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

Thursday 29 December 2016

Research, conservation and urban cat management in NZ

Kikillus, K. H., Chambers, G. K., Farnworth, M. J., & Hare, K. M. 2106. Research challenges and conservation implications for urban cat management in New Zealand. Pacific Conservation Biology.

Over the past 20 years, conservation efforts in New Zealand have moved from being concentrated in rural and isolated island locations, where exotic mammalian predators are often controlled, to begin to bring native fauna back to major cities. However, human–wildlife conflicts arise when conservation occurs in close proximity to cities. These are particularly intense when companion animals are involved either as potential predators or prey of high-value conservation animals. Within New Zealand, this conflict is particularly fraught around domestic cats (Felis catus) in the urban environment. Cats in New Zealand are recognised as major introduced predators of native fauna, but they also prey on small introduced predatory mammals. This dynamic causes much conflict between people with different attitudes towards animals; however, as yet, few studies have explored the role(s), either negative or positive, of urban cats in New Zealand. Here, we review current knowledge on domestic cats in urban New Zealand, identify gaps in knowledge and make suggestions for future research, which includes further social science research, citizen science-based research programs, market research, investigation into cat-management legislation, and more in-depth studies of cat diseases and zoonoses. These data are vital for informing the public and improving the management of urban cat populations, including mitigating conservation impacts. Urban ecologists will need to be versatile in the way they design and conduct experiments, exploiting multiple disciplines to both ensure scientific robustness, but also community and government support for uptake of results into management and legislation.

Sunday 18 December 2016

No evidence of dietary shift by native predators in sympatry with feral cats

Phillips, R. B., Winchell, C. S., & Schmidt, R. H. (2007). Dietary overlap of an alien and native carnivore on San Clemente Island, California. Journal of Mammalogy, 88(1), 173-180.

Predation by feral cats (Felis catus) is recognized as a major threat to native fauna worldwide, but the competitive effects of cats on native species have not been extensively studied. Cats occur on San Clemente Island, California, in sympatry with endemic island foxes (Urocyon littoralis clementae). We examined diets of cats and island foxes between years, seasons, and habitats to assess the potential for resource competition between the 2 species. Analysis of 602 cat and 958 fox feces revealed a high level of dietary overlap (O = 0.93) and relatively narrow niche breadths for both species (Bstandard Fox = 0.37; Bstandard Cat = 0.49). Despite the overlap in diet, cats and foxes appear to partition prey resources. Cats consume approximately equal proportions of arthropod (47.9%) and vertebrate (44.2%) prey, the latter primarily rodents (29.2%) and lizards (12.9%). In contrast, foxes appear to rely more on arthropods (57.7%), with plants (20.5%) and vertebrates (21.6%) occurring in lower, but roughly equal frequencies. Season appeared to have little effect on diet; however, diet did vary between habitats and years for both species. Diets of cats on San Clemente Island are consistent with those from other studies. We found no evidence of a dietary shift by foxes that were in sympatry with cats.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Lethal control of stray dogs could increase frequency of conflicts in India

Yoak, A. J., Reece, J. F., Gehrt, S. D., & Hamilton, I. M. (2016). Optimizing free-roaming dog control programs using agent-based models. Ecological Modelling, 341, 53-61.

Urban free-roaming dog populations in the developing world are managed by a patchwork of local veterinary practitioners, government programs, and non-governmental organizations with varied effectiveness. While lethal removal is still commonly practiced, vaccination and fertility control methods are increasingly being adopted. Identifying which method(s) provides the most cost effective management is needed to inform dog population managers who seek to limit conflicts like dog bites, the spread of disease, and predation on wildlife. Here we describe an agent-based model that simulates the population of free-roaming dogs in Jaipur, a northwestern Indian city. We then apply various lethal and fertility control methodologies to identify which most effectively lowered the dog population size. This spatially explicit model includes temporal and demographic details of street dog populations modeled after data from the study city. We tested each pairing of control type (lethal or fertility) with search method (how to target efforts) to see their efficacy at altering the city’s dog population size, age structure, sterilization coverage, as well as the number of dogs handled. Models were run for 15 years to assess the long term effects of intervention. We found that the fertility control method that targets areas of the city with the highest percentage of intact bitches outperforms all other fertility control and lethal removal programs at reducing the population size while sterilizing a significantly higher proportion of the population. All lethal program methods skewed population demographics towards significantly younger dogs, thus likely increasing the frequency of conflict with humans. This work demonstrates the benefits of modeling differing management policies in free-roaming dogs.

An Islamic perspective with particular reference to unwanted pets–stray dogs and cat

Min, M., & Zaw, C. C. (2016). Animal care: an Islamic perspective with particular reference to unwanted pets–stray dogs and cat. In: Kuala Lumpur International Islamic Studies and Civilisations (KLiISC) 2016, 7th-8th May 2016, Kuala Lumpur.

The topic of animal care especially the area of “unwanted pets in Islam” is rarely distributed among Muslim scholars,  scientists and sociologists even though animal rights movement and animal activists are obviously increased among  modern society. Small animals such as dogs, and cats have been staying together with people since the beginning of  human history. Humans have been receiving numerous benefits from them, such as keeping them as companions, using  them for hunting, house keeping, and conducting research studies. At the same time, the number of stray dogs and cats  population on the streets has increased unexpectedly nowadays, and the risk of getting injury or disease from the stray  animals becomes a huge concern for the community. Some people treated animals with cruelty, and there has been  widespread abuse of animal cases in the society. Animals are part of Allah (SWT) creations, and the Qur’an and the Al- Hadith (sayings of the prophet) prohibit cruelty to them. Islam guides us to treat animals kindly, and have mercy on  them. As Muslims, Islamic teachings and concepts should be contemplated and incorporated in our daily activities. This study was conducted with the purpose of collecting authentic guidelines regarding animal care in Islam, and exploring the view of Muslim scholars regarding animal care. The qualitative, library based approach was used as a research methodology for this study. The data were exclusively sought from books, journals, and Islamic manuscripts that were mainly based on the teachings of the Holy Qu’ran, Sunnah, and views of the Muslim scholars.The rights of animals, and
 human responsibility towards them were clearly presented from the perspectives of Islam. This study pointed out the need for maintaining balance between animal rights, and human benefits, focusing on treating animals with mercy, and reducing their sufferings even in times of killing them as a necessity. The study suggested that a need for developing a strategy by the relevant authorities regarding guidelines on some controversial issues such as animal neutering, spay, or euthanasia to reduce the problems of pet owners, as well as to prevent the dangers of zoonotic diseases in the community. This study also serves as a comprehensive overview for the readers that assist them in obtaining knowledge, and increase understanding of animal care in Islam. And it was expected to make a contribution to pet lovers in order to facilitate necessary prevention before their pets become unwanted and a burden to them.

Progress in the eradication of the feral cat and recovery of the native fauna on Socorro Is

Ortiz-Alcaraz, A., Aguirre-Muñoz, A., Arnaud, G., Galina-Tessaro, P., Rojas-Mayoral, E., Méndez-Sánchez, F., & Ortega-Rubio, A. (2017). Progress in the eradication of the feral cat (Felis catus) and recovery of the native fauna on Socorro Island, Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico. Therya, 8(1).

Socorro Island, in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, has the highest number of endemisms of any Mexican island. It provides habitat for 117 vascular plants, 26 % of which are endemic to the island. Also endemic to the island are one reptile and eight terrestrial bird species. However, the local ecosystem has been heavily degraded by exotic mammals over the past 140 years. The feral sheep (Ovis aries) has contributed to a 30% loss in habitat based on the island’s surface area. Another serious threat is the feral cat (Felis catus), which has severely impacted the island’s bird communities and the endemic Socorro tree lizard (Urosaurus auriculatus). Together, feral sheep and cats are responsible for the extinction in the wild of the Socorro dove (Zenaida graysoni) and the Socorro Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi graysoni), and pose a serious threat for other vulnerable species, such as the Townsend’s shearwater (Puffinus auricularis). The feral sheep was completely eradicated in 2012, which resulted in a rapid and remarkable recovery of the local vegetation cover. The eradication of the feral cat has been a complex issue to undertake due to the large size and topographical complexity of Socorro Island. In 2011 Grupo de Ecología y Conservacion de Islas, A. C. (GECI) started a feral cat control program, which scaled up into an eradication campaign. Here we report on the progress of the eradication campaign between 2011 and 2015, and provide a first assessment of the recovery of the native fauna. Beginning in 2011, camera traps were used to estimate cat abundance. Leg-hold and lethal traps were used to capture feral cats, some of them mounted with telemetry devices that alerted when traps were activated. Native vertebrates were monitored to confirm the positive effects derived from cat control efforts. By July 2015, 413 cats were dispatched using soft leg-hold and lethal traps, with a combined effort of 22,706 trap-nights. To date (mid-2016), cat abundance has decreased significantly, with cats being completely absent for several years in different areas of the island. The abundance of the endemic Socorro Island tree lizard and terrestrial birds has increased thanks to significant progress. Completing this important conservation action requires an increase in trapping efforts and the use of detection dogs, combined with night hunting. We estimate that the eradication of the feral cat will be completed by early 2017, after which the absence confirmation phase will begin.
Reduction in the capture success (%) of feral cats in the rainy and dry seasons from 2012 to 2015.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Optimizing an indoor lifestyle for cats

Scherk, M. (2016). Optimising an indoor lifestyle for cats. Veterinary Focus, 26(2), 2-9.

