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

Saturday 24 May 2014

Low gene flow between wolves and dogs in Iran

Aghbolaghi, M. A., Rezaei, H. R., Scandura, M., & Kaboli, M. (2014). Low gene flow between Iranian Grey Wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs documented using uniparental genetic markers. Zoology in the Middle East, 60(2), 95-106.
Wolves have the ability to live in different habitats. However, in recent years, in many areas wolf populations have drastically declined and some of them have disappeared. A major concern in the management of wolf populations is the hybridization between wolves and dogs. In some regions, in order to generate strong breeds of guard dogs, wolves and dogs are intentionally hybridized. In this study, gene flow between wolves and dogs in Iran was examined, using a combination of uniparental markers: the mitochondrial DNA control region and four Y chromosome microsatellites. The species of origin of each haplotype was attributed by phylogenetic analyses. A very limited number of haplotypes was shared, suggesting limited gene flow between wolves and dogs in Iran. However, possible factors promoting hybridization are still present in the country and should not be neglected in the future management of the wild species.

See more about wild canid hybridisation with dogs

Friday 23 May 2014

Modelling feral cat population under TNR

Lee, L. E., Robl, N., Bugman, A. M., Nguyen, A. T., Lammers, B., Fisher, T. L., Weimer, H., Lenhart, S. & New Jr, J. C. (2014). Modeling Feral Cat Population Dynamics in Knox County, TN. University of Tennessee Honor Thesis Projects.

Feral cats (Felis catus) are recognized as a problem internationally due to their negative impact on wildlife and potential to spread infectious disease to people and other animals. Trap-neuterreturn (TNR) programs are employed in many areas to control feral cat populations as a humane method, and this approach is used on a limited basis in Knox County, Tennessee. Despite the frequent use of TNR as a strategy, its effectiveness remains controversial. The objective of this mathematical model is to predict the impact of selected strategies on the population of feral cats. The model with three age classes predicts the population over a period of 5 years in one month time steps. TNR rates are varied to investigate the effects of targeting spay/neuter programs seasonally, and such targeting predicts a measurable decline in feral cat population growth over a five year period. Targeting TNR intervention at adult females during the time prior to mating season in highly populated feral colonies may further decrease the population. These results suggest a more efficacious strategy than non-targeted TNR programs.

Modeling interventions in owned cat population

Lancaster, E. P. (2012). Modeling Interventions in the Owned Cat Population in Knox County, TN.

The rapid growth of cat populations in many communities across the United States has resulted in overpopulation and an increase in euthanasia procedures. To combat these challenges, communities have instituted spay/neuter programs as a preventative strategy. In particular, Knox County, Tennessee, has developed and implemented a program, called the Spay Shuttle, which offers free spays and neuters for owned cats throughout the county.

We develop a discrete time, age-structured model of owned female cats in Knox County to investigate the effects of implementing extra spaying intervention strategies to the population over the course of 5 years. We determine that a 50% increase in spay surgeries per two month time step for each age class capable of reproducing will result in a 33% decrease in the population. Also, the number of surgeries performed during those five years will also drop. Analysis of the cumulative number of surgeries performed reveals a sharp increase in surgeries during the first two years, followed by a decrease in surgeries in the following years. We also examine other scenarios, by which we target different age groups for extra spay interventions. We determine that the most impact is seen when extra spaying of cats ages 4-6 months is included in the intervention.

Thursday 22 May 2014

A multivariate model of stakeholder preference for lethal cat management

Wald, D. M., & Jacobson, S. K. (2014). A Multivariate Model of Stakeholder Preference for Lethal Cat Management. PloS one, 9(4), e93118.

Identifying stakeholder beliefs and attitudes is critical for resolving management conflicts. Debate over outdoor cat management is often described as a conflict between two groups, environmental advocates and animal welfare advocates, but little is known about the variables predicting differences among these critical stakeholder groups. We administered a mail survey to randomly selected stakeholders representing both of these groups (n = 1,596) in Florida, where contention over the management of outdoor cats has been widespread. We used a structural equation model to evaluate stakeholder intention to support non-lethal management. The cognitive hierarchy model predicted that values influenced beliefs, which predicted general and specific attitudes, which in turn, influenced behavioral intentions. We posited that specific attitudes would mediate the effect of general attitudes, beliefs, and values on management support. Model fit statistics suggested that the final model fit the data well (CFI = 0.94, RMSEA = 0.062). The final model explained 74% of the variance in management support, and positive attitudes toward lethal management (humaneness) had the largest direct effect on management support. Specific attitudes toward lethal management and general attitudes toward outdoor cats mediated the relationship between positive (p<0.05) and negative cat-related impact beliefs (p<0.05) and support for management. These results supported the specificity hypothesis and the use of the cognitive hierarchy to assess stakeholder intention to support non-lethal cat management. Our findings suggest that stakeholders can simultaneously perceive both positive and negative beliefs about outdoor cats, which influence attitudes toward and support for non-lethal management.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Feral cat monitoring with GPS in NZ

