remove feral populations. However, most Pacific basin societies have failed to reach a consensus on the cat problem, so solutions are ad hoc, often lacking in any scientific basis, and reflect our conflicting views. Compromise management might best fall into three broad classes: (1) eradication of cats should be confined to islands and other areas of high native biodiversity where reintroduction can be prevented; (2) in a landscape of low or moderate biological value, efforts should be made to educate the public to reduce the impact of their cats on remaining wildlife, while excluding cats from “islands” of elevated biodiversity values or human sensitivity; (3) in drastically simplified urban ecosystems, management perhaps should occur only in response to local complaints.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Dogs likely originated in the Middle East

vonHoldt, B.M., J.P. Pollinger, K.E. Lohmueller, E. Han, H.G. Parker, P. Quignon, J.D. Degenhardt, A.R. Boyko, D.A. Earl, A. Auton, A. Reynolds, K. Bryc, A. Brisbin, J.C. Knowles, D.S. Mosher, T.C. Spady, A. Elkahloun, E.Geffen, M. Pilot, W. Jedrzejewski, C. Greco, E. Randi, D. Bannasch, A. Wilton, J. Shearman, M. Musiani, M. Cargill, P.G. Jones, Z. Qian, W. Huang, Z.L. Ding, Y.P. Zhang, C.D. Bustamante, E.A. Ostrander, J. Novembre & R. K. Wayne (2010). Genome-wide SNP and haplotype analyses reveal a rich history underlying dog domestication. Nature, 464(7290), 898-902.

Advances in genome technology have facilitated a new understanding of the historical and genetic processes crucial to rapid phenotypic evolution under domestication. To understand the process of dog diversification better, we conducted an extensive genome-wide survey of more than 48,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms in dogs and their wild progenitor, the grey wolf.
Here we show that dog breeds share a higher proportion of multi-locus haplotypes unique to grey wolves from the Middle East, indicating that they are a dominant source of genetic diversity for dogs rather than wolves from east Asia, as suggested by mitochondrial DNA sequence data. Furthermore, we find a surprising correspondence between genetic and phenotypic/functional breed groupings but there are exceptions that suggest phenotypic diversification depended in part on the repeated crossing of individuals with novel phenotypes. Our results show that Middle Eastern wolves were a critical source of genome diversity, although interbreeding with local wolf populations clearly occurred elsewhere in the early history of specific lineages. More recently, the evolution of modern dog breeds seems to have been an iterative process that drew on a limited genetic toolkit to create remarkable phenotypic diversity.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Eradication of non-native mammals and the status of insular mammals on the California and Baja California Islands

Knowlton, J. L., Josh Donlan, C., Roemer, G. W., Samaniego-Herrera, A., Keitt, B. S., Wood, B., Aguirre-Muñoz, A., Faulkner, K.R. & Tershy, B. R. (2007). Eradication of non-native mammals and the status of insular mammals on the California Channel Islands, USA, and Pacific Baja California Peninsula Islands, Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist, 52(4), 528-540.

The California Channel Islands, USA, and Pacific Baja California Peninsula Islands, Mexico (hereafter referred to as the California islands), are known for their high levels of biodiversity and globally important colonies of seabirds. We document the history, impacts, and management of non-native mammals and summarize the current status of native, non-volant mammals on the California islands. Of the 26 species of native mammals on the California islands, including 6 species and 41 subspecies that are endemic, ≥10 populations have suffered extirpation or global extinction. All recent extirpations and extinctions resulted directly from non-native mammalian predators or indirectly via habitat degradation by non-native herbivores. In light of the devastating effects non-native mammals have had on the native insular biotas of the California islands, a variety of organizations have collaborated to eradicate 44 populations of non-native mammals from 19 California islands. Documentation of impacts of non-native mammals and timely implementation of successful eradication efforts are essential to the conservation of these and other insular ecosystems.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Methods and strategies to control feral cats to protect Galapagos land iguanas

Phillips, R. B., Cooke, B. D., Campbell, K., Carrion, V., Marquez, C., & Snell, H. L. (2005). Eradicating feral cats to protect Galapagos land iguanas: methods and strategies. Pacific Conservation Biology, 11(4), 257.