Cats restricted to indoor living have a reduced risk for vehicular trauma, predation,
aggressive interactions with cats and other animals, and exposure to infectious diseases.
Indoor living is not without risks.
Not all cats can adapt readily to an indoor lifestyle, and may be at increased risk for
certain behavioral and medical problems.
All environmental and social needs must be met for successful indoor living, and
the well-being of each cat needs to be evaluated repeatedly over time.
Predictability, familiarity, routine and having a sense of control are key factors in
reducing stress.
Offering outdoor access does not compensate if the cat has poor conditions indoors.

Trophic overlap between wolves and free-ranging wolf× dog hybrids

Bassi, E., Canu, A., Firmo, I., Mattioli, L., Scandura, M., & Apollonio, M. (2017). Trophic overlap between wolves and free-ranging wolf× dog hybrids in the Apennine Mountains, Italy. Global Ecology and Conservation, 9, 39-49.

Hybridization between wolves (Canis lupus) and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) can represent a threat to wild populations via genetic introgression and ecological competition. Therefore understanding the ecological role of hybrids may be crucial for developing appropriate conservation strategies.

The Italian wolf population has a peculiar genetic composition due to a long-lasting geographic isolation. Nowadays, however, its genetic integrity is threatened by the spread of canine genes as a result of the hybridization with stray dogs in the wild.

The aim of the present study was to gain insights into the ecological role of free-ranging wolf–dog hybrids by investigating their winter food habits in comparison with wolves in a mountain area of Central Italy. Levels of genetic introgression from the dogs were assessed in two adjacent areas occupied by up to five different packs by analyzing non-invasive samples and carcasses collected therein with a set of uniparental and bi-parental molecular markers.

The obtained results enabled us to classify the two areas as ‘hybrid’ and ‘wolf’ areas based on their level of genetic introgression.

Trophic niche and similarity/dissimilarity analyses did not detect significant difference in the diet between the two areas: in both of them, wild boar was the main prey, followed by roe deer. Furthermore, the same age/body mass classes of the two ungulates were selected by wolves and hybrids. Our findings confirmed wolf–dog hybrids as potential competitors for wolves. Further studies on other aspects of their biology and ecology are recommended in order to better estimate the impact of hybridization on natural wolf populations.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Drons to deliver baits to control feral

Johnston, M., McCaldin, G., & Rieker, A. (2016). Assessing the availability of aerially delivered baits to feral cats through rainforest canopy using unmanned aircraft. Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, 4(4), 276-281.
At least eight threatened wildlife species are at direct risk from predation by cats (Felis catus) on Christmas Island (Director of National Parks. 2014. Christmas Island biodiversity conservation plan. Canberra. Australia: Department of the Environment.). A range of strategies are now being used to manage cats across the island, including responsible ownership methods for domestic cats and lethal control tools to remove feral cats outside the township area. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were used to drop non-toxic baits through the rainforest canopy to assess whether aerial baiting could be undertaken successfully on the island. Ground crews located 88% of baits, indicating that sufficient baits would be accessible to feral cats if broad-scale aerial baiting was to be undertaken in the future.

Saturday 8 October 2016

nteractions between domestic and wild carnivores around the greater Serengeti ecosystem

Craft, M. E., Vial, F., Miguel, E., Cleaveland, S., Ferdinands, A., & Packer, C. (2016). Interactions between domestic and wild carnivores around the greater Serengeti ecosystem. Animal Conservation.

The domestic and wild carnivore interface is complex, yet understudied. Interactions between carnivore species have important implications for direct interference competition, cross-species transmission of shared pathogens and conservation threats to wild carnivores. However, carnivore intraguild interactions are hard to quantify. In this study, we asked 512 villagers residing around a conservation area in the Serengeti Ecosystem, Tanzania, to report on the presence of wild carnivores in their village, the number of domestic dogs Canis familiaris and cats Felis catus in their household and interactions between domestic and wild carnivores. Wild carnivores are abundant near households surrounding the Serengeti National Park, villagers have many free-ranging domestic dogs (and would like to have more) and direct and indirect contacts between wild and domestic carnivores are common. Large carnivores, such as spotted hyenas and leopards, often killed or wounded domestic dogs. Small carnivores, such as mongoose, bat-eared fox, serval and wildcat, are locally abundant and frequently interact with domestic dogs. We demonstrate that interspecific carnivore behavior, human culture and local and regional geography play a complex role in domestic and wild carnivore interaction risk around conservation areas. Through the use of household surveys, we were able to efficiently obtain data on a wide scope of carnivore interactions over a large area, which may provide a direction for future targeted and in-depth research to reduce interspecific conflict. Improving the health and husbandry of domestic animals and reducing the unintentional feeding of wild carnivores could reduce dog–wildlife interactions and the potential for pathogen transmission at the domestic–wild animal interface.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Confinement remains the simplest measure to reduce roaming by pet cats

Hall, C. M., Bryant, K. A., Haskard, K., Major, T., Bruce, S., & Calver, M. C. (2016). Factors determining the home ranges of pet cats: A meta-analysis. Biological Conservation, 203, 313-320.

• We assessed pet cats' roaming behaviour using meta-analyses and mixed linear models.
• Desexing, regular feeding and interaction with owners did not affect home range.
• Males had larger home ranges than females.
• Both sexes had larger home ranges at low housing densities.
• Confinement remains the simplest measure to reduce roaming by pet cats.

Roaming pet cats Felis catus are a significant conservation issue because they may hunt, harass and compete with wildlife; spread disease, interbreed with cats in feral populations, and hybridise with wild native felids. Studies of the roaming behaviour of pet cats are often hampered by modest sample sizes and variability between cats, limiting statistical significance of the findings and their usefulness in recommending measures to discourage roaming. We resolved these difficulties through meta-analyses of 25 studies from 10 countries involving 469 pet cats to assess the influence of sex, whether a cat was desexed and housing density on roaming. A complementary linear mixed models approach used data on 311 individual animals from 22 studies and was also able to assess the influence of age and husbandry practices on roaming. This restricted sample gave greater statistical power than the meta-analyses.

Meta-analyses found that: male pet cats had larger home ranges than females, desexing did not influence home range, and cats had larger home ranges when housing densities were low. The linear mixed models supported those results. They also indicated that animals ≥ 8 years old had smaller home ranges than younger cats. Cats fed regularly, provided with veterinary care and socialised with humans had similar home ranges to cats living in association with households but not provided for in some of these ways. Short of confinement, there is no simple measure owners can adopt to reduce roaming by their cats and prevent the associated environmental problems.

Friday 30 September 2016

Feral cats: Genetic and sanitary risk for wild felids in Iberian Peninsula (in Spanish)

Tobajas, J. (2016). Riesgos genéticos y sanitarios asociados al gato asilvestrado (Felis silvestris catus): el caso de los felinos salvajes de la península ibérica. Chronica naturae, (6), 63-82.

El gato cimarrón o asilvestrado (Felis silvestris catus) se ha distribuido ampliamente
por todo el mundo, colonizando nuevos territorios e interactuando en muchas ocasiones
con las especies domésticas y silvestres. Sanitariamente, la presencia de gatos asilvestrados
trae consigo una serie de inconvenientes para las especies de felinos salvajes, actuando
como reservorios y dispersores de enfermedades. Por ello es de vital importancia conocer
la situación actual de la presencia de estas enfermedades, y conocer bien la epidemiología
asociada a la presencia del gato asilvestrado. Esta revisión recoge los estudios sanitarios
sobre el gato asilvestrado, el gato montés (Felis silvestris) y el lince ibérico (Lynx
pardinus). Estas dos últimas, son las especies silvestres que pueden sufrir las consecuencias
del aumento de la presencia de gatos asilvestrados en la naturaleza de la Península Ibérica.
Los resultados de los estudios sanitarios sobre gatos asilvestrados, muestran una prevalencia
alta de parásitos helmintos (especialmente de nematodos como Toxocara cati) y protozoos
como Toxoplasma gondii. Del mismo modo, se han encontrado altas prevalencias de virus
compartidos entre los felinos salvajes y los gatos asilvestrados, como el virus de la leucemia
felina, coronavirus y el moquillo, convirtiéndose en una amenaza para la conservación del
lince ibérico. También cabe destacar la presencia de bacterias transmitidas por vectores,
como el género Rickettsia y Bartonella. Aparte de las amenazas sanitarias, el aumento
detectado en la presencia de híbridos de gato doméstico y gato montés a lo largo de toda
Europa también es remarcable. Por estas razones, se puede considerar el gato cimarrón
como una de las mayores amenazas para el gato montés y el lince ibérico dentro de su área
de distribución.

