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

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Dispersal of Feral Cats: Evidence from Genetics and GPS

Plummer, V. N. (2015). Dispersal of Feral Cats: Evidence from Genetics and GPS.
Invasive species are a considerable threat to many native habitats and species along with being considered a major cause of biodiversity loss . Economic damages associated with controlling invasive species and their effects amount to approximately $120 billion a year. Feral cats (Felis catus) are listed as one of the '100 world's worst invasive alien species'. There are as many as 70-100 million feral cats in the United States as well as an estimated 117-157 million domestic indoor and outdoor cats. Management efforts include nonlethal and lethal control methods. Nonlethal methods include a feeding and sterilization program known as "trap-neuter-release" (TNR) where cats are surgically sterilized and returned to the environment. Immigration may hinder TNR's success due to a decrease of natural mortality. Using genetic methods, the influence of immigrants on local population can be quantified and assessed. Microsatellite loci have been used for the analysis of natural population structure and molecular methods of identifying population structure can be a tool for the management and ecology of wildlife especially when paired with behavioral, demographic, or spatial information. The use of spatial information can aid in predicting the efficiency of different control strategies. GPS monitoring has been used on feral cats to study individual movements and interactions with environments, conspecifics and other species. Effective population control strategies should include a broad understanding of how feral cats occupy and move through the environment. The overarching goals of my study are to assess the amount of genetic variation of feral cat colonies on and around campus and to compare the distribution and movements of domestic and feral cats. To accomplish these goals I will 1) evaluate genetic diversity and population structure of feral cats through assessing microsatellite variation using 10 microsatellite markers and 2) determine home-ranges of domestic and feral cats through GPS technology.

Monday 25 May 2015

Optimal multispecies eradication schedules for a commonly encountered invaded island ecosystem

Bode, M., Baker, C. M., & Plein, M. (2015). Eradicating down the food chain: optimal multispecies eradication schedules for a commonly encountered invaded island ecosystem. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52(3), 571-579.

Islands are global hotspots of both biodiversity and extinction. Invasive species are a primary threat, and the majority of islands have been invaded by more than one. Multispecies eradications are essential for conserving the biodiversity of these islands, but experience has shown that eradicating species at the wrong time can be disastrous for endemic species.
Managers not only have to decide how to eradicate each invasive species, they need to determine when to target each species, and how to control multiple species with a limited budget. We use dynamic control theory to show that, when resources are limited, species should be eradicated in a particular order (an eradication schedule). We focus on a common invaded island ecosystem motif, where one invasive predator consumes two prey species (one endemic, one invasive), and managers wish to eradicate both invasives while ensuring the persistence of the endemic species. We identify the optimal eradication schedule for this entire class of problem. To illustrate the application of our solution, we also analyse a particular case study from California's Channel Islands.
For any island ecosystem that shares this motif, managers should begin by allocating all of their resources towards invasive predator control. Only later should resources be shifted towards controlling the invasive prey. This shift should ideally be gradual, but an abrupt shift is very close to optimal. The Channel Islands case study confirms these findings. Targeting both species simultaneously is substantially suboptimal.
We reach the robust conclusion that the same eradication schedule should be applied to any island with this ecosystem motif, even if the ecosystem contains different species to the Channel Islands case study.
Synthesis and applications. Although very numerous, the world's invaded island ecosystems could be described by a limited range of invaded ecosystem motifs. By calculating robust optimal eradication schedules for each motif, the approach defined in this study could offer rapid decision-support for a large number of future conservation projects where specific data are scarce.

Attracting feral cats and other alien predators

Read, J. L., Bengsen, A. J., Meek, P. D., & Moseby, K. E. (2015). How to snap your cat: optimum lures and their placement for attracting mammalian predators in arid Australia. Wildlife Research, 42(1), 1-12.

Context: Automatically activated cameras (camera traps) and automated poison-delivery devices are increasingly being used to monitor and manage predators such as felids and canids. Maximising visitation rates to sentry positions enhances the efficacy of feral-predator management, especially for feral cats, which are typically less attracted to food-based lures than canids.

Aims: The influence of camera-trap placement and lures were investigated to determine optimal monitoring and control strategies for feral cats and other predators in two regions of semi-arid South Australia.

