Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

The diets of cats, foxes and dingoes in relation to prey availability in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory

Wildlife Research 29(4) 389 - 403
Published: 29 November 2002


In most areas of Australia, mammals constitute the staple diets of cats, foxes and dingoes. In central Australia the abundance of mammals is often too low to meet the dietary requirements of these carnivores and yet populations of cats, foxes and dingoes persist. To investigate alternative feeding strategies of cats, foxes and dingoes in arid environments, their diets were monitored in relation to prey availability in two areas of the Tanami Desert where rabbits do not occur. Dietary information was obtained by analysing predator scats collected between 1995 and 1997. Prey availability was monitored by track counts, pitfall trapping, Elliott trapping, and bird counts along walked transects. In contrast to dietary studies elsewhere in Australia, it was found that reptiles were an important component of the diets of predators in the Tanami Desert, and should be classified as seasonal staples. Birds increased in importance in the diets of cats and foxes during the winter, when reptiles were less active. There was considerable overlap between the diets of all three predators, although dingoes ate more large prey items (e.g. macropods) than the other two predators. Results highlight the opportunistic feeding habits of cats, foxes and dingoes and show that, although mammalian prey are less important in central Australia than has been found elsewhere, species that are vulnerable to extinction, such as the bilby (Macrotis lagotis), mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda) and marsupial mole (Notoryctes typhlops), are also consumed by these predators.


© CSIRO 2002

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