Monday 26 September 2016

Continental‐scale analysis of feral cat diet in Australia, prey‐switching and the risk: benefit of rabbit control

Mutze, G. (2016). Continental‐scale analysis of feral cat diet in Australia, prey‐switching and the risk: benefit of rabbit control. Journal of Biogeography.

Recent analyses of geographical variation in cats’ diet across Australia have been used to highlight rabbit control as a conservation risk, on the basis that prey-switching by cats following rabbit control is likely to threaten Australian fauna. There is no direct evidence to support that proposition. However, there is direct evidence of repeated prey-switching due to seasonal fluctuations in uncontrolled rabbit populations, of long-term suppression of rabbit numbers by effective rabbit control, and that reduced rabbit abundance leads to reduced cat abundance, reduced predation of native fauna and recovery of threatened prey populations. Furthermore, rabbits are a known threat to many Australian native plants and rabbit control has proven benefits for their recovery, thereby offering long-term benefits for dependent fauna and broader ecosystem function. On the balance of evidence, rabbit control should be encouraged in Australia wherever possible, as a national conservation priority.

Sunday 25 September 2016

Involvement in a Northern California community on the feral cat problem

Lando, C. A. (2016). Building involvement in a Northern California community on a targeted public health issue: a service announcement on the feral cat problem in Chico.  Faculty of California State University, Chico

The primary purpose of this study is to examine the health and environmental issues caused by feral cats and to offer solutions to control the growth of feral cat colonies in a Northern California community. Research supports the claim that feral cats, or community cats are a community problem and a community’s responsibility. Therefore, the local government, local animal welfare groups, and concerned citizens need to work together to find viable solutions.
Furthermore, the City of Chico’s Animal Control Officer estimates there are approximately 14,000 feral cats living on the streets and in the parks of the city of Chico. Several animal welfare organizations have worked to reduce this number through adoption, offering permanent housing, or trapping, vaccinating, neutering and returning cats to their colonies. The city’s euthanasia policy is only in effect for sick animals brought into the shelter by citizens. Due to budget cuts and lack of space, the city cannot house abandoned or surrendered animals. Therefore, the city refers calls about feral cats to one of the other animal welfare agencies.
The results of this project have shown that a collaborative organization consisting of members of concerned citizens and animal welfare groups can offer the best solutions to the feral cat dilemma. Accessing information about the ways other communities have addressed the feral cat problem is helpful. Working together individual organizations can share strategies for implementing fundraising activities, publicity, grant writing, and other issues such as purchasing pet supplies and food.
In addition, California State University, Chico, needs to take a more active role in disseminating information to its students about not releasing cats at the end of the school year. This information should be provided during orientation and through the university’s newspaper. Research has shown that an ongoing public service announcement through television and radio is one of the best ways to reach the most people. Public service announcements offer information and resources available to
citizens for assistance with a feral cat problem. 

Saturday 24 September 2016

Cats are a factor contributing to the collapse of mammal communities in N Australia

Hohnen R, Tuft K, McGregor HW, Legge S, Radford IJ, Johnson CN (2016) Occupancy of the Invasive Feral Cat Varies with Habitat Complexity. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0152520. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152520

The domestic cat (Felis catus) is an invasive exotic in many locations around the world and is thought to be a key factor driving recent mammal declines across northern Australia. Many mammal species native to this region now persist only in areas with high topographic complexity, provided by features such as gorges or escarpments. Do mammals persist in these habitats because cats occupy them less, or despite high cat occupancy? We show that occupancy of feral cats was lower in mammal-rich habitats of high topographic complexity. These results support the idea that predation pressure by feral cats is a factor contributing to the collapse of mammal communities across northern Australia. Managing impacts of feral cats is a global conservation challenge. Conservation actions such as choosing sites for small mammal reintroductions may be more successful if variation in cat occupancy with landscape features is taken into account.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Semi-Stray Dogs and Graduated Humanness

Sandoval-Cervantes, I. (2016). Semi-Stray Dogs and Graduated Humanness: The Political Encounters of Dogs and Humans in Mexico. In Companion Animals in Everyday Life (pp. 169-181). Palgrave Macmillan US.

In January 2013, a pack of stray dogs was accused with murder in one of Mexico City’s poorest and most populated boroughs. Images of the dogs, expert testimonies, and protests saturated the media. Eventually, the dogs were ambiguously exonerated. This event raises important questions that show the intricate ways in which human–dog relationships in Mexico have been historically constructed around notions of humanness, and informed by notions of class, race, and citizenship. I rely on the concept of “graduated humanness” to analyze the case of the “doglinquents” of Mexico City. I conclude that the concept of “graduated humanness” can illuminate how humans and animal rights are used contextually to “save” specific nonhuman beings while not addressing the larger structural conditions that frame the lives of humans and nonhumans.

Attitudes to dogs in Taiwan

Serpell, J. A., & Hsu, Y. (2016). Attitudes to Dogs in Taiwan: A Case Study. In Companion Animals in Everyday Life (pp. 145-165). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Despite the dog’s long mutualistic association with humans, global attitudes toward the species, Canis familiaris, are exceedingly diverse, ranging from overwhelmingly positive in most Western countries to predominantly negative in many developing nations. Since attitudes are important predictors of dog-related behavior, knowledge of the forces and factors that affect people’s attitudes to dogs can make an important contribution to improving dog-human relations, global public health, and canine welfare. This chapter explores some of the key factors influencing dog-related attitudes and behavior, with particular reference to the results of a case study of attitudes to dogs in Taiwan. The findings suggest that people’s attitudes to dogs involve both affective/emotional and instrumental/practical components, and that a significant minority of people in Taiwan are opposed to the killing/euthanasia of unwanted dogs. The most important determinant of both positive affective attitudes to dogs and opposition to killing/euthanasia was the experience of growing up with household dogs. The significance of these and other findings are discussed from the perspective of animal attitude development, and dog welfare and population management

Polarized opinions approach on Feral Cat Management

Lorden, R. (2016). Polarized Opinions and Shared Goals: Feral Cat Management in an Academic Community in Kentucky. In Companion Animals in Everyday Life (pp. 183-200). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Although there is general agreement among government agencies, conservation groups and animal welfare organizations that cat populations need to be managed, the management of cats is frequently a topic of debate between biologists/environmental groups and animal welfare/animal rights advocacy groups. The two groups’ beliefs are polarized in regard to impacts on wildlife, management strategies and efficacy of trap-and-neuter (TNR) programs. Concerns of conservation biologists relate to cats as predators, but welfare proponents feel that humans must take responsibility for free-ranging house pets and their feral offspring. It is not surprising that discussions of feral cat management become volatile. Much of the debate hinges upon whether management solutions should use lethal or non-lethal control strategies. Conservation biologists largely support cat euthanasia, while animal welfare activists support non-lethal treatments such as TNR for free-ranging cats. The issues of this larger conservancy/welfare debate framed the discourse of the cat problem and guided solution strategies at Eastern Kentucky University, where a population of cats has existed on the campus for many years. A tentative agreement has been forged between an administration that subscribed to a trap and remove policy, and a network of TNR volunteers. Both sides have focused on the common goal of a reduction in the number of campus cats. In addition, both sides have realized that each setting has its own particular constraints and that solutions must be tailored to those situations. Instead of resorting to invective, data are being collected. When well-meaning people meet and focus on solutions to a shared goal, positive outcomes become possible.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Electronic boundary fence dont impair quality of life of cats

Kasbaoui, N., Cooper, J., Mills, D. S., & Burman, O. (2016). Effects of long-term exposure to an electronic containment system on the behaviour and welfare of domestic cats. PloS one, 11(9), e0162073.
Free-roaming cats are exposed to a variety of risks, including involvement in road traffic accidents. One way of mitigating these risks is to contain cats, for example using an electronic boundary fence system that delivers an electric ‘correction’ via a collar if a cat ignores a warning cue and attempts to cross the boundary. However, concerns have been expressed over the welfare impact of such systems. Our aim was to determine if long-term exposure to an electronic containment system was associated with reduced cat welfare. We compared 46 owned domestic cats: 23 cats that had been contained by an electronic containment system for more than 12 months (AF group); and 23 cats with no containment system that were able to roam more widely (C group). We assessed the cats’ behavioural responses and welfare via four behavioural tests (unfamiliar person test; novel object test; sudden noise test; cognitive bias test) and an owner questionnaire. In the unfamiliar person test, C group lip-licked more than the AF group, whilst the AF group looked at, explored and interacted more with the unfamiliar person than C group. In the novel object test, the AF group looked at and explored the object more than C group. No significant differences were found between AF and C groups for the sudden noise or cognitive bias tests. Regarding the questionnaire, C group owners thought their cats showed more irritable behaviour and AF owners thought that their cats toileted inappropriately more often than C owners. Overall, AF cats were less neophobic than C cats and there was no evidence of significant differences between the populations in general affective state. These findings indicate that an electronic boundary fence with clear pre-warning cues does not impair the long term quality of life of cats.

