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

Friday 26 December 2014

Some cases of stray and village dogs' attack to wild ungulates in wildlife reserves in India

Two village dogs resting after bringing down a chital

Village Dogs Hunting Chital, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve

A pack of stray dogs attacking a nilgai in Sultanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, near New Delhi

Thursday 25 December 2014

Progress in eradicating cats on Christmas Is

Algar, D., Hamilton, N., & Pink, C. (2014). Progress in eradicating cats (Felis catus) on Christmas Island to conserve biodiversity. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. Supplement No. 30: 45–53

The impact of cats (Felis catus) on the biodiversity of Christmas Island is of significant concern to land management agencies and the broader community. In 2010, a management plan for cats, and also black rats (Rattus rattus), was commissioned that would mitigate the environmental and social impacts of these alien invasives across the island. A strategy was recommended that provided a staged approach to their management and control leading to eradication of one or both target species. For cats, Stage 1 initially involved gaining approval of revisions to the current local cat management laws that prohibited importation of new cats; this was then followed by a veterinary programme to de-sex, micro-chip and register all domestic cats. Stage 2 required removal of all non-domestic (i.e., stray/feral) cats within the residential, commercial and light industrial zones. Without implementation of Stage 2, a significant source of cats, particularly natal recruits, would be available to disperse into or reinvade territories vacated across the island. Stage 2 was required before an island-wide control programme (Stage 3) could be implemented. 
Stage 1 of the programme has been completed with 135 domestic cats currently registered. Stage 2 has led to the majority of stray/feral cats being destroyed within the residential, commercial and light industrial area. Two hundred and seventy-eight stray/feral cats were removed from this area since May 2011, primarily through cage-trapping. Two baiting programmes have been conducted around the periphery of the residential area with between 36–49 cats being removed in 2011 and a further 103–142 stray/feral cats poisoned during a more extensive programme in 2012. The combined trapping and baiting programmes have resulted in between 417–469 stray/feral cats being removed since the commencement of the plan. Continued funding is essential for a successful conclusion to the cat
eradication programme on the island.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Evaluation of cats socialization in shelters

Slater, M., Garrison, L., Miller, K., Weiss, E., Makolinski, K., Drain, N., & Mirontshuk, A. (2013). Practical physical and behavioral measures to assess the socialization spectrum of cats in a shelter-like setting during a three day period. Animals3(4), 1162-1193.

Animal welfare organizations routinely accept large numbers of cats with unknown histories, and whose backgrounds vary from well-socialized pets to cats that have had little or no contact with humans. Agencies are challenged with making the determination of socialization level in a highly stressful environment where cats are often too frightened to show typical behaviors. A variety of structured behavioral assessments were conducted in a shelter-like environment, from intake through a three day holding period, on cats from the full range of socialization as reported by their caregivers. Our results show that certain behaviors such as rubbing, playing, chirping, having the tail up or being at the front of the cage were found to be unique to More Socialized cats. While not all more socialized cats showed these behaviors, cats that did were socialized. Assessing the cats throughout the three day period was beneficial in eliciting key behaviors from shyer and more frightened cats. These results will be used in future work to develop an assessment tool to identify the socialization status of cats as a standardized guide for transparent and reliable disposition decisions and higher live release rates for cats in animal shelters.

Slater, M., Garrison, L., Miller, K., Weiss, E., Makolinski, K., & Drain, N. (2013). Reliability and validity of a survey of cat caregivers on their cats’ socialization level in the cat’s normal environment. Animals, 3(4), 1194-1214.

Stray cats routinely enter animal welfare organizations each year and shelters are challenged with determining the level of human socialization these cats may possess as quickly as possible. However, there is currently no standard process to guide this determination. This study describes the development and validation of a caregiver survey designed to be filled out by a cat’s caregiver so it accurately describes a cat’s personality,
background, and full range of behavior with people when in its normal environment. The results from this survey provided the basis for a socialization score that ranged from unsocialized to well socialized with people. The quality of the survey was evaluated based on inter-rater and test-retest reliability and internal consistency and estimates of construct and criterion validity. In general, our results showed moderate to high levels of inter-rater (median of 0.803, range 0.211–0.957) and test-retest agreement (median 0.92, range 0.211–0.999). Cronbach’s alpha showed high internal consistency (0.962). Estimates of validity did not highlight any major shortcomings. This survey will be used to develop and validate an effective assessment process that accurately differentiates cats by their socialization levels towards humans based on direct observation of cats’ behavior in an animal shelter.