A three-year programme to eradicate Feral Cats Felis catus from the island of Baltra in the Galapagos archipelago achieved good results by Initially poisoning with sodium monofluoroacetate (compound 1080) then trapping or shooting the remaining cats. The poisoning campaign removed 90% of the cats, its success being attributable to pre-baiting with unpolsoned baits to accustom cats to eating baits and placing enough baits to ensure that all cats encountered several baits within their home range. This, together with the use of metaclopromide (Pileran) as an anti-emetic, overcame a problem associated with poor retention of 1080 in thawed fish baits that limited the dose available to 1 mg 1080 bait, a quality insufficient to kill large cats. Removal of the remaining cats was delayed by a weather-induced irruption of Black Rats Rattus rattus and House Mice Mus musculus that enabled recruitment of kittens in 2002, but made cats more susceptible to trapping and shooting in 2003 when rodent populations collapsed. Since July 2003 no sign of a cat has been detected on Baltra despite extensive searching and monitoring throughout 2004. As cat abundance has decreased there have been more locally-bred juvenile iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus) seen during annual censuses. However, such recruitment may reflect the increasing maturity and higher fecundity of iguanas repatriated from 1991 onwards rather than being a direct result of reduced cat predation alone. More time is necessary to determine the benefits of reduced cat predation on the Iguana population.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Estimation of stray dog population in Timor Leste

Amaral, A. C., Ward, M. P., & Freitas, J. D. C. (2013). Estimation of roaming dog populations in Timor Leste. Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

The continued spread of rabies through the eastern islands of Indonesia poses a risk of rabies introduction to Timor Leste. To prepare for such an incursion and to undertake surveillance activities, the size and distribution of the roaming dog population needs to be estimated. We present the results of the first such surveys ever undertaken in Timor Leste.

Roaming dog surveys were undertaken in each capital of the 13 districts of Timor Leste, including the national capital, Dili. Within these locations, local urban areas (aldeias) were targeted and sight-re-sight counts were undertaken on consecutive days. Estimated dog populations were adjusted for the sampling fraction.

Overall, counts were performed in a total of 53 of 131 (40.5%) sucos and in 192 of 797 (24.1%) aldeias in these selected sucos. Within the surveyed urban areas, there were an estimated 21.2 people per roaming dog, a ratio substantially higher than the World Health Organization's average global estimate of 10 people per dog. The highest populations of dogs were estimated in the cities of Dili (4,919), Baucau vila (3,449) and Lospalos (2,536). The latter two are important because of their location in the northeast of Timor Leste, where the risk of rabies incursion from recently infected islands in eastern Indonesia, is likely greatest. The sight-resight method of estimating roaming dog populations is practical in developing countries; more use of photography to aid resighting of dogs could increase the accuracy of this method.

Dogs limit Fosa populations in Madagascar

Barcala, O. (2009). Invasive Stray and Feral Dogs Limit Fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox) Populations in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar (Doctoral dissertation, Duke University).

The fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox) is a medium sized carnivore of the family Eupleridae which is endemic to the island of Madagascar. Recent publications have shown that the fosa is under significant pressure from deforestation and fragmentation, leading to its classification as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A trap study was conducted from 1999 to 2008 in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar, to ascertain the health of a population and measure additional threats to its survival. Feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) appeared in the park in 2004 and a comparison of trap rates of the two species shows an inverse relationship between the presence of dogs and the presence of fosa. In this paper I discuss reasons for this relationship, the effect of the continued presence of dogs, and implications for the management of the park.

Friday 6 December 2013

Nesting site availability vs. cat predation on seabirds

Pontier, D., Fouchet, D., Bried, J., & Bahi-Jaber, N. (2008). Limited nest site availability helps seabirds to survive cat predation on islands. Ecological modelling, 214(2), 316-324.