Sunday 4 September 2016

Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island.

Algar, D., & Johnston, M. (2010). Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island. Government of Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation.

Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island 1Report outline The impact of cats on the biodiversity of Christmas Island is of concern to land management agencies and the broader  community.  Domestic  and  stray  cats  reside  in  the  residential,  commercial  and  light industrial  area while a population of feral cats exists across the rest of the island (i.e. mining lease, national park and other  Crown  land).  Concern  has  been  raised  regarding  the  threat  that  all ‘classes’  of  cats  present  to  the  viability  of  a  number  of  endangered  fauna  populations. Additionally,  previous  research  has  demonstrated  that  the  cats  on  the  island  also  have  a  very high  prevalence  of  Toxoplasmosis, a  parasite  that  can  lead  to  serious  human  health complications.The  management  of  cats  on  the  island  is  a  complex  task  as reduction/eradication in cat numbers alone could lead to changes in the abundance of other exotic species populations, especially  the  introduced  black  rat  which  then  may  threaten  wildlife  species  and  also  have disease implications.  
Land  management  agencies  on  Christmas  Island  have  commissioned  this report  which  describes  the  rationale and development of a long-term cat and black rat management and eradication plan to mitigate the environmental  and  social  impacts  of  cats  and  black  rats across  all  land  tenures  (shire-managed  lands,  Crown land including mine leases and Christmas Island National Park).   
The  report  provides  a  background  to  the  threats  and  impacts  of  cats and  black  rats  on  the  island’s  natural  and  social  environment,  including  wildlife  predation  and disease  threats  to  wildlife  and  human  health.  It  documents  previous  reports  in  relation  to impact  and  management  of  cats  and  black  rats  on  Christmas  Island.  The  current  local  cat management  laws  (Shire  of  Christmas  Island  Local  Law  for  the  Keeping  and  Control of Cats 2004) under the Local Government Act 1995 (WA) (CI) are evaluated (see Appendix 1) with the aim of limiting domestic and stray cat impact on the iconic native fauna of Christmas Island, promoting responsible cat ownership, compliance and enforcement of cat management laws and measures required to implement a ‘last cat policy’ for the Island.  
Cat  and  rodent  eradication  programs  and strategies  developed  and/or  implemented  by other conservation  agencies and local governments, particularly for islands are evaluated for their utility on Christmas Island. A strategy  is recommended that  provides  a staged approach  to  cat  and black  rat  management and  control  leading to eradication of one or both target species. Techniques, actions and priorities are described as are recommendations   of   where   additional   research   is   required.   A   monitoring   program   to   measure   the   effectiveness  of  the  strategy  is  reported which  enables  investigation  of  the potential  relationships  between  cats  and  their  invasive species  prey,  including  rodents  and centipedes,  and  strategies  to  address  any  negative environmental or social impacts of cat control. Monitoring requirements to maintain a cat and black rat free status including quarantine requirements to prevent, detect and quickly manage, new incursions are also discussed. 
Timelines and resource requirements to undertake this program are provided in Appendix 2. 

Saturday 3 September 2016

Guard dogs as top predators in altered communities

Bommel, L., & Johnson, C. N. (2016). Livestock guardian dogs as surrogate top predators? How Maremma sheepdogs affect a wildlife community. Ecology and evolution, 6(18), 6702-6711.

Use of livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) to reduce predation on livestock is increasing. However, how these dogs influence the activity of wildlife, including predators, is not well understood. We used pellet counts and remote cameras to investigate the effects of free ranging LGDs on four large herbivores (eastern gray kangaroo, common wombat, swamp wallaby, and sambar deer) and one mesopredator (red fox) in Victoria, Australia. Generalized mixed models and one- and two-species detection models were used to assess the influence of the presence of LGDs on detection of the other species. We found avoidance of LGDs in four species. Swamp wallabies and sambar deer were excluded from areas occupied by LGDs; gray kangaroos showed strong spatial and temporal avoidance of LGD areas; foxes showed moderately strong spatial and temporal avoidance of LGD areas. The effect of LGDs on wombats was unclear. Avoidance of areas with LGDs by large herbivores can benefit livestock production by reducing competition for pasture and disease transmission from wildlife to livestock, and providing managers with better control over grazing pressure. Suppression of mesopredators could benefit the small prey of those species. Synthesis and applications: In pastoral areas, LGDs can function as a surrogate top-order predator, controlling the local distribution and affecting behavior of large herbivores and mesopredators. LGDs may provide similar ecological functions to those that in many areas have been lost with the extirpation of native large carnivores.

Friday 2 September 2016

Camera trapping to estimate free-ranging cats in towns

Elizondo, E. C., & Loss, S. R. (2016). Using trail cameras to estimate free-ranging domestic cat abundance in urban areas. Wildlife Biology, 22(5), 246-252.

The domestic cat Felis catus is one of the most ecologically harmful invasive species on earth. Predation by free-ranging cats poses a serious global threat to small vertebrates and is a leading source of anthropogenic mortality for birds and small mammals in North America. However, little is known about the size of cat populations, especially in urban areas where both cats and wildlife are abundant. Methods to quantify free-ranging cat populations are needed to understand the magnitude of threats facing wildlife populations and to inform decisions about prioritizing conservation and cat population management. We assessed the utility of trail cameras and sight—resight analysis for estimating free-ranging cat abundance in a small urban area (Stillwater, OK, USA). We also evaluated whether relationships exist between cat abundance and both urban development intensity and human population density. Even with relatively large cat populations, we identified the vast majority (∼96.5%) of individual cats in both day-time and night-time photos. We found no relationship between cat abundance and either urban development intensity or human population density. This finding combined with the large numbers of cats observed suggests that cats may be abundant in our study area regardless of urban context. Sampling freeranging cat populations across a broad range of urbanization intensities that capture a variety of human behaviors and/or cat management policies is needed to shed light on the drivers of cat population abundance. Trail cameras show promise as a highly useful tool for achieving this objective in the context of wildlife conservation management.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Feral cats overlap with prey and competitors in primary and altered habitats

Bogdan, V., Jůnek, T., & Vymyslická, P. J. (2016). Temporal overlaps of feral cats with prey and competitors in primary and human-altered habitats on Bohol Island, Philippines. PeerJ, 4, e2288.

The vertebrate fauna of the Philippines, known for its diversity and high proportion of endemic species, comprises mainly small- to medium-sized forms with a few large exceptions. As with other tropical ecosystems, the major threats to wildlife are habitat loss, hunting and invasive species, of which the feral cat (Felis catus) is considered the most damaging. Our camera-trapping study focused on a terrestrial vertebrate species inventory on Bohol Island and tempo-spatial co-occurrences of feral cats with their prey and competitors. The survey took place in the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape, and we examined the primary rainforest, its border with agricultural land, and rural areas in the vicinity of villages. Altogether, over 2,885 trap days we captured 30 species of vertebrates–10 mammals (including Sus philippensis), 19 birds and one reptile, Varanus cumingi. We trapped 81.8% of expected vertebrates. Based on the number of events, the most frequent native species was the barred rail (Gallirallus torquatus). The highest overlap in diel activity between cats and potential prey was recorded with rodents in rural areas (Δ = 0.62); the lowest was in the same habitat with ground-dwelling birds (Δ = 0.40). Cat activity was not recorded inside the rainforest; in other habitats their diel activity pattern differed. The cats’ activity declined in daylight in the proximity of humans, while it peaked at the transition zone between rainforest and fields. Both rodents and ground-dwelling birds exhibited a shift in activity levels between sites where cats were present or absent. Rodents tend to become active by day in cat-free habitats. No cats’ temporal response to co-occurrences of civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and Viverra tangalunga) was found but cats in diel activity avoided domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Our first insight into the ecology of this invasive predator in the Philippines revealed an avoidance of homogeneous primary rainforest and a tendency to forage close to human settlements in heterogeneous habitats. A detailed further investigation of the composition of the cat’s diet, as well as ranging pattern, is still needed.