Methods: We compared autumn and winter capture rates, activity patterns and behaviours of cats, foxes and dingoes at different landscape elements and with different lures in three independent 6 km × 3 km grids of 18 camera-trap sites.

Key results: Neither visual, olfactory or audio lures increased recorded visitation rates by any predators, although an audio and a scent-based lure both elicited behavioural responses in predators. Cameras set on roads yielded an eight times greater capture rate for dingoes than did off-road cameras. Roads and resource points also yielded highest captures of cats and foxes. All predators were less nocturnal in winter than in autumn and fox detections at the Immarna site peaked in months when dingo and cat activity were lowest.

Conclusions: Monitoring and management programs for cats and other predators in arid Australia should focus on roads and resource points where predator activity is highest. Olfactory and auditory lures can elicit behavioural responses that render cats more susceptible to passive monitoring and control techniques. Dingo activity appeared to be inversely related to fox but not cat activity during our monitoring period.

Implications: Optimised management of feral cats in the Australian arid zone would benefit from site- and season-specific lure trials.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Response of feral cats to a track‐based baiting programme

Doherty, T. S., & Algar, D. (2015). Response of feral cats to a track‐based baiting programme using Eradicat® baits. Ecological Management & Restoration, 16(2), 124-130.

The feral Cat (Felis catus) is a significant threat to Australian fauna, and reducing their impacts is considered an essential action for threatened species conservation. Poison baiting is increasingly being used for the broad scale control of feral cats. In this study, we measured the population response of feral cats to a track-based baiting programme using Eradicat® baits in the semi-arid northern wheatbelt region of Western Australia. Over two years, 1500 baits were laid once annually and the response of feral cats was measured using remote cameras in a before–after, control–impact design. There was a significant reduction in feral cat activity in the second year, but not the first. During bait uptake trials, corvids removed the most number of baits, followed by cats and varanids. The lack of a response to baiting in the first year may be due to existing low cat numbers in the baited area and/or the timing of the baiting. We provide a list of key recommendations to help inform future cat baiting programmes and research.

Behavioral ecology of free‐roaming/community cats

Monday 11 May 2015

Epidemiology of FeLV and FIV in USA and Canada

Chhetri, B. (2015). Spatial and temporal epidemiology of feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus infections in the United States and Canada (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Guelph).

This thesis investigates the geographical and temporal variations in feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infections, and the importance of known risk factors for these infections relative to each other in the United States and Canada. In addition, the effect of the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) on commonly used spatial analysis methods was assessed.
Choropleth mapping and spatial scan testing revealed that compared to FIV, FeLV infection was predominant in western regions, and FIV infection was predominant in eastern regions of the US. A multilevel case-case study design for comparison of FIV and FeLV infections indicated that cats that were adult, male, healthy, or outdoor cats were more likely to be seropositive for FIV compared to FeLV when compared to juvenile, female, sick or cats kept exclusively indoors. Neuter status and testing at clinic or shelter did not differ significantly between the two infections. Time series analysis did not reveal an increasing or decreasing trend in FIV or FeLV seropositivity among cats tested at the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) from 1999-2012. Further, the FIV vaccine introduction did not have a significant effect on changing seroprevalence for FIV. It was evident from this study that commonly used spatial epidemiological methods (Moran's I, the spatial scan test and spatial Poisson regression modeling) are sensitive to the choice of the spatial aggregation scale (state, county, postal code levels) for analysis, (i.e., are affected by the MAUP). The MAUP effect was expressed as differences in strength and significance of clustering, differences in size and number of clusters detected, and differences in significance and magnitude of associations between FIV or FeLV infections and predictor variables as the level of aggregation changed.