Slater, M., Garrison, L., Miller, K., Weiss, E., Drain, N., & Makolinski, K. (2013). Physical and behavioral measures that predict cats’ socialization in an animal shelter environment during a three day period. Animals, 3(4), 1215-1228.

Animal welfare organizations typically take in cats with unknown levels of socialization towards humans, ranging from unsocialized cats well-socialized but lost pets. Agencies typically determine the socialization status and disposition options of cats within three days, when even a well-socialized pet may be too frightened of the unfamiliar surroundings to display its typical behavior. This is the third part of a three-phase project to develop and evaluate a reliable and valid tool to predict cats’ socialization levels. We recruited cats from the full spectrum of socialization and, using information from the cats’ caregivers regarding typical behavior toward familiar and unfamiliar people, assigned each cat to a Socialization Category. This information was compared to the cats’ behavior during three days of structured assessments conducted in a shelter-like setting. The results of logistic regression modeling generated two models using assessments from the mornings of the second and third day, focusing on predicting shyer or more aloof but socialized cats. Using the coefficients from each of these models, two sets of points were calculated which were useful in differentiating More and Less Socialized cats. In combination with key socialized behaviors, these points were able to fairly accurately identify More and Less Socialized cats.

Feral cat attacks an endangered Hawaiian Petrel

Video provided by the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project shows a feral cat eating an endangered Hawaiian Petrel.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Cat eating endangered honeycreeper

The non-native feral cat in Hawaii is the most threatening predator to critically endangered palila. Palila did not evolve with these predators and are especially vulnerable to them. Evidence of their vulnerability was documented by researchers studying nest success of palila using continuous-loop video cameras to monitor the nests. Based on predation rates of the nests monitored, feral cats cause about 10% of all palila nests to fail every year.

Nest predation on endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper

Laut, M. E., Banko, P. C., & Gray, E. M. (2003). Nesting behavior of Palila, as assessed from video recordings. Pacific science, 57(4), 385-392.

We quantified nesting behavior of Palila (Loxioides bailleui), an endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper, by recording at nests during three breeding seasons using a black-and-white video camera connected to a videocassette recorder. A total of seven nests was observed. We measured the following factors for daylight hours: percentage of time the female was on the nest (attendance), length of attendance bouts by the female, length of nest recesses, and adult provisioning rates. Comparisons were made between three stages of the 40-day nesting cycle: incubation (day 1–day 16), early nestling stage (day 17–day 30 [i.e., nestlings ≤14 days old]), and late nestling stage (day 31–day 40 [i.e., nestlings > 14 days old]). Of seven nests observed, four fledged at least one nestling and three failed. One of these failed nests was filmed being depredated by a feral cat (Felis catus). Female nest attendance was near 82% during the incubation stage and decreased to 21% as nestlings aged. We did not detect a difference in attendance bout length between stages of the nesting cycle. Mean length of nest recesses increased from 4.5 min during the incubation stage to over 45 min during the late nestling stage. Mean number of nest recesses per hour ranged from 1.6 to 2.0. Food was delivered to nestlings by adults an average of 1.8 times per hour for the early nestling stage and 1.5 times per hour during the late nestling stage and did not change over time. Characterization of parental behavior by video had similarities to but also key differences from findings taken from blind observations. Results from this study will facilitate greater understanding of Palila reproductive strategies.

Saturday 20 December 2014

The effects of feral cats on insular wildlife

Hess, S. C., & Danner, R. M. (2013). The effects of feral cats on insular wildlife: The Club-Med syndrome. In Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference (Vol. 25, pp. 76-82).

Domestic cats have been introduced to many of the world’s islands where they have been particularly devastating to insular wildlife which, in most cases, evolved in the absence of terrestrial predatory mammals and feline diseases. We review the effects of predation, feline diseases, and the life history characteristics of feral cats and their prey that have contributed to the extirpation and extinction of many insular vertebrate species. The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii is a persistent landbased zoonotic pathogen hosted by cats that is known to cause mortality in several insular bird species. It also enters marine environments in cat feces, where it can cause the mortality of marine mammals. Feral cats remain widespread on islands throughout the world, and are frequently subsidized in colonies which caretakers often assert have little negative effect on native wildlife. However, population genetics, home range, and movement studies all suggest that there are no locations on smaller islands where these cats cannot penetrate within two generations. While the details of past vertebrate extinctions were rarely documented during contemporary time, a strong line of evidence is emerging that the removal of feral cats from islands can rapidly facilitate the recolonization of extirpated species, particularly seabirds. Islands offer unique, mostly self-contained ecosystems in which to conduct controlled studies of the effects of feral cats on wildlife, having implications for continental systems. The response of terrestrial wildlife such as passerine birds, small mammals, and herptiles still needs more thorough long-term monitoring and documentation after the removal of feral cats.