Stray dogs den close to humans

Majumder, S. S., Paul, M., Sau, S., & Bhadra, A. (2016). Denning habits of free-ranging dogs reveal preference for human proximity. Scientific Reports, 6, 32014.

Dens are crucial in the early development of many mammals, making den site selection an important component of parental care in such species. Resource availability and shelter from predators primarily govern den selection. Species inhabiting human-dominated landscapes typically den away from human disturbance, often shifting dens to avoid humans during the early life of their young. Domesticated dogs have evolved in human proximity over centuries, being bred and reared in human homes for generations. While pets rely on their owners for shelter and care, free-ranging dogs roam uncared, and typically whelp in dens. We conducted a study on 148 free-ranging dog dens in India to understand their denning habits. Distance from resources influenced den choice, but anthropogenic disturbance did not. Dens were found in areas of high human activity, and begging from humans was preferred over scavenging. A study on 15 pregnant females revealed that females actively searched for denning sites, rejecting several intermediate ones before selecting the final den. We propose that the obvious preference of dogs for denning close to humans is a behavioural adaptation that helps them to survive in the urban landscape, in spite of the high human induced mortality during the early life of pups.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Importance of CDV infection in free-ranging Iberian lynxes

Meli, M. L., Simmler, P., Cattori, V., Martínez, F., Vargas, A., Palomares, F., ... & Hofmann-Lehmann, R. (2010). Importance of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection in free-ranging Iberian lynxes (Lynx pardinus). Veterinary microbiology, 146(1), 132-137.

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a morbillivirus that is the etiological agent of one of the most important viral diseases affecting canids and an expanding range of other carnivores. Using real-time RT-PCR, CDV RNA was detected in organs of an Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) found dead in the Doñana National Park, Southwestern Andalusia, Spain. This finding may be of great importance for the conservation of the species; at present the Iberian lynx is the most critically endangered wild felid. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the significance of CDV for the Iberian lynx population. High viral loads were evident in the dead lynx, suggesting an etiological involvement of CDV in its death. When carnivores from the same region were analyzed by CDV RT-PCR, a stone marten (Martes foina) was positive. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated high identity of the two detected CDVs and a close relationship to the European dog lineage of CDV. Antibodies to CDV were detected in 14.8% of 88 tested free-ranging Iberian lynxes. The sample seroprevalence was significantly higher in lynxes from the Doñana Natural Space (22.9%) than Sierra Morena (5%). The stone marten and a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) also tested seropositive. In conclusion, CDV is present in the Iberian lynx population, especially in the Doñana region, with sporadic cases of disease. To reduce the infectious pressure of CDV on this endangered population, a mass dog vaccination should be considered.

Human-cat relationship in an oceanic biosphere reserve

Medina, F. M., Nogales, M., Farnworth, M. J., & Bonnaud, E. (2016). Human-cat relationship in an oceanic biosphere reserve: The case of La Palma Island, Canary archipelago. Journal for Nature Conservation.

Removal of feral cats from island environments is a useful mechanism by which their ecological impact on endangered species can be reduced or ended. Nevertheless, because cats are anthropogenic in their origins, social perceptions of management practices play a large role in their implementation. Four-hundred questionnaires were delivered (386 were returned) with 100 going to each of the following: local residents; environmental workers; tourists; and, hunters. Questions explored respondents’ knowledge about island biodiversity and invasive species as well as attitudes towards cat population management methods. Habitat destruction and introduction of invasive species were considered the main threats for the conservation of island biodiversity. Most respondents considered cats to have a negative impact on biodiversity and sterilization campaigns were considered most appropriate for cat population control. Several free sterilization campaigns have been conducted in La Palma Island Biosphere Reserve in order to reduce free-ranging cats and were well received by local people. This research, which combined concepts of management, ecology and social sciences, provides valuable insights which may to be applicable on several other islands where cats and people are present and in conflict with conservation priorities.

Thursday 18 August 2016

Preliminary data on the distribution of free-ranging dogs in a Bulgarian National Park

Doykin, N., Popova, E., Zlatanov, V., Petrov, P., & Zlatanova, D. 2016. Preliminary data on the distribution of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris L.) in NP Vitosha, Bulgaria. Annuaire de l’Université de Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski” Faculte de Biologie 2016, volume 101, livre 4, pp. 11-22. Youth Scientific Conference “Kliment’s Days”, Sofia 2015

Free-ranging dogs often leave the urbanized areas and stray into nearby mountainous habitats, even entering protected areas. This causes problems for the wildlife due to either direct predation or disturbance. Our camera trap survey (July 2013 - November 2014) in NP Vitosha, Bulgaria resulted in a total of 199 independent registrations of free-ranging dogs in 81 locations. In this preliminary study, we present the distribution, habitat selection, and distance from settlements and activity of free ranging dogs in Vitosha NP. The free-ranging dogs in Vitosha are predominantly diurnal, and show preference towards coniferous and mixed forests, mostly closed. Their distribution and activity patterns are influenced by human presence, which is due to the fact that they at least partially rely on human-sourced food. Some data for observations of wild animals influenced by dogs is also discussed. 

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Analysis of six Latin American cat populations through coat genes and molecular microsatellite markers

Ruiz-García, M., & Alvarez, D. (2003). Análisis de seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos mediante genes del pelaje y marcadores microsatélites. Acta zoológica mexicana, (89), 261-286. (Analysis of six Latin American cat populations through coat genes and molecular microsatellite markers)

Six Latin American cat populations (La Havana, San Jose, Bogotá, Asunción, Buenos Aires and Santiago) have been studied from a population genetics standpoint by using different morphological coat and molecular microsatellite markers (FCA43, FCA45, FCA96 and FCA126). The main aims of the current work are as follows: (1) To determine whether the type and intensity of the genetic differences found for diverse morphological loci among the current British cat populations and those from the British oversea colonies (USA, Canada and Australia) agree with the differences among the current Spanish cat populations and those from Latin America and (2) to determine if the genetic relationships among some of these Latin American cat populations are in agreement by using independently morphological and molecular microsatellite markers. The different results obtained were as follows: (A) All populations analyzed were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium at the O, S and at the four microsatellite loci studied with the exception of La Havana at the S locus. (B) The trees obtained showed that the relationships of the six cat populations studied regard to the Spanish populations, in particular, and with the European populations, in general, were extremely heterogeneous. Therefore, for instance, Asuncion was genetically identical to some Catalonian populations meanwhile Santiago (Chile) revealed more resemblance with the cat populations of presumed British origin in the Eastern Coast of the United States by means of the coat color genes. The striking genetic heterogeneity among some of these Latin American cat populations could be explained by the existence of different geographic, or temporal, migrations from Spain and/or that diverse gene drift degrees were present in the foundation of the diverse populations studied. Finally, the molecular results were similar to those obtained with the gross morphological genes. Therefore, the overall evolution of these morphological markers is controlled more probably by neutral stochastic forces than by selective ones.

Seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos (La Habana, San José, Bogotá, Asunción, Buenos Aires y Santiago) han sido estudiadas desde una perspectiva genético poblacional con marcadores que codifican características morfológicas del pelaje y marcadores moleculares nucleares microsatélites (FCA43, FCA45, FCA96, FCA126). A partir de las frecuencias alélicas de ambos tipos de marcadores genéticos se investigó: (1) si el tipo y la intensidad de las diferencias genéticas encontradas para diversos loci morfológicos entre las poblaciones de gatos en Gran Bretaña y en sus ex-colonias transmarítimas (EU, Canadá, Australia) se dio también entre las poblaciones de gatos actuales en España y en Latinoamérica y (2) si las relaciones genéticas de esos caracteres morfológicos entre algunas de esas poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos fue paralela a las relaciones encontradas con marcadores moleculares microsatélites. Los resultados obtenidos fueron: (A) Todas las poblaciones analizadas estuvieron en equilibrio Hardy-Weinberg para los loci O, S y para los cuatro loci microsatélites estudiados, con la excepción de la población de La Habana para el locus S. (B) Los fenogramas obtenidos mostraron que las relaciones de las seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos respecto a las poblaciones españolas y europeas fueron muy heterogéneas. Por ejemplo, la población de Asunción (Paraguay) fue genéticamente indistinguible de algunas poblaciones de gatos analizadas en Cataluña, tanto con los genes morfológicos como con los microsatélites, mientras que Santiago presentó más semejanzas con las poblaciones de gatos de presunto origen británico en la costa Este de los Estados Unidos cuando se utilizaron los genes del pelaje. La fuerte heterogeneidad genética entre algunas de las poblaciones latinoamericanas estudiadas hace pensar en que diversas migraciones geográficas, o temporales, se dieron desde España, o que diversos grados de deriva genética se dieron en la fundación de las diferentes poblaciones latinoamericanas estudiadas. Finalmente, los resultados moleculares son similares a los obtenidos con los genes de codificación morfológica por lo que la evolución global de éstos parece más modulada por fuerzas neutrales que selectivas.