Recio, M. R., Mathieu, R., Maloney, R., & Seddon, P. J. (2010). First results of feral cats (Felis catus) monitored with GPS collars in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 34 (3): 00-00

The presence of feral cats (Felis catus) in the braided river valleys of New Zealand poses a threat to native species such as the critically endangered black stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae). Trapping remains the most common method to control introduced predators, but trap placement criteria have not been fully informed by advances in the understanding of the spatial ecology of the pest species. We assessed the suitability of Global Positioning System (GPS) tags to study the spatial behaviour of feral cats in New Zealand braided rivers. We tagged and tracked five individual adults, one female and four males. Tracking periods varied from 3 to 18 days at a fix rate of one location every 15 min. This rate was considered an adequate trade-off between battery limitations and the opportunity to approximate the continuous displacement path of a cat for a representative number of days. Individual home range size estimates (100% Minimum Convex Polygon, MCP) varied from 178 to 2486 ha. For four of the six cats incremental analysis revealed that at least 460 locations are required to calculate a home range using MCP. Habitat selection analysis showed significant differences among individuals tending to select ‘Mature riverbed’ habitats. Trapping effort should be focused on this habitat. Movements and distances travelled revealed that cats move mainly between mid-afternoon (1500 hours) and early morning (0300 hours). This study showed that GPS telemetry provides a powerful method to study feral cat movements in open landscapes in New Zealand.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Factors affecting student tolerance for free-roaming cats

Wald, D. M., & Jacobson, S. K. (2013). Factors affecting student tolerance for free-roaming cats. Human Dimensions of Wildlife: An International Journal, 18 (4)

The management of free-roaming domestic cats is a controversial and challenging issue for animal welfare organizations and government agencies. In this article, we used a previously validated concept, wildlife acceptance capacity, to measure tolerance for free-roaming cats. We also identified the demographic, situational, and affective factors influencing tolerance, and evaluated the effect of tolerance on attitudes toward cat management. We conducted a written survey with 381 university students, measuring experiences with outdoor cats, perceptions of and tolerance for the cat population, attitudes toward cats and cat management, and risk perceptions. Tolerance/acceptance was measured as preference for reducing future cat population levels. A 7-item model—including positive and negative experiences, attitudes, beliefs, perceived risks, and perceptions of the current cat population—predicted acceptance 81% of the time. Cat acceptance predicted attitudes toward cat management and should be addressed in future campaigns aimed at reducing the population of free-roaming cats.

Monday 19 May 2014

Saturday 17 May 2014

Feral cats datasheet

Fitzwater, W.D. 1994. House cats (feral). In S.E. Hygnstrom, R.M. Timm, and G.E. Larson, eds. Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Lincoln: Univ. Neb. Coop. Ext.USDA_APHIS-Wildlife Services Animal Damage Control, and Great Plains Agricultural Council. Pp: C45-C50.

The cat has been the most resistant to change of all the animals that humans have domesticated. All members of the cat family, wild or domesticated, have a broad, stubby skull, similar facial characteristics, lithe, stealthy movements, retractable claws (except the cheetah), and nocturnal habits. Feral cats are house cats living in the wild. They are small in stature, weighing from 3 to 8 pounds, standing 8 to 12 inches high at the shoulder, and 14 to 24 inches long. The tail adds another 8 to 12 inches to their length. Colors range from black to white to orange, and an amazing variety of combinations in between. Cats are found in commensal relationships wherever people are found. In some urban and suburban areas, cat populations equal human populations. In many suburban and eastern rural areas, feral house cats are the most abundant predators. Feral cats prefer areas in and around human habitation. They use abandoned buildings, barns, haystacks, post piles, junked cars, brush piles, weedy areas, culverts, and other places that provide cover and protection. Feral cats are opportunistic predators and scavengers that feed on rodents, rabbits, shrews, moles, birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, carrion, garbage, vegetation, and leftover pet food. Feral cats feed extensively on songbirds, game birds, mice and other rodents, rabbits, and other wildlife. In doing so, they lower the carrying capacity of an area for native predators such as foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, weasels, and other animals that compete for the same food base.

Friday 16 May 2014

Top‐predator control on islands boosts endemic prey but not mesopredator

Bonnaud, E., Zarzoso‐Lacoste, D., Bourgeois, K., Ruffino, L., Legrand, J., & Vidal, E. (2010). Top‐predator control on islands boosts endemic prey but not mesopredator. Animal conservation, 13(6), 556-567.