Friday 19 December 2014

Videographic evidence of endangered species depredation by feral cat in Hawaii

Judge, S., Lippert, J. S., Misajon, K., Hu, D., & Hess, S. C. (2012). Videographic evidence of endangered species depredation by feral cat. Pacific Conservation Biology, 18(4), 293.

Feral cats (Felis catus) have long been implicated as nest predators of endangered 'Ua'u (Hawaiian Petrel; Pterodroma sandwichensis) on Hawai'i Island, but until recently, visual confirmation has been limited by available technology. 'Ua'u nest out of view, deep inside small cavities, on alpine lava flows. During the breeding seasons of 2007 and 2008, we monitored known burrows within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Digital infrared video cameras assisted in determining the breeding behaviour and nesting success at the most isolated of burrows. With 7 cameras, we collected a total of 819 videos and 89 still photographs of adult and nestling 'Ua'u at 14 burrows. Videos also confirmed the presence of rats (Rattus spp.) at 2 burrows, 'Oma'o (Myadestes obscurus) at 8 burrows, and feral cats at 6 burrows. A sequence of videos showed a feral cat taking a downy 'Ua'u chick from its burrow, representing the first direct evidence of 'Ua'u depredation by feral cat in Hawai'i. This technique provides greater understanding of feral cat behaviour in 'Ua'u colonies, which may assist in the development of more targeted management strategies to reduce nest predation on endangered insular bird species.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Comparison of managed and unmanaged wedge-tailed shearwater colonies: Effects of predation

Smith, D. G., Polhemus, J. T., & VanderWerf, E. A. (2002). Comparison of managed and unmanaged wedge-tailed shearwater colonies on O'ahu: Effects of predation. Pacific Science, 56(4), 451-457.

On O‘ahu, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus) and other seabirds nest primarily on small offshore islets, but fossil evidence shows that many seabirds formerly bred on O‘ahu itself. Predation by introduced mammals is suspected to be the primary factor preventing shearwaters and other seabirds from reestablishing large nesting colonies on O‘ahu. We investigated the effects of predation on Wedge-tailed Shearwaters by comparing three small unmanaged colonies at Mālaekahana State Recreation Area on O‘ahu, where feral cats are fed by the public, with a large managed colony at nearby Moku‘auia Island State Seabird Sanctuary, where predators are absent. During three visits on 19 April, 16 June, and 23 October 2000, we located 69 occupied burrows in three colonies at Mālaekahana and 85 occupied burrows in four monitoring plots at Moku‘auia. Many more nests produced chicks at Moku‘auia (62%) than at Mālaekahana (20%). Among plots at Ma¯laekahana, reproductive success was lowest (zero) at the colony closest to the cat feeding site. In addition, 44 adult shearwater carcasses were found at Mālaekahana near the cat feeding site. Predation, most likely by cats attracted to supplemental food, had a devastating impact on shearwaters at Mālaekahana. At one colony there was complete reproductive failure and almost all adults were killed. Populations of long-lived species like seabirds are sensitive to adult mortality, and Ma¯laekahana may act as a sink, draining birds away from other areas.

Cat predation on Zino's petrel

Zino, F. (1992). Cat amongst the freiras. Oryx, 26(03), 174-174.

A further threat to Pterodroma madeira was identified in 1991 when feral cats killed 10 petrels on a single ledge

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Mongooses may be more dangerous predator than cats to burrowing seabirds

DUFFY, D. C. & CAPECE, P.I. 2014. Depredation of endangered burrowing seabirds in Hawai’i: management priorities. Marine Ornithology 42: 149–152.