Saturday 13 August 2016

Spatial ecology and population genetics of cats living in or near conservation-sensitive areas

Cross, C. (2016). Spatial ecology and population genetics of cats (Felis catus) living in or near conservation-sensitive areas (Doctoral dissertation, University of Otago).

Human-mediated dispersal of organisms across the world has resulted in species introductions into many vulnerable ecosystems. Invasive mammalian predators have had detrimental impacts on native island biota, leading to declines and extinctions of many endemic prey species. Humans have transported cats (Felis catus) across the world as mousers on ships and as companion animals. The role cats (especially feral) have played in the decline and extinction of several island species is clear; however, different types of cats classified by their associations with humans has an influence on the public perception of cat impacts on wildlife and acceptance of appropriate management strategies.
I studied the spatial ecology of two different types of cats in two different conservation-sensitive areas (Te Anau Basin and Canterbury/North Otago) in the South Island of New Zealand. I conducted this research to gain an insight into companion cat spatial ecology and feral cat population genetics. Specifically, to investigate individual cat movement patterns and population level movements to discover putative geographic barriers to movement. Additionally, I intended to aid formulation and reinforcement of appropriate and current management strategies with respect to conservation-sensitive areas that support high levels of native biodiversity.
Cat capture rates in the Tasman Valley from March 2005 toFebruary 2013 (included as 2012).

In the Te Anau Basin, the township of Te Anau lies on the edge of Lake Te Anau, directly adjacent to Fiordland National Park. The Kepler Mire conservation area, also situated in the Te Anau Basin, is a nearby wetland that supports a diverse range of fauna. I GPS tracked 32 local companion cats (11F:21M) for a maximum of 10 to 14 days over the austral spring/summer. I recorded a total of 19,157 locations prior to filtering data for erroneous locations. Home range and habitat analysis were performed on a filtered dataset of 13,241 locations using 100% minimum convex polygons (MCP) and Objective-Restricted-Edge Polygons (OREP). Dispersal barriers might be acting to prevent movement of tracked cats into Fiordland National Park, but not the Kepler Mire conservation area. I found males (mean MCP: 22.13 ha, OREP: 1.05 ha) exhibited larger movements (home range and distance travelled from home) than females (mean MCP: 8.83 ha, OREP: 0.45 ha) and rural-living cats (mean MCP: 32.54 ha, OREP 1.33 ha) exhibited larger movements than urban-living cats (mean MCP: 5.90 ha, OREP: 0.46 ha).  Cats showed a tendency to preferentially select Built, Cover and Sealed habitat features.  Although there was great individual variation in the ranging behaviour, there was no sex or age-related difference observed in the cats’ resource selection.
To infer population movements, I used 10 microsatellite loci and a sexidentification marker, in a multiplex framework, to infer population structure of 157 feral cats in the upper Waitaki Basin (Tasman Valley, Ohau River and Ahuriri Valley) and Macraes Flat. I found some evidence of population connectivity between the sites based on migration rates and low FST values, indicating features in the landscape that act to facilitate dispersal. Bayesian clustering analysis noted the presence of three separate clusters; however, assignment rates were low for the Ohau River, Tasman Valley and Macraes Flat sites. Spatial autocorrelation and Mantel tests indicated rough terrain (i.e. mountain ranges) might limit dispersal. Macraes Flat and Ohau River might function as man-made sinks due to lower relatedness scores. Lower relatedness, genetic differentiation scores, and proximity to human habituation suggested there might be genetic input from nearby stray and companion cat populations. Due to large movements exhibited by feral cats in these areas, reinvasion into trapped areas seems likely; however, the Tasman Valley might be able to be managed as an eradication unit, if movement out of the Ohau River and surrounding area is reduced. Continued genetic monitoring of
these sites and sampling of local stray and companion cats might help to identify if there is connectivity between different types of cats (i.e. companion, stray and feral). Additionally, continued genetic monitoring might be able to determine if genetic differentiation increases between each site in response to trapping operations.
Tighter regulations regarding companion cat management might aid New Zealand conservation efforts by reducing and restricting movement and cat interactions with native wildlife. Stricter companion and stray cat regulations might also benefit feral cat control efforts; however, this aspect requires further analysis. 

Sunday 7 August 2016

High-impact conservation: invasive mammal eradications from the islands of western Mexico

Aguirre-Muñoz, A., Croll, D. A., Donlan, C. J., Henry III, R. W., Hermosillo, M. A., Howald, G. R., ... & Samaniego-Herrera, A. (2008). High-impact conservation: invasive mammal eradications from the islands of western Mexico. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 37(2), 101-107.

Islands harbor a disproportionate amount of the earth's biodiversity, but a significant portion has been lost due in large part to the impacts of invasive mammals. Fortunately, invasive mammals can be routinely removed from islands, providing a powerful tool to prevent extinctions and restore ecosystems. Given that invasive mammals are still present on more than 80% of the world's major islands groups and remain a premier threat to the earth's biodiversity, it is important to disseminate replicable, scaleable models to eradicate invasive mammals from islands. We report on a successful model from western México during the past decade. A collaborative effort between nongovernmental organizations, academic biologists, Mexican government agencies, and local individuals has resulted in major restoration efforts in three island archipelagos. Forty-two populations of invasive mammals have been eradicated from 26 islands. For a cost of USD 21 615 per colony and USD 49 370 per taxon, 201 seabird colonies and 88 endemic terrestrial taxa have been protected, respectively. These conservation successes are a result of an operational model with three main components: i) a tri-national collaboration that integrates research, prioritization, financing, public education, policy work, capacity building, conservation action, monitoring, and evaluation; ii) proactive and dedicated natural resource management agencies; and iii) effective partnerships with academic researchers in México and the United States. What is now needed is a detailed plan to eradicate invasive mammals from the remaining islands in the region that integrates the needed additional financing, capacity, technical advances, and policy issues. Island conservation in western México provides an effective approach that can be readily applied to other archipelagos where conservation efforts have been limited.

Saturday 6 August 2016

Ancient wolf genome reveals an early divergence of domestic dog ancestors and admixture into high-latitude breeds

Skoglund, P., Ersmark, E., Palkopoulou, E., & Dalén, L. (2015). Ancient wolf genome reveals an early divergence of domestic dog ancestors and admixture into high-latitude breeds. Current Biology, 25(11), 1515-1519.

The origin of domestic dogs is poorly understood, with suggested evidence of dog-like features in fossils that predate the Last Glacial Maximum  conflicting with genetic estimates of a more recent divergence between dogs and worldwide wolf populations. Here, we present a draft genome sequence from a 35,000-year-old wolf from the Taimyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. We find that this individual belonged to a population that diverged from the common ancestor of present-day wolves and dogs very close in time to the appearance of the domestic dog lineage. We use the directly dated ancient wolf genome to recalibrate the molecular timescale of wolves and dogs and find that the mutation rate is substantially slower than assumed by most previous studies, suggesting that the ancestors of dogs were separated from present-day wolves before the Last Glacial Maximum. We also find evidence of introgression from the archaic Taimyr wolf lineage into present-day dog breeds from northeast Siberia and Greenland, contributing between 1.4% and 27.3% of their ancestry. This demonstrates that the ancestry of present-day dogs is derived from multiple regional wolf populations.
A model of population history (admixture graph) fitted to the data

Thursday 4 August 2016

Exposure of Free-Ranging Wild Carnivores and Domestic Dogs to CDV and Parvovirus in Central Brazil

Furtado, M. M., Hayashi, E. M. K., Allendorf, S. D., Coelho, C. J., de Almeida Jácomo, A. T., Megid, J., ... & Neto, J. S. F. Exposure of Free-Ranging Wild Carnivores and Domestic Dogs to Canine Distemper Virus and Parvovirus in the Cerrado of Central Brazil. EcoHealth, 1-9.

Human population growth around protected areas increases the contact between wild and domestic animals, promoting disease transmission between them. This study investigates the exposure of free-ranging wild carnivores and domestic dogs to canine distemper virus (CDV) and parvovirus in Emas National Park (ENP) in the Cerrado savanna of central Brazil. Serum samples were collected from 169 wild carnivores, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous), hoary fox (Pseudalopex vetulus), puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo), jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), striped hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus semistriatus) and coati (Nasua nasua), and from 35 domestic dogs living on rural properties bordering ENP. Serological tests showed that 10.6% of wild carnivores (maned wolves, crab-eating foxes and ocelots) and 71.4% of domestic dogs were exposed to CDV, and 56.8% of wild carnivores, including all species sampled except coatis, and 57.1% of domestic dogs were exposed to parvovirus. This report is the first to indicate that the free-ranging pampas cat, jaguarundi and striped hog-nosed skunk are exposed to parvovirus. CDV and parvovirus deserve attention in ENP, and it is extremely important to monitor the health of carnivore populations and perform molecular diagnosis of the viruses to determine the possible involvement of the domestic dog in their transmission.