Introduced predators on islands are responsible for numerous native species extirpations and extinctions. Predation by cats is particularly detrimental to seabirds and cat control or eradication is generally the best option to reduce their negative impacts on native fauna. However, potential cascading effects, such as mesopredator release effect, need to be monitored after cat removal. In Port-Cros Island, a cat control campaign was undertaken to eliminate the strong and recurrent threat from feral cat predation to the small yelkouan shearwater Puffinus yelkouan population, without harming a neutered domestic cat population. To evaluate the conservation value of this campaign for an island endemic and endangered species, the diet and impact of the remaining domestic cats were studied through scat analysis and trap success. Moreover, to evaluate the recovery of the seabird population and detect any potential mesopredator release effect, shearwater and rat populations were monitored before, alongside and after the cat control. Only live traps were used, and most cats were trapped in the first year of cat eradication. The last incidence of cat predation on the yelkouan shearwater occurred the following year. The recovery of the shearwater population, occurring the first year of cat control, was mainly attributable to the settlement of new breeders in the colony. Rat population dynamics fluctuated widely but, even though the interactions between rats and shearwaters at breeding cavities increased, no evidence of rat predation on shearwaters was recorded. Thus, cat control on Port-Cros Island was a success for native species conservation, proving that such management strategy can induce an increase in the population of the endemic species, here the yelkouan shearwater, without any evidence of a mesopredator release effect.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Apex predator control and mesopredator release in Australia

Brook, L. A., Johnson, C. N., & Ritchie, E. G. (2012). Effects of predator control on behaviour of an apex predator and indirect consequences for mesopredator suppression. Journal of applied ecology, 49(6), 1278-1286.

  1. Apex predators can benefit ecosystems through top–down control of mesopredators and herbivores. However, apex predators are often subject to lethal control aimed at minimizing attacks on livestock. Lethal control can affect both the abundance and behaviour of apex predators. These changes could in turn influence the abundance and behaviour of mesopredators.
  2. We used remote camera surveys at nine pairs of large Australian rangeland properties, comparing properties that controlled dingoes Canis lupus dingo with properties that did not, to test the effects of predator control on dingo activity and to evaluate the responses of a mesopredator, the feral cat Felis catus.
  3. Indices of dingo abundance were generally reduced on properties that practiced dingo control, in comparison with paired properties that did not, although the effect size of control was variable. Dingoes in uncontrolled populations were crepuscular, similar to major prey. In populations subject to control, dingoes became less active around dusk, and activity was concentrated in the period shortly before dawn.
  4. Shifts in feral cat abundance indices between properties with and without dingo control were inversely related to corresponding shifts in indices of dingo abundance. There was also a negative relationship between predator visitation rates at individual camera stations, suggesting cats avoided areas where dingoes were locally common. Reduced activity by dingoes at dusk was associated with higher activity of cats at dusk.
  5. Our results suggest that effective dingo control not only leads to higher abundance of feral cats, but allows them to optimize hunting behaviour when dingoes are less active. This double effect could amplify the impacts of dingo control on prey species selected by cats. In areas managed for conservation, stable dingo populations may thus contribute to management objectives by restricting feral cat access to prey populations.
  6. Synthesis and applications. Predator control not only reduces indices of apex predator abundance but can also modify their behaviour. Hence, indicators other than abundance, such as behavioural patterns, should be considered when estimating a predator's capacity to effectively interact with lower trophic guilds. Changes to apex predator behaviour may relax limitations on the behaviour of mesopredators, providing enhanced access to resources and prey.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Human attitudes towards semi-owned cats

Toukhsati, S. R., Bennett, P. C., & Coleman, G. J. (2007). Behaviors and attitudes towards semi-owned cats. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 20(2), 131-142.

The intentional provision of food, medical treatment and shelter by humans for a cat that is not considered to be owned by the individual is defined as "semi-ownership." The aim of this study was to explore the prevalence of such behaviors and the attitudes held by individuals who engage in them. The sample, comprising 424 residents from rural and non-rural Victoria, Australia, were surveyed in relation to their ownership status, practices, and attitudes towards companion animals. The findings revealed that 22% of the sample engaged in one or more cat semi-ownership behaviors; primarily feeding. Cat semi-ownership was associated with positive feelings towards cats, and the belief that cats are independent. Opportunities to engage cat semi-owners in education programs that promote responsible companion animal ownership behaviors were evident.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Diet of feral cats in NZ forest

Fitzgerald, A. M., & Karl, B. J. (1979). Foods of feral house cats (Felis catus L.) in forest of the Orongorongo Valley, Wellington. New Zealand journal of zoology,6(1), 107-126.