Small Indian Mongooses Herpestes javanicus have until recently been absent from the island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i. In anticipation of required management, we examine evidence that mongooses may be a significantly more dangerous predator than cats Felis catus for burrowing seabirds, particularly the endangered Hawaiian Petrel Pterodroma sandwichensis and threatened Newell’s Shearwater Puffinus newelli. Mongooses are small enough to enter burrows, allowing them to take eggs, nestlings and adults. In contrast, cats appear too broad to enter any but the widest burrows, so they tend to attack adults and young when these come to the burrow mouth. Given that these seabird species no longer persist in any numbers at low elevations on islands where mongooses are present, and that Kaua’i is one of the lowest of the main Hawaiian islands, if resources are limited, local control or eradication of mongooses would be a higher priority for management than control of cats or rats Rattus spp., although control of just one predator might result in increases in the others. The most important management action is to keep mongooses off islands where they are not already established.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Indirect dispersal of seeds by lizard-preying cats

Nogales, M., Medina, F. M., & Valido, A. (1996). Indirect seed dispersal by the feral cats Felis catus in island ecosystems (Canary Islands). Ecography, 19(1), 3-6.

In this paper we present an unusual incidence of an introduced Camivora Felis catus as indirect seed disperser of plants that produce fleshy fruits in different ecosystems in the Canary Islands. Four hundred and twenty six seeds from at least 8 fleshy fruit plant species have been identified in the analysis of 1047 scat groups, the majority of them being found in the lower habitats (<600 m a.s.l.) of the Canary archipelago. Seeds from two plant species were significantly matched with the presence of lizard prey, and fruits of Juniperus phoenicea, Neochamaelea pulverulenta and Withania aristata were directly consumed by the cats. Passing through the gut of the Gallotia galloti(Lacertidae) and Felis catus apparently does not damage the seeds. At the moment, the phenomenon studied in this paper does not seem to have a great quantitative importance in the natural regeneration of the plants if we compare the direct vs indirect seed dispersal.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Feral cat hunting in backyard

Feral Cat Documentary. A beautiful feral cat starts hunting backyard wildlife - a dilemma for animal lovers! I decide to watch, film and try to get to know this wild creature and see if a win-win solution is possible.

Cat-Related Zoonoses

Sing, M. D. P. A. (2015). Cat-Related Zoonoses: Killing You Softly with Feces and Fleas. In Zoonoses-Infections Affecting Humans and Animals (pp. 587-628). Springer Netherlands.
In many countries worldwide, cats have become “man’s really best friend”. In the following chapter the public health relevance of cats will be highlighted by introducing the most relevant zoonotic pathogens including Toxoplasma gondii, Bartonella henselae, Toxocara cati, Rickettsia felis, enteropathogenic bacteria and the emerging cat-related pathogen Corynebacterium ulcerans.

Friday 12 December 2014

Toxoplasma gondii in domestic and wild animals from forest fragments in Brazil

Fournier, G. F. D. S. R., Lopes, M. G., Marcili, A., Ramirez, D. G., Acosta, I. C. L., da Silva Ferreira, J. I. G., Aline Diniz Cabral, Ribeiro de Lima, J.T., de Jesus Pena,H.F., Dias, R.A. & Gennari, S. M. Toxoplasma gondii in domestic and wild animals from forest fragments of the municipality of Natal, northeastern Brazil. Braz. J. Vet. Parasitol., Jaboticabal, 23 (4): 501-508

Toxoplasmosis stands out as a global disease that has felines as definitive hosts. In the municipality of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte State, Brazil, two parks are notable for their ecological and social importance. This study aimed to investigate the presence of Toxoplasma gondii in short hair cats, bats and small non-volant mammals in these two ecological reserves. Altogether, biological samples were obtained from 154 mammals, 92 wild animals from both areas and 62 domestic cats of the Parque da Cidade. In total, 22 (53.7%) non-volant wild mammals, 11 (21.5%) bats and 28 (52.8%) cats were positive for IgG anti-T. gondii antibodies using the Modified Agglutination Test (≥ 25). It was
possible to detect the presence of T. gondii DNA, by means of a molecular amplification of a B1 gene fragment (155bp), in 92 tissue samples from wild animals, including Didelphis albiventris, Monodelphis domestica, Artibeus lituratusCarollia perspicillata and Glossophaga soricina. Of the 62 cats examined by the same molecular method, T. gondii DNA could be detected in 4 cats. In this study, it was observed the circulation of T. gondii in wild species and domestic cats, demonstrating the involvement of wild and domestic animals in the cycle of T. gondii.

