Gut-wrenching study shows cats' threat to native reptiles

Discussion in 'Reptile News' started by Flaviemys purvisi, Jun 24, 2018.

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  1. Flaviemys purvisi

    Flaviemys purvisi Very Well-Known Member

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    By Joe Hinchliffe
    23 June 2018


    Semi-digested bodies are strewn across the table. Amid the blood and bile lie a knife and the killer – a feral cat.

    The blade has been used to spill the contents of the cat’s stomach. The dozens of small mammals, lizards and snakes have all been eaten within the past 24 hours.

    That is roughly how long it takes a cat to digest its food, which it mainly eats whole. Both factors make doing the sums on feral cat predation fairly straightforward – provided you know how many cats are out there, and you can access enough of their stomachs.

    That is exactly what researchers at the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub have done.
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    "Killing cats then pulling apart their digestive tracts ... it's not the funnest job in the world by any means," lead author John Woinarski said.

    "But it's a very valid means to get a good idea of their diet."

    Dr Woinarski's team has compiled the results of more than 10,000 dissections and examinations of cat scat, as well as new estimates of their population, to crunch the numbers of native animals falling prey to feral cats.

    Last year they revealed that cats eat more than a million birds every day in Australia. But that figure has been eclipsed by the number of reptiles killed by feral cats.

    The second part of the team's research, released this week, shows 1.8 million reptiles fall victim to the feline predators every day.

    In years or abundance, feral cats alone could eat more than 3.5 billion reptiles in the wild.

    And that figure tells only part of the story – it excludes reptiles eaten by house cats and stray cats, and those in modified environments such as dumps and piggeries, where felines abound.
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    The number of mammals killed by cats will be revealed in coming months in the final part of the study.

    But while the devastation wreaked by cats on native marsupials and birds is well recognised, Dr Woinarski said few people were aware of the plight of our reptiles – including some of the most "distinctive and unusual on Earth".

    About one in 10 of the world's reptiles call Australia home and more than 90 per cent of those are found nowhere else in the world.

    "The reptile species we're most worried about cat predation for are the relatively large, slow-moving, long-lived species that live on the ground," Dr John Woinarski said.
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    "Things like blue tongues, shinglebacks, frilled-neck lizards, thorny devils ... a whole group of those are probably declining, largely due to cat predation.

    "When I was a boy I lived in the suburbs of Melbourne and we had blue-tongued lizards quite happily running around our garden – that's no longer the case that most people have that privilege."


    The study found more than 250 Australian reptile species were known to be killed by feral cats, including 10 species listed as threatened.


    The greatest number of feral cats – whose population fluctuates between 2 million and 6 million –were found in arid regions, where lizards abound.
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    These distribution patterns put such species as the great desert skink in the firing line. But it isn't just lizards: threatened pygmy copperheads are among many species of snake in decline because of feral cats.

    Another surprising find in the study was feral cats' tendency to "binge" on favoured species – one cat stomach yielded 40 lizards of the same species it ate that day.

    Such focused hunting means local populations could be quickly wiped out.

    While comparatively little is known about how Australian reptiles are faring against the onslaught of cat predation, the picture is set to become clearer this year when the International Union for Conservation of Nature releases the conservation status for every Australian reptile for the first time.
     
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  2. Mick666

    Mick666 Well-Known Member

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    I don't know about that. Sounds pretty good to me.
    --- Automatic Post Merged, Jun 27, 2018, Original Post Date: Jun 27, 2018 ---
    But seriously, jesus christ, I can't believe how many reptiles are in just that one cat. scary stuff.
     
  3. Tobe404

    Tobe404 Well-Known Member

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    Pity Megalania isn't around still. Let's import some Komodos to deal with these Bastards. Can't be any worse than the Cane Toad idea back in the day.
     
  4. dragonlover1

    dragonlover1 Subscriber Subscriber

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    Time to give the boy scouts a new badge; "Feral Cat Killer"
     
  5. tx_shooter

    tx_shooter New Member

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    Pardon the question - but what issues would there be to just shooting the cats on sight? I know guns laws are pretty tight in Australia but surely there could be a box of ammo for someone to go knock down a couple cats a day.
     