The foods of feral house cats in forest in the Orongorongo Valley, Wellington, were studied over 3 years and related to the availability of prey. Some cats were trapped, tagged, and released, and could be identified individually by coat colour and pattern. The number of cats, estimated from live-trapping and sightings, was stable during the study. Examination of 677 scats revealed that mammals (rat, rabbit, opossum, mouse, and stoat, in descending order of importance) formed the bulk of the diet by weight. Remains of birds occurred in 12% of scats, but birds were estimated to form only 4.5% by weight of the diet. Insect fragments were present in many scats; wetas (Orthoptera), cicadas (Hemiptera), and beetles (Colcoptera) were important seasonally. Although eaten in large numbers, they contributed very little by weight to the diet. Populations of rats, rabbits, and opossums were fairly stable during the study; mice were abundant for most of the first 18 months, but were scarce in the last year. The literature on the food habits of feral house cats is reviewed; it emphasises that cats are primarily predators of small mammals (rodents and lagomorphs). Predation by feral cats can be important in holding rat and rabbit populations at low densities and in reducing seasonal fluctuations in their numbers. Cats can also exert heavy predation pressure on low-density mouse populations. Although the cats now eat few birds, they may have been responsible for reducing the numbers of some forest birds in the past.

Monday 12 May 2014

Demography and ecology of free-ranging dogs in North America

Daniels, T. J., & Bekoff, M. (1989). Population and social biology of free-ranging dogs, Canis familiaris. Journal of Mammalogy, 70 (4) 754-762.

Population size and density, age structure, survivorship patterns, sex ratios, and social organization of urban, rural, and feral dog (Canis familiaris) populations were examined in Cd. Juarez, Mexico (urban site) and on the Navajo reservation (rural and wild sites) between June 1983 and December 1984. Urban and rural dogs were less social than expected whereas feral dogs characteristically lived in packs. Seasonal variation in the structure of feral dog packs was influenced by reproduction, both directly (pups born into the pack) and indirectly (pregnant females may temporarily emigrate form the pack to give birth).

Daniels, T. J., & Bekoff, M. (1989). Spatial and temporal resource use by feral and abandoned dogs. Ethology, 81(4), 300-312.

We compared spatial and temporal patterns of resource use by feral and abandoned domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Community dumps provide locally abundant food resources utilized both by feral dogs and dogs abandoned at the dump site. Although population parameters were much the same for feral and abandoned dogs, the use of space varied distinctly and reflected behavioral differences in the way each population responded to the absence of human control, the need to acquire food, and the developmental state of pups. Temporal use of resources by feral dogs varied seasonally with the age of pups in one pack, but not in a second pack. Priority of access to local resources may be influenced by aggressive interactions among dogs at a dump. Barking may serve to warn dogs already present at a dump that competitors have arrived.

Sunday 11 May 2014

The taming of cat

Driscoll, C. A., M. Menotti-Raymond, A.L. Roca, K. Hupe, W.E. Johnson, E. Geffen, E.H. Harley, M. Delibes, D.Pontier, A.C. Kitchener, N. Yamaguchi, S.J. O'Brien, & D.W. Macdonald (2007). The Near Eastern origin of cat domestication. Science, 317(5837), 519-523.

The world's domestic cats carry patterns of sequence variation in their genome that reflect a history of domestication and breed development. A genetic assessment of 979 domestic cats and their wild progenitors—Felis silvestris silvestris (European wildcat), F. s. lybica (Near Eastern wildcat), F. s. ornata (central Asian wildcat), F. s. cafra (southern African wildcat), and F. s. bieti (Chinese desert cat)—indicated that each wild group represents a distinctive subspecies of Felis silvestris. Further analysis revealed that cats were domesticated in the Near East, probably coincident with agricultural village development in the Fertile Crescent. Domestic cats derive from at least five founders from across this region, whose descendants were transported across the world by human assistance.

Driscoll, C. A., Clutton-Brock, J., Kitchener, A. C., & O'Brien, S. J. (2009). The taming of the cat. Scientific American, 300(6), 68-75.

  • Unlike other domesticated creatures, the house cat contributes little to human survival. Researchers have therefore wondered how and why cats came to live among people. Experts traditionally thought that the Egyptians were the first to domesticate the cat, some 3,600 years ago. 
  • But recent genetic and archaeological discoveries indicate that cat domestication began in the Fertile Crescent, perhaps around 10,000 years ago, when agriculture was getting under way. 
  • The findings suggest that cats started making themselves at home around people to take advantage of the mice and food scraps found in their settlements. 