Breed of abandoned and lost dogs in Czech Republic

Voslarova, E., Zak, J., Vecerek, V., & Bedanova, I. (2014). Breed Characteristics of Abandoned and Lost Dogs in the Czech Republic. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, (ahead-of-print), 1-11.
Records on sheltered dogs were collected from 3 municipal dog shelters situated in different regions of the Czech Republic from 2010 to 2013. A total of 3,875 dogs were analyzed in this study. Among these, 1,614 dogs were subsequently reclaimed (lost dogs) and 2,261 dogs were abandoned and offered for adoption. The ratio of purebred dogs and crossbred dogs differed significantly when comparing lost (66.4% vs. 33.6%) and abandoned dogs (35.0% vs. 65.0%). The median time until lost dogs were reclaimed was 1 day, and it was not affected by purebred status. The median time until abandoned dogs were adopted was 23 days. In abandoned dogs, purebred status had a significant effect on the time the dog spent at the shelter before adoption. The median time until adoption for crossbred dogs was 27 days, whereas the median time until adoption for purebred dogs was 19 days. The breed group influenced the length of stay (LOS) in abandoned dogs. Small companion dogs had the shortest LOS (median = 15 days) and guard dogs had the longest LOS (median = 25 days).

Thursday 11 December 2014

Toxocara cati in Didelphis albiventris from Brazil

Pinto, H. A., Mati, V. L. T., & de Melo, A. L. 2014. Toxocara cati (Nematoda: Ascarididae) in Didelphis albiventris (Marsupialia: Didelphidae) from Brazil: a case of pseudoparasitism. Braz. J. Vet. Parasitol., Jaboticabal, 23, (4): 522-525
Eggs of Toxocara cati were found in the feces of Didelphis albiventris from a peridomestic urban environment in Brazil. Negative fecal tests following short-term captivity of the opossums, as well as the absence of ascaridids during necropsy, suggest the occurrence of pseudoparasitism. Implications of the findings for the epidemiology of toxocariasis are discussed.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Diet of the feral ca in central Australian grasslands during population cycles of its principal prey

Yip, S. J., Rich, M. A., & Dickman, C. R. (2014). Diet of the feral cat, Felis catus, in central Australian grassland habitats during population cycles of its principal prey. Mammal Research, 1-12.

Foraging theory predicts that animals should forage so as to maximize their net rate of energy gain or to minimize their risk of starvation. In situations where prey numbers fluctuate dramatically, theory predicts further that foragers will eat ‘optimal’ prey when it is abundant but expand their diet to include other prey types when the optimal prey is scarce; this is the alternative prey hypothesis. Here, we test this prediction by analyzing the diet of a mammalian predator, the feral house catFelis catus, during periods of scarcity and abundance of the long-haired rat Rattus villosissimus. We also investigate whether the body condition of feral cats differs during different stages of the prey population cycle. Feral cats were shot during culling operations in semi-arid grassland habitats in central Queensland, Australia, and the stomach contents later identified. We found that the body condition of feral cats did not differ between phases of the prey population cycle, but the diets of cats culled when long-haired rats were scarce were significantly more diverse than when this rodent was abundant. Rats comprised about 80 % of cats’ diet by volume and frequency of occurrence when they were present, whereas birds, reptiles and invertebrates comprised the bulk of the diet when rats were not available. We conclude that, whilst feral cats are often thought to be specialist predators, they may be better considered as facultative specialists that will shift their diet in predictable ways in response to changes in the abundance of primary prey.

Monday 8 December 2014

A new technique for monitoring the detailed behaviour of domestic cat

Watanabe, S., Izawa, M., Kato, A., Ropert-Coudert, Y., & Naito, Y. (2005). A new technique for monitoring the detailed behaviour of terrestrial animals: a case study with the domestic cat. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 94(1), 117-131.

For many animal species that are difficult to access, the behaviour of free-ranging individuals cannot be assessed by direct observation. In order to remedy this, we developed a new technique using a motion detector (acceleration data-logger) for monitoring the activity and behaviour of free-ranging vertebrates and tested its efficiency on a domestic cat, Felis catus. A total of 3615 min of surging acceleration was measured along the longitudinal body axis of an adult male cat. The cat's behaviour was also filmed for 113 min, these video data being used to correlate the logger's signals with the cat's behaviour. Acceleration data-loggers attached on the cat's collar recorded acceleration signals which were influenced by both the gravitational acceleration resulting from the body posture and the dynamic acceleration resulting from the dynamic behaviour of the cat. By applying spectral analysis based on a fast Fourier Transform to acceleration signals, body postures and some of the dynamic behaviours of the cat such as drinking, eating, and several paces of travelling were efficiently determined. The present study shows that acceleration data-loggers represent a useful and reliable system for accurately recording the activities and detail behaviours of the terrestrial animals.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Exposure of jaguars to several domestic animal borne parasites

Onuma, S. S. M., Melo, A. L. T., Kantek, D. L. Z., Crawshaw-Junior, P. G., Morato, R. G., May-Júnior, J. A., Pacheco T. dos A. & de Aguiar, D. M. 2014. Exposure of free-living jaguars to Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum and Sarcocystis neurona in the Brazilian Pantanal.

Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum and Sarcocystis neurona are related apicomplexan parasites that cause reproductive and neurological disorders in a wide range of domestic and wild animals. In the present study, the immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT) was used to investigate the presence of antibodies against T. gondii, N. caninum and S. neurona in the sera of 11 free-living jaguars (Panthera onca) in two protected areas in the Pantanal region of Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Ten jaguars (90.9%) showed seropositivity for T. gondii, eight (72.7%) for S. neurona, and seven (63.6%) for N. caninum antigens. Our findings reveal exposure of jaguars to these related coccidian parasites and circulation of these pathogens in this wild ecosystem. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first serological detection of N. caninum and S. neurona in free-living jaguars.

Saturday 6 December 2014

The Challenges of Feral Cat Management

Hendrickson, J.L. 2014 The Challenges of Feral Cat Management: A Case Study on Population Control Methods. School of Education. Paper 51.

This project examines the impact of feral cats through a study of positive and negative effects on the environment, our communities, and people; while looking into the variety of population control methods being used. The research was accomplished with the use of a questionnaire designed to determine what population control methods are currently being used and what are the biggest concerns in regards to feral cats in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. This Capstone challenges the argument that there is only one solution to control feral cat populations and research shows more collaborative work should be done in order to see a significant change in feral cat populations.

Friday 5 December 2014

Simulating free-roaming cat population management options in open demographic environments

Miller, P. S., Boone, J. D., Briggs, J. R., Lawler, D. F., Levy, J. K., Nutter, F. B., Margaret Slater, M. & Zawistowski, S. (2014). Simulating Free-Roaming Cat Population Management Options in Open Demographic Environments. PloS one, 9(11), e113553.

Large populations of free-roaming cats (FRCs) generate ongoing concerns for welfare of both individual animals and populations, for human public health, for viability of native wildlife populations, and for local ecological damage. Managing FRC populations is a complex task, without universal agreement on best practices. Previous analyses that use simulation modeling tools to evaluate alternative management methods have focused on relative efficacy of removal (or trap-return, TR), typically involving euthanasia, and sterilization (or trap-neuter-return, TNR) in demographically isolated populations. We used a stochastic demographic simulation approach to evaluate removal, permanent sterilization, and two postulated methods of temporary contraception for FRC population management. Our models include demographic connectivity to neighboring untreated cat populations through natural dispersal in a metapopulation context across urban and rural landscapes, and also feature abandonment of owned animals. Within population type, a given implementation rate of the TR strategy results in the most rapid rate of population decline and (when populations are isolated) the highest probability of population elimination, followed in order of decreasing efficacy by equivalent rates of implementation of TNR and temporary contraception. Even low levels of demographic connectivity significantly reduce the effectiveness of any management intervention, and continued abandonment is similarly problematic. This is the first demographic simulation analysis to consider the use of temporary contraception and account for the realities of FRC dispersal and owned cat abandonment.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Participatory approach to control free roaming dogs

Schurer, J. M., Phipps, K., Okemow, C., Beatch, H., & Jenkins, E. (2014). Stabilizing Dog Populations and Improving Animal and Public Health Through a Participatory Approach in Indigenous Communities. Zoonoses and Public Health.