Changes of dominance on neuter and intact cats

Finkler, H., & Terkel, J. (2015). The relationship between individual behavioural styles, dominance rank and cortisol levels of cats living in urban social groups.Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Individual animals show differences in temperament, often correlated with ecologically important behavioural patterns such as dominance, and with physiological responses to environmental perturbations, such as cortisol levels. Identifying these temperaments in animals may reveal adaptive patterns of behaviour and physiology that could be used to improve their fitness and welfare in human-controlled environments. We examined the possible relationship between individual temperaments, social dominance levels and cortisol levels in regularly fed urban groups of free-roaming domestic cats (Felis catus L.) that are routinely subjected to the Trap-Neuter-Release procedure (TNR). We designed three behavioural tests that aimed at assessing the cats’ boldness levels and determining the individual temperaments using a principle component analysis. Individual social dominance rank was determined from observations of social encounters before and during feeding. Cortisol levels were measured from hair samples collected from the cats. Significant differences were exclusive to females, with the intact females scoring higher on the boldness factor compared to the neutered females (median of 0.47 ± 0.981 and -0.168 ± 1.015, respectively, Post-hoc Chi square, P < 0.05). A positive correlation was found between cortisol levels and dominance scores in the intact females: the more dominant an individual intact female was the higher her cortisol level was (n = 14, Pearson correlation, R2= 0.592, P < 0.05). No correlation was found between dominance rank and boldness or between boldness and food dominance. In summary, our results suggest that in urban cat feeding groups, where cats are dependent on a regular food source and where their individual survival does not absolutely depend on their dominance rank, their social status was independent from their individual boldness. The differences found in the behavioural tests, between the neutered and the intact females are probably rooted in different motivation levels rather than different temperaments.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Dogs in Lombok Island, Indonesia

Mustiana A, Toribio J-A, Abdurrahman M, Suadnya IW, Hernandez-Jover M, Putra AAG, et al. (2015) Owned and Unowned Dog Population Estimation, Dog Management and Dog Bites to Inform Rabies Prevention and Response on Lombok Island, Indonesia. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0124092. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124092

Although Indonesia has been rabies-infected since at least the 1880s, some islands remain rabies-free, such as Lombok. However, due to its adjacency to rabies-infected islands such as Bali and Flores, there is considerable risk of a rabies incursion. As part of a rabies risk assessment project, surveys were conducted to estimate the size of the dog population and to describe dog management practices of households belonging to different ethnic groups. A photographic-recapture method was employed and the number of unowned dogs was estimated. A total of 400 dog owning households were interviewed, 300 at an urban site and 100 at a rural site. The majority of the interviewed households belonged to the Balinese ethnic group. Owned dogs were more likely male, and non-pedigree or local breed. These households kept their dogs either fully restricted, semi-free roaming or free-roaming but full restriction was reported only at the urban site. Dog bite cases were reported to be higher at the urban site, and commonly affected children/young adults to 20 years old and males. A higher number of unowned dogs was observed at the urban site than at the rural site. Data generated within these surveys can inform rabies risk assessment models to quantify the probability of rabies being released into Lombok and resulting in the infection of the local dog population. The information gained is critical for efforts to educate dog owners about rabies, as a component of preparedness to prevent the establishment of rabies should an incursion occur.

Owned dog and cat populations in remote Indigenous communities in Australia's Northern Territory

Burleigh, A., McMahon, S., & Kiely, S. (2015). Owned dog and cat populations in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory: a retrospective study. Australian Veterinary Journal, 93(5), 145-150.

To determine the population of owned dogs and cats in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory (NT), and compare the data with those for the average Australian household.

Results of 20 Indigenous community animal health programs were analysed for species present and dog and cat numbers. The female breeding and puppy populations were also identified.

The average dog population density was significantly higher than the average Australian household, with an average of 24.4 dogs per 10 households, but the average cat population density was similar (3.3 cats per 10 households). Numbers of other species were not determined. The average percentage of puppies in these communities was 17.6% of the treated canine population, the average percentage of breeding canine females was 18.6% of the treated canine population, and the average percentage of breeding feline females was 19.7% of the total feline population.

Dog populations in NT Indigenous communities were at least 6.3-fold higher per household compared with data for the rest of Australia. Cat populations per household were similar to the overall population. Factors contributing to the relatively high dog populations in remote Indigenous communities include a lack of veterinary presence, community remoteness, poor socioeconomic factors, poor house and yard designs, cultural reasons, communal beliefs, lack of community animal management and a lack of funding. We believe that animal health programs are an important way of addressing a number of these issues. Other elements that should be addressed include improving house and yard design, increasing education regarding animal health, care and welfare, and increasing the training and presence of health and animal professionals.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Approach to control free roaming dogs in Italy

Barnard, S., Chincarini, M., Di Tommaso, L., Di Giulio, F., Messori, S., & Ferri, N. (2015). FREE-ROAMING DOGS CONTROL ACTIVITIES IN ONE ITALIAN PROVINCE (2000-2013): IS THE IMPLEMENTED APPROACH EFFECTIVE?.