Introduced cats Felis catus have a high detrimental impact on native seabirds on islands, especially when alien preys, like rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus, co-occur. Seabirds are highly vulnerable because of their long reproductive cycles, slow turn-over of generations and the absence of efficient behaviour against terrestrial predators, especially in some burrow-nesting species. Through a deterministic modelling approach, we explored a neglected mechanism that may explain the resistance of some seabird species to cat predation. It was indeed observed that seabirds may compete for nest sites. As a consequence, part of the breeders foregoes breeding when nest sites are a limiting resource. Our model linked the dynamics of cats with that of seabird species. We showed that the annual impact of cats on seabirds was lower when seabirds faced competition for burrows than when the latter were not a limiting resource. This was due to the fact that limited nest site availability prevents an optimal growth of the cat population. Cats in turn cannot manage to exterminate all the prospecting birds during the same breeding season. The limitation of the number of nest sites generates a mechanism leading the bird population to conserve a large pool of sexually mature individuals while only slightly reducing the production of juveniles in the colony. This pool of floaters may play an important role in natural populations by buffering the decrease in colony size during years with harsh environmental conditions on land. In combination with buffer mechanisms, the limitation of the number of nest sites may greatly improve the chances of survival of bird populations facing predation.

Public prefer keeping dogs in kennels than euthanasia

Siettou, C., Fraser, I., & Fraser, R. (2013). A Choice Experiment Analysis of the Management of the Stray Dog Population in the UK. Agricultural Economics Society>87th Annual Conference, April 8-10, 2013, Warwick University, Coventry, UK

In this paper we present the results of a pilot study investigating the public’s view on the pet overpopulation problem. The Choice Experiment aims to understand the UK public’s awareness of the issue, its views and its willingness to participate and pay for a reduction in the rate of animals being “put to sleep”. Our preliminary results indicate that the public are willing to pay to keep healthy stray dogs alive for longer in Local Authority kennels beyond the current seven day statutory period.

Thursday 5 December 2013

How the Macquarie Island parakeet became extinct

Taylor, R. H. (1979). How the Macquarie Island parakeet became extinct. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 2, 42-45.

For 70 years following the discovery of Macquarie Island in 1810 the endemic parakeet Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae erythrotis remained plentiful, despite the introduction of cats (Felis catus) and other predators. The crucial factor in the bird's rapid disappearance between 1881 and 1890 appears to have been the successful liberation of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in 1879. This led to great increases of feral cats and introduced wekas (Gallirallus australis) and presumably to greatly intensified predation on parakeets.

Changes in numbers of parakeets, rats,mice, feral rabbits, feral dogs, feral cats and wekas on Macquarie Island 1810-1920. Diagrammatic reconstructionfrom early accounts (Cumpston, 1968). Not to scale.

Recovery of seabirds to vertebrate management on Macquarie

Brothers, N. & Bone, C. (2008) The response of burrow-nesting petrels and other vulnerable bird species to vertebrate pest management and climate change on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, 142, 123-148

Pest species management is causing rapid and significant changes to burrow-nesting petrel populations on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island. The Weka, Gallirallus australis, was eliminated by 1989 and the Feral Cat, Felis catus, eradicated in 2000. The most abundant burrownesting petrel species currently, White-headed Petrels, Pterodroma lessonii, Antarctic Prions, Pachyptila desolata, and Sooty Shearwaters, Puffinus griseus, have yet to increase in numbers, but are expected to do so in the absence of cats. This study found evidence that Grey Petrels, Procellaria cinerea, began breeding again on the island in 1999, after an absence of over 100 years. Blue Petrels, Halobaena caerulea, and Fairy Prions, Pachyptila turtur, were found to be re-colonising Macquarie Island from offshore stacks after a similar absence. South Georgian Diving-Petrels, Pelecanoides georgicus, were also possibly recolonising the island. Despite the presence of Black Rats, Rattus rattus, most of the bird species discussed are considered capable of population increase. If European Rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, are not eliminated or maintained in reduced numbers, some petrel populations will never fully recover. Climate change could have a negative impact on burrow-nesting petrels, and is likely to exacerbate the detrimental effects of the remaining pest species on vulnerable indigenous bird species, compounding the need for remedial action against rabbits in particular. Together with predictions that other petrel species will now return to breed, certain terrestrial bird species, alien to the region, may invade Macquarie Island as a consequence of the combination of pest eradication and changing climatic conditions.