Saturday 10 May 2014

Dog diseases threat Ethiopian wolf

Laurenson, K., Sillero‐Zubiri, C., Thompson, H., Shiferaw, F., Thirgood, S., & Malcolm, J. (1998). Disease as a threat to endangered species: Ethiopian wolves, domestic dogs and canine pathogens. Animal Conservation, 1(4), 273-280.

With increasing awareness of disease as an endangering process, an assessment of which pathogens might pose a problem and their patterns of infection in natural hosts is necessary. This paper examines the exposure of sympatric Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) and domestic dogs to canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV) and canine parvovirus (CPV) in the Bale region, Ethiopia and then relates these data to population trends of wolves. Wolves (n= 30) sampled between 1989 and 1992 had been exposed to CDV, CAV and CPV, but only CAV might be able to persist in this wolf population. Anecdotal and serological evidence suggested that an epidemic of CDV occurred in the dog population of the Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP) in 1992–93. All park dogs born since this time were seronegative to CDV, although some young dogs in the nearby urban population were seropositive. Despite evidence of CAV infection in wolves, none of the dogs sampled in the park were CAV seropositive, although this virus appeared highly seroprevalent and endemic in urban dogs. All dogs tested for CPV antibodies were seropositive. The BMNP wolf population declined in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with rabies responsible for a dramatic population reduction between 1990 and 1992. Although the population declined further up until 1995, it is not possible to assess whether the concurrent canine distemper epidemic in park dogs also affected wolves. Nevertheless, with evidence of rabies, CDV, CAV and CPV infections in sympatric domestic dogs and Ethiopian wolves, canid diseases clearly pose a significant threat to the future persistence of this Ethiopian wolf population.

Friday 9 May 2014

Predicting effects of cat predation on their avian preys

Maclean, M. M., Carslake, D. J., Evans, M. R., Townley, S., & Hodgson, D. J. (2008). The usefulness of sensitivity analysis for predicting the effects of cat predation on the population dynamics of their avian prey. Ibis, 150(s1), 100-113.

Sensitivity analyses of population projection matrix (PPM) models are often used to identify life-history perturbations that will most influence a population's future dynamics. Sensitivities are linear extrapolations of the relationship between a population's growth rate and perturbations to its demographic parameters. Their effectiveness depends on the validity of the assumption of linearity. Here we assess whether sensitivity analysis is an appropriate tool to investigate the effect of predation by cats on the population growth rates of their avian prey. We assess whether predation by cats leads to non-linear effects on population growth and compare population growth rates predicted by sensitivity analysis with those predicted by a non-linear simulation. For a two-stage, age-classified House Sparrow Passer domesticus PPM slight non-linearity arose when PPM elements were perturbed, but perturbation to the vital rates underlying the matrix elements had a linear impact on population growth rate. We found a similar effect with a slightly larger three-stage, age-classified PPM for a Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes population perturbed by cat predation. For some avian species, predation by cats may cause linear or only slightly nonlinear impacts on population growth rates. For these species, sensitivity analysis appears to be a useful conservation tool. However, further work on multiple perturbations to avian prey species with more complicated life histories and higher-dimension PPM models is required.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Bait preference testing for rabies oral vaccination

Berentsen, A. R., Bender, S., Bender, P., Bergman, D., Hausig, K., & VerCauteren, K. C. (2014). Preference among seven bait flavors delivered to domestic dogs in Arizona: implications for oral rabies vaccination on the Navajo Nation. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

Less than 20% of domestic dogs on tribal lands in the United States are vaccinated against rabies. One method to increase vaccination rates may be the distribution of oral rabies vaccines (ORV). ONRAB® is the primary ORV bait used in Canada to vaccinate striped skunks and raccoons. To investigate the potential use of ONRAB® ORV baits to vaccinate feral domestic dogs against rabies on tribal lands and beyond, we performed a flavor preference study. Seven bait flavors (bacon, cheese, dog food, hazelnut, sugar-vanilla, peanut butter and sardine) were offered in pairs to 13 domestic dogs. Each dog was offered all possible combinations of bait pairs over a period of ten days, with each bait offered six times. The proportion of times each bait was consumed first by individual dogs was calculated and comparisons among dogs were conducted using the MIXED procedure in SAS. Pairwise comparisons between baits were performed using “contrast” statements with sugar-vanilla flavor as the default for comparison. Type three tests of fixed effects showed a significant treatment effect (F6,72 = 9.74, P < 0.0001). Sugar-vanilla was selected first during 14% of offerings and exhibited the least preference among all bait types (F1,72 = 22.46, P < 0.0001). Dog food was selected first 56% of the time, and more frequently than all other bait types (F1,72 = 13.09, P = 0.0005).

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Are cats bad for the environment?