In Italy, standards for the management of free-roaming dogs (FRDs) are defined by regional norms, generating a high variability of approaches around the country. Despite efforts carried out by the competent authorities, FRDs are still a reality impacting upon animal health and welfare and public costs. A similar scenario can be found in many other Mediterranean and Balkan counties. Here we present 14 years of data (2000–2013) retrieved from the admission dog registry of a public shelter (PS) responsible for the collection of stray dogs from one Italian province. The aim of this retrospective study was to describe the local FRD population, identifying its source and to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions implemented by the local authorities. In the investigated period, 7,475 dogs were admitted to the PS. Despite the intense sterilisation plan (mean 381.7 sterilisations per year), the overall number of dogs entering PS did not decrease consistently across the years. Results highlighted a lack of responsibility of owners by failing to sterilise and identify their dogs and allowing intact animals to roam free, therefore producing uncontrolled and unwanted litters. The current dog population management strategy, based on both sheltering and capture-neuter-release programmes, is insufficient to tackle the straying phenomenon. Educational and sterilisation programmes should be an integral part of a successfully implemented FRD control plan. Our results provide further insight on free-roaming dog population dynamics and control systems, and may have important implications for many other local contexts across Europe trying to overcome the straying phenomenon. 

Long-term protection of seabird breeding colonies on Tasman Island through eradication of cats

Robinson, S., Gadd, L., Johnston, M., & Pauza, M. (2015). Long-term protection of important seabird breeding colonies on Tasman Island through eradication of cats. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 39(2), 0-0.

A restoration programme was initiated in 2008 in response to high levels of seabird predation by feral cats (Felis catus) at Australia’s largest fairy prion (Pachyptila turtur) colony on Tasman Island, Tasmania. The primary knockdown involved aerial baiting with para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP) in meat baits. The efficacy of baiting was lower than expected resulting in trapping and hunting commencing earlier than planned. Cats were successfully eradicated over two weeks. Key to the success of the programme was the identification of a narrow window of low prey availability for cats. Post-eradication monitoring of the two most common seabird species, fairy prions and short-tailed shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris), showed positive signs towards population recovery. Prion activity increased three-fold and shearwater breeding success increased.

Friday 1 May 2015

Ecology and predation of free ranging farm cats

 Kitts-Morgan SE, Caires KC, Bohannon LA, Parsons EI, Hilburn KA (2015) Free-Ranging Farm Cats: Home Range Size and Predation on a Livestock Unit In Northwest Georgia. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0120513. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0120513

This study’s objective was to determine seasonal and diurnal vs. nocturnal home range size, as well as predation for free-ranging farm cats at a livestock unit in Northwest Georgia. Seven adult cats were tracked with attached GPS units for up to two weeks for one spring and two summer seasons from May 2010 through August 2011. Three and five cats were tracked for up to two weeks during the fall and winter seasons, respectively. Feline scat was collected during this entire period. Cats were fed a commercial cat food daily. There was no seasonal effect (P > 0.05) on overall (95% KDE and 90% KDE) or core home range size (50% KDE). Male cats tended (P = 0.08) to have larger diurnal and nocturnal core home ranges (1.09 ha) compared to female cats (0.64 ha). Reproductively intact cats (n = 2) had larger (P < 0.0001) diurnal and nocturnal home ranges as compared to altered cats. Feline scat processing separated scat into prey parts, and of the 210 feline scats collected during the study, 75.24% contained hair. Of these 158 scat samples, 86 contained non-cat hair and 72 contained only cat hair. Other prey components included fragments of bone in 21.43% of scat and teeth in 12.86% of scat. Teeth were used to identify mammalian prey hunted by these cats, of which the Hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) was the primary rodent. Other targeted mammals were Peromyscus sp., Sylvilagus sp. and Microtus sp. Invertebrates and birds were less important as prey, but all mammalian prey identified in this study consisted of native animals. While the free-ranging farm cats in this study did not adjust their home range seasonally, sex and reproductive status did increase diurnal and nocturnal home range size. Ultimately, larger home ranges of free-ranging cats could negatively impact native wildlife.
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