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article imageFeral cats now found in all parts of Australia

By Tim Sandle     Jan 15, 2017 in Environment
Feral cats now cover over 99.8 percent of Australia's land areas. New research has examined the numbers of feral cats and considered the ecological impact and the relationship with human society.
A feral cat is a cat that has been born to other ferals or from stray cats; these ferals are unaccustomed to human interaction. Feral cats are usually considered to be distinct from stray cats, which are socialized cats who no longer live in homes. In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has warned about the rabies risk associated with feral cats; and the cats, in countries like Australia, are associated with many types of diseases.
The new research was completed by a group of Australian environmental scientists, based on some 100 separate studies. Discussing the outcomes, the lead author of the new research paper, Dr Sarah Legge from The University of Queensland summarizes the current situation: “Australia's total feral cat population fluctuates between 2.1 million when times are lean, up to 6.3 million when widespread rain results in plenty of available prey.”
Although feral cats cover most land regions the population densities vary. Notably, the populations are higher on islands, especially smaller islands. In addition, inland areas with low rainfall and more open vegetation have higher cat densities. In contrast, coastal and wetter areas have lower cat densities.
One concern is the risk that feral cats pose to other wildlife. Although wildlife protective zones are in place, these do not appear to be effective. The research suggests that new control measures are required. Australia is the only continent on Earth (other than Antarctica) where the animals evolved without cats. For this reason much Australia’s wildlife is vulnerable to the cats.
In addition to making protective areas for wildlife, the researchers suggest a focused culling program is needed in some area, to reinforce a protective zone around wildlife reserves.
The research was funded by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Program. The research has been published in the journal Biological Conservation, with the paper headed “Enumerating a continental-scale threat: How many feral cats are in Australia?”
More about Feral cats, Australia, Australian feral camel, Cats
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