Curiosity bait field essays

Johnston, M., Bould, L., O’Donoghue, M., Holdsworth, M., Marmion, P., Bilney, R., Reside, A.E., Caldwell, D., Gaborov, R.  & Gentles, T. (2014). Field efficacy of the Curiosity® bait for management of a feral cat population at Roxby Downs, South Australia. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Technical Report Series, (253).

The management of feral cat (Felis catus) populations over large areas in Australia is currently limited by a lack of cost-effective control techniques. Existing techniques, including trapping, shooting and fencing when used to manage large areas are limited by their significant cost. The distribution of poison baits can provide a lower-cost alternative but must address the hazard that the surface-laid baits may present to non-target species. The Eradicat® bait was developed for application in areas where native wildlife have a high tolerance to the poison, sodium monofluoroacetate (1080), used in this product. This bait is generally unsuitable for use in other areas, such as eastern Australia, where native species have a lower tolerance to 1080.

The Australian Government has funded the development of an alternative poison bait for feral cat

control that is a based on Eradicat®. This bait, Curiosity®, exploits differences in feeding behaviour between feral cats and non-target species by presenting the toxicant, para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP), in an encapsulated pellet.

This trial was part of a series of field trials conducted across Australia to assess the efficacy of this bait product and will contribute to the data submitted for product registration purposes. Curiosity® baits were aerially distributed over a 430 km2 area within Roxby Downs Station, South Australia, in July 2013. Monitoring of the bait efficacy program was undertaken using several methods. The survival of eighteen cats trapped within the baited area was monitored with radio transmitting collars. Site occupancy of feral cats was assessed prior to, and following baiting, using automated cameras at 68 sites. Counts of cat activity on 14 groomed track plots were also recorded.

Ten of the collared cats (58%) were confirmed as having died following consumption of Curiosity® bait(s). The GPS data recovered from the seven cats that survived baiting indicated that they all should have encountered bait(s) during the 10 day period following bait distribution. However, only one of these cats was confirmed to have consumed a bait. One cat was discounted from collar return statistics as its survival after baiting could not be determined. There was a statistically significant 52% reduction in the occupancy estimates of feral cats after baiting, consistent with the collar return data. However, the data from track counts did not indicate any change in the cat population although this aspect of the study was compromised by wet weather and site access difficulties. It is also probable that the low number and location of plots affected the results observed in the track count component of the study.

The study also included replicated counts of birds prior to and post baiting to determine whether the Curiosity® baits led to a decrease in populations of non-target species. A 50% decrease in the counts of corvid species was observed in the post-baiting monitor period while other non-target species did not decline. It is not possible to wholly associate the apparent decline in corvids with use of the Curiosity® baits as other factors, such as migration or count error, may have contributed to this result. Rejection of the encapsulated toxicant pellet was observed on one occasion and was attributed to bait consumption by a corvid. No carcasses of wildlife species were encountered during the study that implicated Curiosity® baits as the cause of death.

Some further development is required to prevent the premature loss of structural integrity of the Curiosity® coating structure, and thus leakage of the toxicant formulation material from the delivery device. Despite this, the results from this study indicate that the Curiosity® bait reduced the feral cat population at this site.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Which kills more birds, cats or turbines?

The policies of stray pet population control in Lithuania

Taruskaite-Vanebo, S. (2013). The policies of stray pet population control in Lithuania: a study of government contractors as opposed to non-profit volunteer based organizations. Master Thesis. Norvegian University of Life Sciences.

Within the thesis, the trending methods of stray pet population care and control are considered, the emphasis put on the differences between governmentally funded institutions of sanitation and the non-governmental animal shelters; significant attention paid to the implementation and overall effectiveness of both systems, with the differentiation of financial success and their effectiveness in saving animals and finding new homes. Within the framework of the thesis, the relationship between those two types of organizations is considered with an attempt to put some light on the impact they have on each other and how such dynamics enforce the evolution in the methods and planning for the future. Furthermore, the expansion of the non-governmental animal shelter policies considered with comparisons to the municipally funded policies that rely on mass extermination of stray pets. Finally, the main reasons for establishment of non-governmental shelters are examined as well as possible implementations on the legal basis in conjunction to propagating the expansion and future of such shelters. The main comparison framework has been set for two main cities in Lithuania, Vilnius and Kaunas as they are the most representative of the current situation, providing the perfect medium since the beginning of the no-kill shelter establishment that competes with the municipally contracted institutions which still control the vast majority of the stray animal population care and control market.

Monday 5 May 2014

Legal status of wolf-hybrids

Trouwborst, A. (2014). Exploring the legal status of wolf‐dog hybrids and other dubious animals: International and EU law and the wildlife conservation problem of hybridization with domestic and alien species. Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law.

