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The impact of cats and foxes on the small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia. I. Exploring potential impact using diet analysis

By D.A. Risbey, M.C. Calver and J. Short


The diets of cats (Felis catus) and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) killed during predator control at a semi-arid site in Western Australia were studied to see which prey species may be affected by predation from these introduced predators. The number of items, biomass and frequency of occurrence of each food type in the gut contents from 109 fetal cats, 62 semi-feral cats and 47 foxes were used to calculate an Index of Relative Importance for each food category for each predator. Mammals were the most important prey group for all three predators, with rabbit being the most highly ranked prey species. The diets of feral and semi-feral cats were similar in dietary diversity but differed in the frequency of occurrence of some food categories. Native rodents, birds and reptiles occurred more frequently and were ranked higher in the diet of feral cats, and food scraps occurred more frequently in the diet of semi-feral cats. The diet of foxes was less diverse than that of either group of cats. Invertebrates and sheep carrion were more important prey categories for foxes than for cats. In the summer-autumn period, foxes ate more sheep carrion and invertebrates than they did in winter-spring. The diet of feral cats was more diverse in summer-autumn, including a greater range of invertebrates and more rodents, birds and reptiles than in the winter-spring period. We predict that cats are more likely to have an impact on small vertebrates at this site and that the control of cats could lead to recoveries in the populations of native rodents, birds and reptiles. By contrast, the control of foxes alone may lead to a rise in cat numbers and a consequent detrimental impact on small vertebrate populations

Publisher: 'CSIRO Publishing'
Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.1071/wr98066
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Provided by: Research Repository
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