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  6. Buggster

    Buggster Well-Known Member

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    Only people who have guns are cops and some farmers. Cops don’t care. Farmers are more interested in shooting at the feral dogs who kill their livestock.

    General population is revolting because of the proposed cat cull. “But they’re just fur babies who need homes!”.

    I’m a cat owner myself, but I fully support the culling of feral and stray cats. My cats are indoors and safe- both safe themselves and safe for the native wildlife
     
  7. dragonlover1

    dragonlover1 Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'm with you Buggster
     
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  8. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    Shooting is only effective control in limited situations. It can work if it is done constantly in a fairly small area. It is good in fenced conservation areas as part of the elimination/control. On a larger scale it does basically nothing if you shoot a few dozen cats on a 30 000 Ha property, for example.

    In the suburbs you can just trap them and get the RSPCA to kill them. It is not legal to use firearms in urban areas as a general rule (that includes airguns, but not bows).

    Nah, that is an urban myth. Hundreds of thousands of people have guns for the legal purpose of shooting pest animals, ranging from recreational hunters to pro shooters.
     
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  9. Buggster

    Buggster Well-Known Member

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    Poorly worded on my part. Perhaps better to say “Only people who would be able to use a gun in such a manner would be cops and farmers” even if you did have a gun license, I’m fairly certain you’d be snatched up fairly quickly if you started shooting up the local stray cats.
     
  10. tx_shooter

    tx_shooter New Member

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    I wish the shelters here were more aggressive about feral cats. There are lots of places that will castrate/ neuter a feral cat but they intend for it to be released again. This allows them to still kill off birds and reptiles. It seems cats are a problem no matter where they are; same as wild pigs here.
     
  11. Bluetongue1

    Bluetongue1 APS Veteran APS Veteran

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    Judging from the species, the cat cat would have been from the Shark Bay region of WA. This is a recognised ‘hotspot’ for lizard diversity. I don’t know whether that was deliberately done but it does serve to illustrate what these marauding ferals are capable of when given the opportunity. It is hard to comprehend that “1.8 million reptiles fall victim to the feline predators every da”’ and “in years or abundance, feral cats alone could eat more than 3.5 billion reptiles in the wild”. The total number of reptiles in captivity, including those legally and illegally collected from the wild, pales into virtually total insignificance in light of these figures. At least the vast majority of captive reptiles get to lead a longer and less stressful life, without the prospect of being eaten alive by cats or other predators.
     
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  12. Wally

    Wally Subscriber Subscriber

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    It is high time this country had a mature discussion about domestic cat keeping.
     
  13. tx_shooter

    tx_shooter New Member

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    The US should get in on that line of thought with dogs and cats too. When I was much younger there were some people that built a house not far from the back of one of our pastures. We caught their dog in the act of killing some of our goats. My Dad killed the dogs and hung them up like a common coyote. The new neighbors called the sherriff's office but were quickly introduced to "real country life". They did not like paying for the dead goats either.
     
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  14. Wally

    Wally Subscriber Subscriber

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    Yeah we have a problem with wild dogs here too. Doesn't quite get the attention that cats do but it should.
     
  15. swampie

    swampie Power Seller Power Seller

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    I’m a cat lover (well animal lover in general) but I have no hesitation when it comes to shooting them when out bush, one property I hunt on had a heap of cats and foxes running around on it when I first started hunting there 2 or so years ago, I haven’t seen a cat for quite sometime now and only see the odd fox now and then, still working on the pigs and pigeons though, just when you think you’ve thinned em out a bit more turn up.
    Bird life was a bit scarce when I first started going to said property also, might be a coincidence but since the cats were thinned out bird numbers are way up, lots of parrots, finches and wrens about among others.
    There’s always been plenty of browns, red bellies, mulgas and Lacey’s about but not much else in the small reptile department.
     
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