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, 10 (8), e0133915
eCollection

Feral Cats Are Better Killers in Open Habitats, Revealed by Animal-Borne Video

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Feral Cats Are Better Killers in Open Habitats, Revealed by Animal-Borne Video

Hugh McGregor et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

One of the key gaps in understanding the impacts of predation by small mammalian predators on prey is how habitat structure affects the hunting success of small predators, such as feral cats. These effects are poorly understood due to the difficulty of observing actual hunting behaviours. We attached collar-mounted video cameras to feral cats living in a tropical savanna environment in northern Australia, and measured variation in hunting success among different microhabitats (open areas, dense grass and complex rocks). From 89 hours of footage, we recorded 101 hunting events, of which 32 were successful. Of these kills, 28% were not eaten. Hunting success was highly dependent on microhabitat structure surrounding prey, increasing from 17% in habitats with dense grass or complex rocks to 70% in open areas. This research shows that habitat structure has a profound influence on the impacts of small predators on their prey. This has broad implications for management of vegetation and disturbance processes (like fire and grazing) in areas where feral cats threaten native fauna. Maintaining complex vegetation cover can reduce predation rates of small prey species from feral cat predation.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. Photo of feral cat carrying the largest camera-collar used during this study (photo: Chelsea Parker).
Fig 2
Fig 2. Activity budgets of feral cats during footage obtained within eight hours of capture and release (left column, 61 hours) and footage obtained two or more days post release (right, 28 hours).
Fig 3
Fig 3. Portion of successful and unsuccessful predation events when prey was located either in the open (no grass cover over 10 cm), rocks, or grass tussocks.

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Publication types

Grant support

This research was funded by supporters of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, the Australian Research Council, and the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife (Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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