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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 39(7)

Dingoes affect activity of feral cats, but do not exclude them from the habitat of an endangered macropod

Yiwei Wang A B C D and Diana O. Fisher A C

A School of Biological Sciences, Goddard building (8), The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.
B Environmental Studies Department, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, United States.
C School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: yixwang@ucsc.edu

Wildlife Research 39(7) 611-620 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR11210
Submitted: 20 December 2011  Accepted: 31 July 2012   Published: 24 September 2012


 
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Abstract

Context: The loss of large predators has been linked with the rise of smaller predators globally, with negative impacts on prey species (mesopredator release). Recent studies suggest that the dingo, Australia’s top terrestrial predator, inhibits predation on native mammals by the invasive red fox, and therefore reduces mammal extinctions. Feral cats also have negative effects on native mammals, but evidence that dingoes suppress cats remains equivocal.

Aims: We sought to examine whether dingoes might spatially or temporally suppress the activity of feral cats at a site containing the sole wild population of an endangered macropod subject to feral cat predation (the bridled nailtail wallaby).

Methods: We used camera traps to compare coarse and fine-scale spatial associations and overlaps in activity times of mammals between August 2009 and August 2010.

Key results: Dingoes and cats used the same areas, but there was evidence of higher segregation of activity times during wet months. Potential prey showed no spatial avoidance of dingoes. Peak activity times of dingoes and their major prey (the black-striped wallaby) were segregated during the wetter time of year (December to March). We did not find evidence that cats were spatially excluded from areas of high prey activity by dingoes, but there was low overlap in activity times between cats and bridled nailtail wallabies.

Conclusions: These findings support the contention that fear of dingoes can sometimes affect the timing of activity of feral cats. However, cats showed little spatial avoidance of dingoes at a coarse scale.

Implications: Control of dingoes should not be abandoned at the site, because the potential moderate benefits of reduced cat activity for this endangered and geographically restricted wallaby may not outweigh the detrimental effects of dingo predation.

Additional keywords: bridled nailtail wallaby, endangered species, mesopredator, Onychogalea fraenata, predation.


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