More on Macquarie island cats

Ecological restoration on Macquarie island

Copson, G., & Whinam, J. (2001). Review of ecological restoration programme on subantarctic Macquarie Island: pest management progress and future directions. Ecological Management & Restoration, 2(2), 129-138.
The establishment of exotic species of vascular flora and vertebrate fauna on subantarctic Macquarie Island since its discovery in 1810 has resulted in major changes in the biota. A management programme aims to reduce the numbers of exotic plant and animal species and assist with the recovery of pre-existing communities and processes. This paper reviews the integrated vertebrate pests management programme on Macquarie Island since 1974 and outlines future management considerations. As part of this programme, the responses of some native and exotic species of vascular flora and vertebrate fauna were monitored following control of European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) numbers. Changes in the vegetation recorded over 10 years showed that approximately half of all the vascular species had benefited from rabbit grazing, including several which formed a major part of the rabbit’s diet. After rabbit control, some adversely affected plants responded rapidly to a reduction in grazing pressure while others will require an almost total cessation of grazing in order to re-establish their former distributions. With the decrease in rabbit numbers it was also necessary to control Feral Cats (Felis catus) due to their increased predation on native burrow-nesting birds. Feral Cat predation on introduced fauna also increased, one result of which was the eradication from the island of the introduced Weka (Gallirallus australis scotti). Reduced rabbit grazing is leading to re-establishment of the native Tall Tussock (Poa foliosa) grassland and with it the spread of the introduced Ship Rat (Rattus rattus). This review indicates that an integrated approach to pest management, with monitoring of the responses of both target and non-target species, is the most effective way to restore pre-existing communities and processes.

More on Macquarie island cats

Biology of feral cats on Macquarie

Brothers, N. P., Skira, I. J., & Copson, G. R. (1985). Biology of the feral cat, Felis catus (L.), on Macquarie Island. Wildlife Research, 12(3), 425-436.
A feral cat roams among baby penguins on Macquarie Island.
Photo: Geoff Copson/ Tasmanian NPWS

246 feral cats were shot on Macquarie Island, Australia, between Dec. 1976 and Feb. 1981. The sex ratio ( males : females ) was 1:0.8. The percentages of animals with tabby, orange and black coats were 74, 26 and 2 resp. [sic]. Of the 64 orange cats, 56 were males . The breeding season was Oct.-Mar., with a peak in Nov.-Dec. The number of embryos in the 14 pregnant females averaged 4.7 (range = 1-9). The size of the 23 litters that were observed averaged 3 (range = 1-8). Kitten survival to 6 months of age was estimated to be <43%.

More on Macquarie island cats

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Attitudes towards stray cats

Lord, L. K. (2008). Attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 232(8), 1159-1167.

Objective—To characterize attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—Households in Ohio.

Procedures—A random-digit–dial telephone survey was performed, and 1,250 households were contacted.

Results—703 of the 1,250 (56.2%) households completed interviews. Five hundred fifty-three (78.7%) participants reported seeing free-roaming cats at least occasionally, and 184 (26.2%) reported having fed free-roaming cats during the previous year. However, only 42 (22.8%) participants who fed free-roaming cats had ever taken one to a veterinarian, and 43 (23.4%) participants who fed free-roaming cats reported that at least one of the free-roaming cats had produced a litter in the preceding year. Differences existed between cat owners and other participants and among urban, suburban, and rural residents in regard to their attitudes toward free-roaming cats and the need for government regulations.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that free-roaming cats were common in Ohio, but that attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats differed between cat owners and other participants and among participants grouped on the basis of residential area. Thus, developing statewide approaches for regulating free-roaming cats may be challenging or unrealistic.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Legal status of cats in NZ

Farnworth, M. J., Dye, N. G., & Keown, N. (2010). The legal status of cats in New Zealand: A perspective on the welfare of companion, stray, and feral domestic cats (Felis catus). Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13 (2): 180-188

Pinpointing and safeguarding the welfare status of domestic cats is problematic, especially in New Zealand where cats are introduced predators with significant impact on indigenous fauna. Usually the identification of welfare status depends on conservational, legal, and public attitudes that are often contrasting. Cats may rapidly transgress definitions placed on them, confounding attempts to categorize them. In 1 generation, cats can move from a human-dependent state (“stray” or “companion”) to wild (“feral”). Often this categorization uses arbitrary behavioral and or situational parameters; consequent treatment and welfare protection for these cats are similarly affected. Terminology used to describe cats is not equitable across research. However, the New Zealand Animal Welfare (Companion Cats) Code of Welfare 2007 seeks to create a new definition of the terms companion, stray, and feral. It distinguishes between cats who live within and without human social constructs. This legislation mandates that cats in human environments or indirectly dependent on humans cannot be classified as feral. Such definitions may prove vital when safeguarding the welfare of free-living domestic cats and cat colonies.