Hybridization with domestic or alien species poses a threat to many species of wild fauna. However, hybridization is not explicitly addressed in the provisions of the principal international legal instruments on nature conservation. This article reviews the relevance, scope and substance of wildlife protection obligations under the Bern Convention on European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and the European Union's Habitats Directive with respect to this issue. The problem of wolf-dog hybridization is singled out as a case study. The article concludes that addressing hybridization through preventive and mitigation measures is in conformity with the obligations of States under the Convention and the Directive, and may indeed be essential in order to comply with these obligations. In the wolf-dog context, this includes dealing with feral and stray dogs and captive hybrids, and removing hybrid animals from the wild. At the same time, it appears that the national prohibitions on the killing and capturing of wolves and other strictly protected species, as prescribed by the Convention and the Directive, also cover free-ranging wolf-dog hybrids and similar hybrids living in the wild. This entails that the removal of such hybrid animals from the wild is subject to the rules concerning derogations from strict protection. These rules, however, do not appear to stand in the way of such removal. The article's central recommendation is for the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention and the European Commission to adopt express guidance concerning hybridization.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Artificial nest predation in forest tracts and its relationshib with the decline of birds

Wilcove, D.S. 1985. Nest predation in forest tracts and the decline of migratory songbirds. Ecology 66: 1211- 1214

Nest predation has been suggested as an important cause of the decline of breeding populations of migratory songbirds in small woodlots in eastern North America. I tested this hypothesis by placing artificial nests with fresh quail eggs in forest of different sizes in Maryland and Tennessee. Predation rates were higher in small woodlots than in large tracts. Predation was especially intense in woodlots near suburban neighborhoods compared to woodlots in isolated rural areas. Experimental open—cups nests were move vulnerable to predators when placed on the ground vs. 1—2m above ground. In either position these open—cup nests were move vulnerable to predators than experimental cavity nests. Since most species of migratory songbirds construct open—cup nests, and several species place them near the ground, migratory songbirds should by strongly affected by higher predation rates in small forest tracts

Saturday 3 May 2014

Dog Ecology and Population Studies in Lagos State, Nigeria

Hambolu, S. E., Dzikwi, A. A., Kwaga, J. K., Kazeem, H. M., Umoh, J. U., & Hambolu, D. A. (2014). Dog Ecology and Population Studies in Lagos State, Nigeria. Global Journal of Health Science, 6(2), 209-220.

Dog population dynamics have a major impact upon the effectiveness of rabies control strategies. As such, understanding domestic dog ecology has been recognized as central to the design of effective rabies control programmes. This study was conducted to determine the dog ecology in Lagos State using compound dog count and street dog count in the three senatorial districts (Lagos West, East and Central) of Lagos State from February, 2011 to January, 2012. A total of 546 questionnaires were distributed for the compound dog count and all were completed and returned. Various aspects of dog ecology were determined, including size, sex, breed of the dog population, management of dogs and rabies awareness among the respondents. Out of the 546 compounds surveyed, 518 (94.87%) owned at least one dog. A total of 1,427 dogs were counted from the street counts while a total of 1,447 dogs (2.8 dogs/compound) were counted from the compound count. The dogs comprised of 583 males and 864 females, out of which 64.10% are confined. The dog vaccination coverage in the dog population 
surveyed was 64.10% and administered majorly (91.30%) by veterinarians. Security (60%) and pets (26%) were the major reasons for keeping dogs. Majority (88.80%) of the respondents were aware of rabies and its mode of transmission, but still believed in the use of concoctions (40.40%), herbs (19.90%) and consumption of the organ of the offending dog (11.50%) for the treatment of rabies. The findings of this study showed a male: female ratio of dog to be 1:1.5 and a dog: human ratio of 1:5.6. There was also a responsible dog ownership as majority of the respondents do confine, vaccinate and provide food for their dogs. Vaccination coverage of the total dog population was however below the 70-80% target recommended by the World Health Organization to achieve herd immunity. 

Friday 2 May 2014

Review of cat ecology and management strategies in Australia

Denny, E. A., & Dickman, C. R. (2010). Review of cat ecology and management strategies in Australia. Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Canberra.

Felis catus, the domestic cat, occurs throughout the Australian mainland as well as on more than 40 islands off the Australian coast. Cats exploit diverse habitats, including deserts, forests, woodlands, grasslands, towns and cities, and occur from sea level to altitudes above 2000 m. The classification of cats as domestic, stray or feral (Moodie 1995) reflects the varied ecology of cats and their dichotomous status in Australia — as both a valued pet species and an introduced feral predator.

