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Feral Cats in the Tall Forests of Far East Gippsland, Australia

  • Author(s): Buckmaster, Tony
  • Dickman, Christopher R.
  • et al.
Abstract

Much of the research on feral cats in Australia has occurred in the continent’s arid and semi-arid regions. Consequently, little is known about the ecology of feral cats in tall forests. Using a combination of both VHF and ‘store on board’ GPS collars, feral cats were tracked in the forests of Far East Gippsland, Victoria, to investigate both home range size and movement patterns. The use of GPS collars to obtain accurate and high volumes of location data allowed the intra-home range movements of feral cats to be examined in ways not previously possible using conventional VHF radio telemetry. Male cats had significantly larger home ranges (MCP 100, mean ± se: 455 ± 126 ha) than females (105 ± 28 ha). Male home ranges overlapped those of females and female ranges overlapped with neighbouring females. Overlaps in female home ranges, in particular of the core areas, indicate that female cats in Far East Gippsland are tolerant of other females and do not actively exclude them. Feral cats in these productive tall forests have smaller home ranges than those in arid and semi-arid regions where food resources are sparse or limited, but larger ranges than those inhabiting farmland and grassland habitats where food resources are generally more abundant. Location data gathered at three different temporal intervals – 6 hourly, hourly, and every 15 minutes, showed that feral cats utilise a Lévy walk-style searching pattern as they move through their home range. Employing a Lévy walk increases the likelihood of encountering prey items that are distributed sparsely in the environment, in turn maximising the potential hunting return for effort expended. These findings will allow managers to adopt a more targeted approach when undertaking feral cat management programs in these habitats by providing information on where to deploy traps, baits or other control measures.

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