Home range of feral cats on Rota Is.

Leo, B. T., Anderson, J. J., Brand Phillips, R., & Ha, R. R. (2016). Home range estimates of feral cats (Felis catus) on Rota Island and determining asymptotic convergence 1. Pacific Science, 70(3), 323-331.

Feral cats (Felis catus) have been shown to be a main contributor to species decline throughout the world and are especially threatening to insular species that lack appropriate defense characteristics. To mitigate the impact of feral cats on threatened species, space-use data are commonly used to design control strategies. In this article we report on the performance of GPS datalogging collars and provide baseline information on daily space use and home ranges of feral cats that threaten an endangered species on Rota Island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Using 100% Minimum Convex Polygon (MCP), average adult male home range was 1.32 km2(n = 2) and average adult female home range was 0.22 km2(n = 3). Home ranges were deemed fully revealed if asymptotes were approached using incremental analysis. Currently, there is no objective method for assessing where an asymptote is approached. Here, we describe a methodology to do so with the application of a Michaelis-Menten model to incremental data. We conclude that GPS datalogging collars are a viable tool for feral cat location data collection on Rota Island and that the Michaelis-Menten model is useful for determining asymptotic convergence of incremental location data.

Epidemiological survey of zoonotic helminths in feral cats in Gran Canaria

Rodríguez-Ponce, E., González, J. F., de Felipe, M. C., Hernández, J. N., & Raduan Jaber, J. (2016). Epidemiological survey of zoonotic helminths in feral cats in Gran Canaria island (Macaronesian archipelago-Spain). Acta Parasitologica, 61(3), 443-450.

The presence of zoonotic parasites in feral cats have been widely considered all over the world. In Gran Canaria (Macaronesian archipelago, Canary Islands, Spain) the number of feral cats has grown out of control in urban and rural areas. 48 of Felis catus captured in different Gran Canaria areas were studied. Animals were necropsied and several organs were systematically examined in order to collect and identify macroscopic parasites. In addition, coprological tests were done in 28 cats. There were no statistically significant differences in the prevalence rate among sex, age or capture area, showing an overall prevalence of helminths of 77.1%. The most common tapeworms were Dipylidium caninum (64.6%) and Taenia taeniaeformis (31.3%), followed by the nematodes Toxocara cati (20.8%), Ancylostoma tubaeforme (18.8%), Aelurostrongylus abstrusus (10.4%) and Trichuris vulpis (2.08%). We also find several eggs of Alaria alata in the small intestine of one cat (2.08%), being the first description of this trematode in cats in the Canary Islands. Aproximatelly, 40% of the studied cats harboured more than one parasite. High rates of zoonotic species found in these animals suggest the need of controling parasitic infections and preventive measures against them.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

3D morphometric analysis of fossil canid skulls contradicts the suggested domestication of dogs during the late Paleolithic

Drake, A. G., Coquerelle, M., & Colombeau, G. (2015). 3D morphometric analysis of fossil canid skulls contradicts the suggested domestication of dogs during the late Paleolithic. Scientific reports, 5.

Whether dogs were domesticated during the Pleistocene, when humans were hunter-gatherers, or during the Neolithic, when humans began to form permanent settlements and engage in agriculture, remains controversial. Recently discovered Paleolithic fossil skulls, Goyet dated 31,680 +/− 250 YBP and Eliseevichi MAE 447/5298 dated 13,905 +/− 55 YBP, were previously identified as dogs. However, new genetic studies contradict the identification of these specimens as dogs, questioning the validity of traditional measurements used to morphologically identify canid fossil skulls. We employ 3D geometric morphometric analyses to compare the cranial morphology of Goyet and Eliseevichi MAE to that of ancient and modern dogs and wolves. We demonstrate that these Paleolithic canids are definitively wolves and not dogs. Compared to mesaticephalic (wolf-like breeds) dog skulls, Goyet and Eliseevichi MAE, do not have cranial flexion and the dorsal surface of their muzzles has no concavity near the orbits. Morphologically, these early fossil canids resemble wolves, and thus no longer support the establishment of dog domestication in the Paleolithic.

(a) 3D plot of PC1, PC2 and PC3, (b) 3D morphs of extremes along PC 1, PC 2 and PC 3. 95% Confidence interval ellipsoids of modern dogs, Alaskan wolves, and European wolves are outlined. Unclassified specimens are labelled separately in this and other figures. A 3D version of this figure is available as Supplementary Figure S1.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Inefficient TNR

Kilgour, R. J., Magle, S. B., Slater, M., Christian, A., Weiss, E., & DiTullio, M. (2016). Estimating free-roaming cat populations and the effects of one year Trap-Neuter-Return management effort in a highly urban area. Urban Ecosystems, 1-10.

Free-roaming cat populations are increasing in urban areas around the world. Management strategies remain controversial, as attempts to rapidly minimize the impact of cats may conflict with finding an ethical means of population reduction in this domesticated species. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a non-lethal strategy which can theoretically lead to population decline with an ethical approach. The present study aimed to estimate free-roaming cat populations and also to measure the efficacy of a one-year TNR campaign in a highly urban area. Using a sight/resight methodology, we examined free-roaming cat populations in four sites across two neighbourhoods (Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant) in New York City. Sampling was repeated after 1 year, during which an intensive TNR effort occurred in each of those areas. Results from this study found population estimates range from 2.6-4.1 cats/km. Additionally, we found between 78-98% turnover in each study area. After one year of TNR, the proportion of sterilised individuals in our treatment sites increased to 50%. Model results suggest there is no evidence that sterilised individuals are more likely to be encountered, indicating that sterilisation may not affect movement patterns of cats. Free-roaming cats occur at high densities at all study sites, though populations varied, even within the same neighbourhood. We found evidence of considerable migration within study sites, which further complicates the application of a sterilisation management strategy. Management strategies directed toward free-roaming cats, such as TNR, may require a broad-scale approach, involving different facets of the community and should occur over multiple years.

Monday 18 July 2016

Domestic dogs as nest predators of Wilson’s plover in northeastern Brazil

Diniz, C. G., de Morais Magalhães, N. G., Guerreiro, D., Diniz, P. D. C. P., Paulo, D. C., Renato, F., ... & Diniz, C. W. P. (2016). Cães domésticos predadores de ninho de batuíra bicuda (Charadrius wilsonia) no nordeste brasileiro. Revista da Biologia, 16(1), 24-27. 

Although Wilson´s plovers (Charadrius wilsonia) are migratory, a resident population breeds in coastal northeastern Brazil and there population trend is described as decreasing by the IUCN Red List. Domestic dogs are a major predator of Wilson’s plover nests on an island in northeastern Brazil where dogs are kept to guard fishing equipment. Local fishermen, however, are motivated to protect the nests of shorebirds and when shown video recordings documenting nest predation acted quickly to remove dogs. We found that providing local residents with evidence about the causes of nest
predation could play an effective role in protecting bird populations.

Live-capture of feral cats using different methods

McGregor, H. W., Hampton, J. O., Lisle, D., & Legge, S. (2016). Live-capture of feral cats using tracking dogs and darting, with comparisons to leg-hold trapping. Wildlife Research, 43(4), 313-322.

Context: Predation by feral cats is a key threatening process to many species of native Australian wildlife. Unfortunately, cats are difficult to capture using standard trapping techniques, limiting the potential to conduct research on their ecology and impacts.

Aims: We present an alternative capture method: remote chemical immobilisation after tracking with trained dogs. We also compare capture rates to a concurrent soft-jaw leg-hold trapping program.

Methods: We used dogs to capture cats detected by spotlighting at night, and also recaptured cats fitted with telemetry collars during the day. Cats were either bailed on the ground or treed and then hand-netted, or chemically immobilised using darts shot from a CO2-powered dart rifle, loaded with tiletamine–zolazepam at ~6 mg kg–1. Factors affecting the success rate of capturing cats using dogs were assessed. Efficiency in terms of cats captured per person-hours of fieldwork were compared using trained dogs versus leg-hold trapping.

Key results: We attempted 160 cat captures using the tracking dogs with 114 of those being successful. There were no mortalities or debilitating physical injuries associated with chemical immobilisation; however, sedated cats had prolonged recoveries (>4 h). Capture success with the tracking dogs increased as the dogs gained experience. Capture success rates per person-hour of fieldwork were four times greater using spotlighting with tracking dogs than using leg-hold traps. The success rate of recaptures using dogs was 97%.