Free-roaming dog populations are a global concern for animal and human health including transmission of infectious disease (e.g. rabies, distemper and parasites), dog bite injuries/mortalities, animal welfare and adverse effects on wildlife. In Saskatchewan (SK), Canada, veterinary care is difficult to access in the remote and sparsely inhabited northern half of the province, where the population is predominately Indigenous. Even where veterinary clinics are readily available, there are important barriers such as cost, lack of transportation, unique cultural perspectives on dog husbandry and perceived need for veterinary care. We report the effects of introducing a community action plan designed to improve animal and human health, increase animal health literacy and benefit community well-being in two Indigenous communities where a dog-related child fatality recently occurred. Initial door-to-door dog demographic surveys indicated that most dogs were sexually intact (92% of 382 dogs), and few had ever been vaccinated (6%) or dewormed (6%). Approximately three animal-related injuries requiring medical care were reported in the communities per 1000 persons per year (95% CL: 1.6–6.6), and approximately 83% of 101 environmentally collected dog faecal samples contained parasites, far above levels reported in other urban or rural settings in SK. Following two subsidized spay/neuter clinics and active rehoming of dogs, parasite levels in dog faeces decreased significantly (P < 0.001), and important changes were observed in the dog demographic profile. This project demonstrates the importance of engaging people using familiar, local resources and taking a community specific approach. As well, it highlights the value of integrated, cross-jurisdictional cooperation, utilizing the resources of university researchers, veterinary personnel, public health, environmental health and community-based advocates to work together to solve complex issues in One Health. On-going surveillance on dog bites, parasite levels and dog demographics are needed to measure the long-term sustainability of benefits to dog, human and wildlife health.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Reproductive behaviour of free-ranging rural dogs in West Bengal

Pal, S. K. (2003). Reproductive behaviour of free-ranging rural dogs in West Bengal, India. Acta theriologica, 48(2), 271-281.

Reproductive behaviour of free-ranging dogs Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in a village in the state of West Bengal, India. Increased synchronized breeding was the most striking feature of this study. October (late monsoon) represented the peak period of mating for the feral dogs. Of all courting males, only 41% were observed to mount and copulate. On average, each male mounted 5.47 ± 2.49 (mean ± SD) times per hour. Of all mountings, only 10% were successful matings, ie copulatory ties. There was a negative correlation between the number of courting males and the number of successful copulations. The average duration of copulatory tie was 15.73 ± 7.75 min. Several factors interrupting the duration of copulatory ties were identified. December was the peak period of pup rearing. Mean litter size was 5.70 ± 2.03 with a male-biased sex ratio 1.41:1. Only a single annual breeding cycle recorded here differed from the previous studies on European and American dogs. Mothers spent most of the time with their pups at the dens during the early stage of rearing. The duration of time spent at dens by mothers was minimum when the pups were highly mobile at the age of 10 weeks. The lactating mothers were observed to be more aggressive immediately following litter production. Typically, an old adult male remained near the den as a ‘guard’.

Intergroup agonistic behaviour in free-ranging dog

Pal, S.K. 2014. Factors influencing intergroup agonistic behaviour in free-ranging domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Acta ecologica.

We investigated the effects of sex, age, season and competitive context on the intergroup agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris). Data were collected in different places to record competitive cooperative behaviour during intergroup conflicts. Observations of 21 free-ranging dogs belonging to four neighbouring groups were made in Katwa town, India. Throughout the 12-month study period, 85 % of all intergroup agonistic interactions recorded were aggressive and 15 % submissive. Intergroup aggressive interactions were more frequent during the late monsoon months when the females were in oestrus, while submissive interactions reached a peak during the winter months when the females were lactating. Adult dogs, particularly males, displayed a higher rate of aggressive behaviour than other age classes, whereas juvenile dogs, particularly males, displayed the highest rate of submissive behaviour. Male dogs were observed to perform more agonistic behaviours in mating contexts and at the boundaries of their territories, whereas female dogs displayed more agonistic behaviours in feeding contexts and in the vicinity of the den. Both aggressive and submissive patterns displayed by the dogs varied with the competitive contexts. The most frequently observed category of aggressive behaviour was ‘barking, growling and snarling’ and submissive behavioural patterns were displayed frequently by ‘lips retracted in a submissive grin’. The striking feature of this study was that in most cases, more than one dog participated in aggressive conflicts. Such cooperative defense predominantly occurred at the boundaries of territory. Group home range size was largest during the late monsoon months and during the winter months.

Population ecology of free-ranging urban dogs in West Bengal

Pal, S. K. (2001). Population ecology of free-ranging urban dogs in West Bengal, India. Acta Theriologica, 46(1), 69-78.

