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Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 27(3)

The impact of cats and foxes on the small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia. II. A field experiment

Danielle A. Risbey, Michael C. Calver, Jeff Short, J. Stuart Bradley and Ian W. Wright

Wildlife Research 27(3) 223 - 235
Published: 2000


The hypothesis that predation by feral cats and introduced foxes reduces population sizes of small, native vertebrates was supported by results of a predator-removal experiment at Heirisson Prong, a semi-arid site in Western Australia. The methods of control used against cats and foxes to protect native mammals reintroduced to Heirisson Prong produced three broad ‘predator zones’: a low-cat and low-fox zone, where foxes were eradicated and spotlight counts of cats declined after intensive cat control; a high-cat and low-fox zone where spotlight counts of cats increased three-fold after foxes were controlled; and a zone where numbers of cats and foxes were not manipulated. Small mammals and reptiles were monitored for one year before and three years after predator control began. Captures of small mammals increased in the low-cat and low-fox zone, but where only foxes were controlled captures of small mammals declined by 80%. In the absence of cat and fox control, captures of small mammals were variable over the sampling period, lower than where both cats and foxes were controlled, yet higher than where only foxes were controlled. The capture success of reptiles did not appear to be related to changes in predator counts. This study presents the first experimental evidence from mainland Australia that feral cats can have a negative impact on populations of small mammals.

Full text doi:10.1071/WR98092

© CSIRO 2000

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