Conclusions: The use of trained tracking dogs proved an effective method for capturing feral cats. The method had a much higher success rate than live-trapping with leg-hold traps, took less effort (in terms of person-hours) and caused less physical injuries than did leg-hold traps. However, substantial setup costs and time are required, which are discussed.

Implications: Using these methods could improve efficiency and outcomes when catching feral cats, and enable more data per individual cat to be collected than otherwise.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Implications for human-wolf conflict due to free-roaming domestic dogs predation on deer in southern Spain:

Duarte, J., García, F. J., & Fa, J. E. (2016). Depredatory impact of free-roaming domestic dogs on Mediterranean deer in southern Spain: implications for human-wolf conflict. Folia Zoologica, 65(2).

Feral domestic dogs are efficient wild ungulate hunters in many parts of the world. This has not been confirmed in Mediterranean ecosystems. However, if feral dogs can predate upon wild Mediterranean ungulates, they can also do so upon livestock. Therefore, to more realistically understand human-wolf conflict in areas where wolves and feral dogs overlap, the possible role of the latter taking domestic prey should be considered. During a 6-month study period, we carried out daily observations of a pack of mediumsized dogs, where they were the only large-bodied carnivore capable of killing ungulates in a fenced estate in southern Spain. The estate contained sizeable populations of red deer, fallow deer and mouflons, but no livestock. We described feral dog predation patterns and depredatory impact. We found that dogs predated upon a total of 57 ungulates; fallow deer (47 %), red deer (37 %), and mouflon (16 %). Red deer adults were the least frequent prey, but dogs killed significantly more females and fawns of red and fallow deer. Mouflons were attacked indistinctly. Our results suggest that dogs in our study exhibited a kill pattern similar to Iberian wolves. Therefore, in areas where wolves and feral dogs coexist, a significant proportion of livestock predation could be falsely attributed to the wild canid. In addition, the presence of feral dogs may be a cause of risk in big game hunting estates.

Thursday 7 July 2016

CDV in wild endangered Amur tigers

Seimon, T. A., Miquelle, D. G., Chang, T. Y., Newton, A. L., Korotkova, I., Ivanchuk, G., ... & McAloose, D. (2013). Canine distemper virus: an emerging disease in wild endangered Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica). MBio, 4(4), e00410-13.

Fewer than 500 Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) remain in the wild. Due to low numbers and their solitary and reclusive nature, tiger sightings across their range in the Russian Far East and China are rare; sightings of sick tigers are rarer still. Serious neurologic disease observed in several wild tigers since 2001 suggested disease emergence in this endangered species. To investigate this possibility, histology, immunohistochemistry (IHC), in situ hybridization (ISH), and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) were performed on tissues from 5 affected tigers that died or were destroyed in 2001, 2004, or 2010. Our results reveal canine distemper virus (CDV) infection as the cause of neurologic disease in two tigers and definitively establish infection in a third. Nonsuppurative encephalitis with demyelination, eosinophilic nuclear viral inclusions, and positive immunolabeling for CDV by IHC and ISH were present in the two tigers with available brain tissue. CDV phosphoprotein (P) and hemagglutinin (H) gene products were obtained from brains of these two tigers by RT-PCR, and a short fragment of CDV P gene sequence was detected in lymph node tissue of a third tiger. Phylogenetically, Amur tiger CDV groups with an Arctic-like strain in Baikal seals (Phoca siberica). Our results, which include mapping the location of positive tigers and recognition of a cluster of cases in 2010, coupled with a lack of reported CDV antibodies in Amur tigers prior to 2000 suggest wide geographic distribution of CDV across the tiger range and recent emergence of CDV as a significant infectious disease threat to endangered Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.

IMPORTANCE Recognition of disease emergence in wildlife is a rare occurrence. Here, for the first time, we identify and characterize a canine distemper virus (CDV), the second most common cause of infectious disease death in domestic dogs and a viral disease of global importance in common and endangered carnivores, as the etiology of neurologic disease and fatal encephalitis in wild, endangered Amur tigers. We establish that in 2010 CDV directly or indirectly killed ~1% of Amur tigers. Location of positive cases over an expansive geographic area suggests that CDV is widely distributed across the tiger range. Interspecies interactions are increasing as human populations grow and expand into wildlife habitats. Identifying animal reservoirs for CDV and identifying the CDV strains that are transmissible to and among wildlife species, including Amur tigers and sympatric critically endangered Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis), is essential for guiding conservation and mitigation efforts.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

TNR and TVHR as methods to control nuisance from feral cats

Ireland, T., & Neilan, R. M. (2016). A spatial agent-based model of feral cats and analysis of population and nuisance controls. Ecological Modelling, 337, 123-136.

Free-roaming feral cats are common in areas of concentrated human habitation, and can pose considerable threats of nuisance and damage to native ecosystems. Trap-neuter-return (TNR) and trap-vasectomy-hysterectomy-return (TVHR) are two humane methods for the reproductive control of feral cat populations. Both TNR and TVHR render a cat infertile, but cats that have undergone TVHR continue to produce hormones that drive mating behaviors. We built a stochastic agent-based computational model for simulating the survival, reproduction, and movement of individual feral cats and the use of TNR and TVHR to modify cats’ reproductive abilities and behaviors. Daily movement of cats between colonies is implemented based on the distance between colonies and landscape properties (e.g. rural, urban). Spatially targeted TNR and TVHR policies are evaluated using two management goals: (1) reduce total population size and (2) reduce nuisance attributed to feral cats. Nuisance includes spraying and noise, both of which are associated with un-neutered males, as well as population abundance. Results indicate that both TNR and TVHR have the potential to greatly reduce population size. Effectiveness of each control depends on the capture rate, number of colonies targeted, size of each colony, and movement of individual cats between colonies. Results show that on average TVHR performs moderately better than TNR at reducing population size, but TNR substantially outperforms TVHR in reducing multiple nuisance measures.

Cross-species transmission of CDV

Beineke, A., Baumgärtner, W. & Wohlsein, P. 2015. Cross-species transmission of canine distemper virus-an update. One Health 1, 49–59.

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a pantropic morbillivirus with a worldwide distribution, which causes fatal disease in dogs. Affected animals develop dyspnea, diarrhea, neurological signs and profound immunosuppression. Systemic CDV infection, resembling distemper in domestic dogs, can be found also in wild canids (e.g. wolves, foxes), procyonids (e.g. raccoons, kinkajous), ailurids (e.g. red pandas), ursids (e.g. black bears, giant pandas), mustelids (e.g. ferrets, minks), viverrids (e.g. civets, genets), hyaenids (e.g. spotted hyenas), and large felids (e.g. lions, tigers). Furthermore, besides infection with the closely related phocine distemper virus, seals can become infected by CDV. In some CDV outbreaks including the mass mortalities among Baikal and Caspian seals and large felids in the Serengeti Park, terrestrial carnivores including dogs and wolves have been suspected as vectors for the infectious agent. In addition, lethal infections have been described in non-carnivore species such as peccaries and non-human primates demonstrating the remarkable ability of the pathogen to cross species barriers. Mutations affecting the CDV H protein required for virus attachment to host-cell receptors are associated with virulence and disease emergence in novel host species. The broad and expanding host range of CDV and its maintenance within wildlife reservoir hosts considerably hampers disease eradication.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Genetic traces of historical human‐mediated dispersal of feral cats

Endemic species on islands are highly susceptible to local extinction, in particular if they are exposed to invasive species. Invasive predators, such as feral cats, have been introduced to islands around the world, causing major losses in local biodiversity. In order to control and manage invasive species successfully, information about source populations and level of gene flow is essential. Here, we investigate the origin of feral cats of Hawaiian and Australian islands to verify their European ancestry and a potential pattern of isolation by distance. We analyzed the genetic structure and diversity of feral cats from eleven islands as well as samples from Malaysia and Europe using mitochondrial DNA (ND5 and ND6 regions) and microsatellite DNA data. Our results suggest an overall European origin of Hawaiian cats with no pattern of isolation by distance between Australian, Malaysian, and Hawaiian populations. Instead, we found low levels of genetic differentiation between samples from Tasman Island, Lana'i, Kaho'olawe, Cocos (Keeling) Island, and Asia. As these populations are separated by up to 10,000 kilometers, we assume an extensive passive dispersal event along global maritime trade routes in the beginning of the 19th century, connecting Australian, Asian, and Hawaiian islands. Thus, islands populations, which are characterized by low levels of current gene flow, represent valuable sources of information on historical, human-mediated global dispersal patterns of feral cats.

Map of the world representing the main route (Golden Round) used by maritime fur trade (black lines). Boxes show sampling locations in Australia, Hawaii, and South-East Asia with bars indicating graphical output from STRUCTURE analysis for K = 5. Each individual cat is represented by a single vertical line in population's subset plots, which were assigned to their place of origin.

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