Feral cats are carnivorous hunters that depredate animals up to 2 kg, but more often take prey under 200 g. The feral cat is linked to the early continental extinctions of up to seven species of mammals. They are also linked to island and regional extinctions of native mammals and birds and have caused the failure of reintroduction attempts aimed at re-establishing threatened species. Today, 35 vulnerable and endangered bird species, 36 mammal species, seven reptile species and three amphibian species are thought to be adversely affected by feral cats. Other species are potentially affected by infectious diseases transmitted by cats. The true environmental and economic impact of feral cats has not been calculated.

In most Australian states and territories, legislation has been introduced to restrict the reproductive and predation potential of owned domestic cats. Many local government areas have introduced cat-specific legislation, with restrictions including the banning of cats as pets in some communities, compulsory neutering, individual identification, and containment of pet cats.
Predation by feral cats was listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Federal Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 (now incorporated in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). A Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats was produced in 1999 and amended in 2008 to promote the recovery of vulnerable and endangered native species and threatened ecological communities (Environment Australia 1999 and DEWHA 2008).

Estimating abundance
The three most common techniques for estimating cat abundance in Australia are spotlighting, counting tracks, and bait uptake estimates. The accuracy of spotlighting is dependent upon the density of vegetative cover and cat behaviour; the accuracy of track counts depends upon where track pads are set and the competence of the operative in recognising tracks; and most bait uptake studies provide data on cat activity rather than relative abundance or densities.
All three techniques are best suited to open, dry habitats with low vegetative cover. In wetter, more closed and productive habitats with high vegetative cover, techniques such as remote photography and the analysis of DNA extracted from scats or hairs provide alternatives for estimating abundance or density. Such estimates are a necessary prerequisite for the implementation of control or eradication programs to avoid over- or under-commitment of labour, time and money, and are also necessary to measure the efficacy of management programs.

Techniques for control or eradication
A nationally co-ordinated program of feral cat control across Australia is not feasible, as it is with other introduced species, and control efforts are best targeted at protecting threatened species or habitats. All successful cat eradication programs in Australia have been conducted on islands or within areas bounded by predator-proof fencing, and most have required the use of more than one control method. Successful techniques for the control or eradication of cats on islands have proved largely impractical on the mainland. Hunting, trapping and shooting are time and labour intensive and not economically viable over large areas. Trap-neuter-return is unsuccessful in open populations and not practical over large areas. The introduction of disease (eg panleucopaenia) is restricted by the probable impact on owned domestic cats and the low transmission rate amongst widely dispersed feral cats. Toxins presently registered for cat baiting may have unacceptable environmental impacts on many habitats.
Research into more felid-specific toxins, cat attracting baits and lures and cat-specific toxin delivery systems may lead to the adoption of poisoning as the most widely used technique for the control or eradication of feral cats.

Management at the regional and local level
Management of feral cats requires reliable data on the density or relative abundance of cats in targeted areas, and analysis of the cost effectiveness and efficacy of the various control measures that may be implemented. At the regional and local level, eradication of cat colonies and the management of resource-rich artificial habitats to discourage colonisation by cats should be an adjunct to any feral cat control program. Implementation of companion animal legislation that requires firmer controls on the owned, domestic cat population is also an important consideration for the longer-term reduction of the feral cat population in Australia.

Factors limiting effective management
Although adequate legislation is in place in some jurisdictions, the problems associated with cat control programs in Australia include: the time, cost and social impacts associated with enforcing companion animal legislation; the acceptance in some states of cats as pest control agents; variable cat densities between habitats; relatively low bait acceptance by feral cats; a lack of programs aimed specifically at stray cat colonies exploiting highly modified habitats; little data on the impact of cat removal on populations of introduced rodents and rabbits; and few accurate estimates of the density or relative abundance of feral cats.
Research is needed to define the most successful methods for gaining public acceptance of the importance of maintaining effective companion animal legislation; estimating densities of cats in various habitats; the cost effectiveness of control techniques including broadscale baiting; assessing the impact of the removal of colony-forming cats in resource-rich artificial habitats on the broader feral cat population; and assessing the impact of cat removal on both native and introduced small mammal populations and the further indirect effects of removal on other components of the biota.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Control of feral cats on Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Algar, D., G.J. Angus, R.I. Brazell, C. Gilbert & D.J. Tonkin. 2003. Feral cats in paradise: Focus on Cocos. Atoll Research Bulletin, 505: 1-12.

The Department of Conservation and Land Management was approached by the Shire council of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to provide a long-term solution to the feral cat problem on the islands. Researchers in the Department have developed a number of techniques and strategies to control feral cats. The project on the islands provided the opportunity to assess these procedures on a closed population in a wet tropical climate. A control program resulted in the removal of approximately 90% of the ferallstray cats on the islands. It is anticipated that Shire officers that were trained in trapping techques during the control program will remove the remaining individuals
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