A population of urban free-ranging dogs Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in Katwa, West Bengal, India. The analysis of changes in the density of the dog population over a period of 4 years revealed a considerable stability of this population. Mean (±SD)2 seasonal population density was 185±19 dogs/km2, ranging from 156 to 214 dogs/km2. A sex ratio of 1.37∶1 in favour of male was recorded in this study. High mortality (67%) occurred under the age of 4 months, and 82% mortality occurred within the age of 1 year. Among the adults, 24% mortality under the age of 2.6 year was recorded. Only a single breeding cycle and synchronization of breeding was observed. Immigration was observed as a crucial factor affecting the stability of this population.

Agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs

Pal, S. K., Ghosh, B., & Roy, S. (1998). Agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris) in relation to season, sex and age. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 59(4), 331-348.

Observations on the agonistic behaviour of 12 free-ranging dogs from two neighbouring groups were recorded in Katwa town, India. Both intra- and inter-group agonistic encounters were recorded on a seasonal basis. Mean (±S.E.) seasonal number of intra-group agonistic encounters of individual dog was greatest in winter (13.33±1.89) and then in late monsoon (12.33±1.99), when the females were lactating and in oestrus, respectively. Similarly, the mean (±S.E.) seasonal number of inter-group agonistic encounters of individual dog was greatest in winter (32.25±4.43) and then in late monsoon (27.75±2.01). There was a significant difference between the intra- and inter-group agonistic encounters. Dominance hierarchies were established among the adult dogs of either sex based on aggressive encounters. Although individual differences in agonism were observed, overall levels of aggression were higher among the adult females than for other groups. In contrast, overall levels of submission were higher among the juvenile males than for other groups. The results from this study suggest that reproductive season, sex and age have a significant effect on the agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Patent: animal proof hooded barrier, related enclosure systems and method of maintaining an animal proof domain

Moore, D. E. 2014. Animal Proof Hooded Barrier, Related Enclosure Systems and Method of Maintaining an Animal Proof Domain. U.S. Patent Application 12/689,591, 19 Ene. 2010.

The invention encompasses a substantially animal-proof barrier (“APB”) that includes (a) two supports that are laterally spaced apart to define a substantially vertical plane there between; (b) fencing material that is attached to each of the supports and spans the defined substantially vertical plane to form a simple barrier that has a top edge, a bottom edge, a front surface and a back surface, wherein the simple barrier divides a domain into a first area and a second area; and (c) a hood having an inner surface, the hood originating from the top edge of the simple barrier. An angle formed by the inner surface of the hood and the front surface of the simple barrier measures about 10 degrees to about 80 degrees, such that a channel having a substantially V-shaped cross section is formed.


Monday 1 December 2014

Limited capacity of anthropophilous scavengers to compensate loss of raptors

Huijbers, C. M., Schlacher, T. A., Schoeman, D. S., Olds, A. D., Weston, M. A., & Connolly, R. M. (2014). Limited functional redundancy in vertebrate scavenger guilds fails to compensate for the loss of raptors from urbanized sandy beaches. Diversity and Distributions.

Globally, urbanization is one of the most widespread, intense and ecologically destructive forms of landscape transformation, and it is often concentrated in coastal areas. Theoretically, species losses attributable to urbanization are predicted not to alter overall ecosystem function if functional redundancy (i.e. replacement of function by alternative species) compensates for such losses. Here, we test this expectation by measuring how coastal urbanization affects scavenger guilds on sandy beaches and whether changes in guild composition result either in an overall loss of scavenging efficiency, or in functional compensation under alternative guild structures, maintaining net ecosystem functioning.

Fourteen beaches along the east coast of Australia with variable levels of urbanization.

Scavenging communities and rates of carrion removal were determined using motion-triggered cameras at the beach-dune interface.

A substantial shift in the community structure of vertebrate scavengers was associated with gradients in urbanization. Iconic and functionally important raptors declined precipitously in abundance on urban beaches. Importantly, other vertebrates usually associated with urban settings (e.g. dogs, foxes, corvids) did not functionally replace raptors. In areas where < 15% of the abutting land had been developed into urban areas, carcass removal by scavengers was often complete, but always > 70%. Conversely, on beaches bordering coastal cities with < 40% of natural vegetation remaining, two-thirds of fish carcasses remained uneaten by scavengers. Raptors removed 70–100% of all deployed fish carcasses from beaches with < 8% urban land cover, but this number dropped significantly with greater levels of urbanization and was not compensated by other scavenger species in urban settings.

Main conclusions
There is limited functional redundancy in vertebrate scavenger communities of sandy beach ecosystems, which impacts the system's capacity to mitigate the ecological consequences of detrimental landscape transformations.
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