Monday 2 December 2013

Feral dog threats to Snow leopard

Jackson, RM, Mallon, D, Sharma, RK, Suryawanshi, KS, & Mishra, C. 2013. Snow Leopard Survival Strategy. Version 2013.1, Snow Leopard Network.

Two main impacts of feral dogs to Snow Leopard

Feral Dogs Attacking Snow Leopard and Prey: In a number of localized areas, packs of feral dogs are increasingly damaging the snow leopard’s natural prey base. In India, for example, such packs are especially prolific around military encampments and townships supporting tourism. Elsewhere, they congregate along tourist trekking routes, including well-travelled routes in Nepal and Bhutan and monasteries.

There are new and emerging threats to snow leopards or their habitats that need better understanding. For instance, a growing population of feral dogs locally poses threats such as disease transmission to snow leopards and other carnivores.

Evidence on truly feral western dog population

Reponen, S. E., Brown, S. K., Barnett, B. D., & Sacks, B. N. (2013). Genetic and morphometric evidence on a Galápagos island exposes founder effects and diversification in the first‐known (truly) feral western dog population. Molecular Ecology, 23 (2): 269-283.

Domesticated animals that revert to a wild state can become invasive and significantly impact native biodiversity. Although dogs can be problematic locally, only the Australasian dingo is known to occur in isolation from humans. Western dogs have experienced more intense artificial selection, which potentially limits their invasiveness. However, feral dogs eradicated from Isabela Island, Galápagos in the 1980s could be the first-known exception. We used DNA and morphometric data from 92 of these dogs to test the hypotheses (1) these dogs persisted independently of humans for up to a century and a half since descending from a handful of dogs introduced in the early 1800s, versus (2) similarly to other western feral dog populations, they reflected continuous recruitment of strays from human settlements on a portion of the Island. We detected one dominant maternal lineage and one dominant paternal lineage shared by the three subpopulations, along with low autosomal genetic diversity, consistent with the hypothesized common origins from a small founder population. Genetic diversity patterns among the three island subpopulations were consistent with stepping-stone founder effects, while morphometric differentiation suggested rapid phenotypic divergence, possibly due to drift and reinforced by selection corresponding to distinct microclimates and habitats on Isabela. Despite the continued presence of free-ranging dogs in the vicinity of settlements on Isabela and other Galápagos Islands, feral populations have not re-established in remote areas since the 1980s, emphasizing the rarity of conditions necessary for feralization of modern western dogs.

Feral forms in the 1980s,
after Barnett, 1986

See also

Sunday 1 December 2013

The catastrophic impact of invasive mammalian predators on birds of the UK Overseas Territories

Hilton, G. M., & Cuthbert, R. J. (2010). Review article: The catastrophic impact of invasive mammalian predators on birds of the UK Overseas Territories: a review and synthesis. Ibis, 152(3), 443-458.

The UK has sovereignty over 16 Overseas Territories, which hold some of the world’s great seabird colonies and collectively support more endemic and globally threatened bird species than the whole of mainland Europe. Invasive alien mammalian predators have spread throughout most of the Territories, primarily since European expansion in the 16th century. Here we review and synthesize the scale of their impacts, historical and current, actions to reduce and reverse these impacts, and priorities for conservation. Mammalian predators have caused a catastrophic wave of extinctions and reductions in seabird colony size that mark the UKOTs as a major centre of global extinction. Mammal-induced declines of threatened endemics and seabird colonies continue, with four Critically Endangered endemics on Gough Island (Tristan da Cunha), St Helena and Montserrat directly threatened by invasive alien House Mice Mus musculus, Feral Cats Felis catus and rats Rattus spp. Action to reduce these threats and restore islands has been modest in comparison with other developed countries, although some notable successes have occurred and a large number of ambitious eradication and conservation plans are in preparation. Priority islands for conservation action against mammalian predators include Gough (which according to one published prioritization scheme is the highest-ranked island in the world for mammal eradication), St Helena and Montserrat, but also on Tristan da Cunha, Pitcairn and the Falkland Islands. Technical, financial and political will is required to push forward and fund the eradication of invasive mammalian predators on these islands, which would significantly reduce extinction risk for a number of globally threatened species.

Reply to McCarthy et al. (2013) on methods to control feral cats

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