Enumerating a continental-scale threat

How many feral cats are in Australia?

S. Legge, B. P. Murphy, H. McGregor, J. C.Z. Woinarski, J. Augusteyn, G. Ballard, M. Baseler, T. Buckmaster, C. R. Dickman, T. Doherty, G. Edwards, T. Eyre, B. A. Fancourt, D. Ferguson, D. M. Forsyth, W. L. Geary, M. Gentle, G. Gillespie, L. Greenwood, R. Hohnen & 21 others S. Hume, C. N. Johnson, M. Maxwell, P. J. McDonald, K. Morris, K. Moseby, T. Newsome, D. Nimmo, R. Paltridge, D. Ramsey, J. Read, A. Rendall, M. Rich, E. Ritchie, J. Rowland, J. Short, D. Stokeld, D. R. Sutherland, A. F. Wayne, L. Woodford, F. Zewe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    45 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Feral cats (Felis catus) have devastated wildlife globally. In Australia, feral cats are implicated in most recent mammal extinctions and continue to threaten native species. Cat control is a high-profile priority for Australian policy, research and management. To develop the evidence-base to support this priority, we first review information on cat presence/absence on Australian islands and mainland cat-proof exclosures, finding that cats occur across >99.8% of Australia's land area. Next, we collate 91 site-based feral cat density estimates in Australia and examine the influence of environmental and geographic influences on density. We extrapolate from this analysis to estimate that the feral cat population in natural environments fluctuates between 1.4 million (95% confidence interval: 1.0–2.3 million) after continent-wide droughts, to 5.6 million (95% CI: 2.5–11 million) after extensive wet periods. We estimate another 0.7 million feral cats occur in Australia's highly modified environments (urban areas, rubbish dumps, intensive farms). Feral cat densities are higher on small islands than the mainland, but similar inside and outside conservation land. Mainland cats reach highest densities in arid/semi-arid areas after wet periods. Regional variation in cat densities corresponds closely with attrition rates for native mammal fauna. The overall population estimate for Australia's feral cats (in natural and highly modified environments), fluctuating between 2.1 and 6.3 million, is lower than previous estimates, and Australian feral cat densities are lower than reported for North America and Europe. Nevertheless, cats inflict severe impacts on Australian fauna, reflecting the sensitivity of Australia's native species to cats and reinforcing that policy, research and management to reduce their impacts is critical.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)293-303
    Number of pages11
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Volume206
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

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    native species
    mammal
    fauna
    refuse
    research policy
    confidence interval
    urban area
    extinction
    drought
    farm
    indigenous species
    mammals
    land management
    urban areas
    wildlife
    policy
    farms

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    Legge, S., Murphy, B. P., McGregor, H., Woinarski, J. C. Z., Augusteyn, J., Ballard, G., ... Zewe, F. (2017). Enumerating a continental-scale threat: How many feral cats are in Australia? Biological Conservation, 206, 293-303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.032
    Legge, S. ; Murphy, B. P. ; McGregor, H. ; Woinarski, J. C.Z. ; Augusteyn, J. ; Ballard, G. ; Baseler, M. ; Buckmaster, T. ; Dickman, C. R. ; Doherty, T. ; Edwards, G. ; Eyre, T. ; Fancourt, B. A. ; Ferguson, D. ; Forsyth, D. M. ; Geary, W. L. ; Gentle, M. ; Gillespie, G. ; Greenwood, L. ; Hohnen, R. ; Hume, S. ; Johnson, C. N. ; Maxwell, M. ; McDonald, P. J. ; Morris, K. ; Moseby, K. ; Newsome, T. ; Nimmo, D. ; Paltridge, R. ; Ramsey, D. ; Read, J. ; Rendall, A. ; Rich, M. ; Ritchie, E. ; Rowland, J. ; Short, J. ; Stokeld, D. ; Sutherland, D. R. ; Wayne, A. F. ; Woodford, L. ; Zewe, F. / Enumerating a continental-scale threat : How many feral cats are in Australia?. In: Biological Conservation. 2017 ; Vol. 206. pp. 293-303.
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    abstract = "Feral cats (Felis catus) have devastated wildlife globally. In Australia, feral cats are implicated in most recent mammal extinctions and continue to threaten native species. Cat control is a high-profile priority for Australian policy, research and management. To develop the evidence-base to support this priority, we first review information on cat presence/absence on Australian islands and mainland cat-proof exclosures, finding that cats occur across >99.8{\%} of Australia's land area. Next, we collate 91 site-based feral cat density estimates in Australia and examine the influence of environmental and geographic influences on density. We extrapolate from this analysis to estimate that the feral cat population in natural environments fluctuates between 1.4 million (95{\%} confidence interval: 1.0–2.3 million) after continent-wide droughts, to 5.6 million (95{\%} CI: 2.5–11 million) after extensive wet periods. We estimate another 0.7 million feral cats occur in Australia's highly modified environments (urban areas, rubbish dumps, intensive farms). Feral cat densities are higher on small islands than the mainland, but similar inside and outside conservation land. Mainland cats reach highest densities in arid/semi-arid areas after wet periods. Regional variation in cat densities corresponds closely with attrition rates for native mammal fauna. The overall population estimate for Australia's feral cats (in natural and highly modified environments), fluctuating between 2.1 and 6.3 million, is lower than previous estimates, and Australian feral cat densities are lower than reported for North America and Europe. Nevertheless, cats inflict severe impacts on Australian fauna, reflecting the sensitivity of Australia's native species to cats and reinforcing that policy, research and management to reduce their impacts is critical.",
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    Legge, S, Murphy, BP, McGregor, H, Woinarski, JCZ, Augusteyn, J, Ballard, G, Baseler, M, Buckmaster, T, Dickman, CR, Doherty, T, Edwards, G, Eyre, T, Fancourt, BA, Ferguson, D, Forsyth, DM, Geary, WL, Gentle, M, Gillespie, G, Greenwood, L, Hohnen, R, Hume, S, Johnson, CN, Maxwell, M, McDonald, PJ, Morris, K, Moseby, K, Newsome, T, Nimmo, D, Paltridge, R, Ramsey, D, Read, J, Rendall, A, Rich, M, Ritchie, E, Rowland, J, Short, J, Stokeld, D, Sutherland, DR, Wayne, AF, Woodford, L & Zewe, F 2017, 'Enumerating a continental-scale threat: How many feral cats are in Australia?', Biological Conservation, vol. 206, pp. 293-303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.032

    Enumerating a continental-scale threat : How many feral cats are in Australia? / Legge, S.; Murphy, B. P.; McGregor, H.; Woinarski, J. C.Z.; Augusteyn, J.; Ballard, G.; Baseler, M.; Buckmaster, T.; Dickman, C. R.; Doherty, T.; Edwards, G.; Eyre, T.; Fancourt, B. A.; Ferguson, D.; Forsyth, D. M.; Geary, W. L.; Gentle, M.; Gillespie, G.; Greenwood, L.; Hohnen, R.; Hume, S.; Johnson, C. N.; Maxwell, M.; McDonald, P. J.; Morris, K.; Moseby, K.; Newsome, T.; Nimmo, D.; Paltridge, R.; Ramsey, D.; Read, J.; Rendall, A.; Rich, M.; Ritchie, E.; Rowland, J.; Short, J.; Stokeld, D.; Sutherland, D. R.; Wayne, A. F.; Woodford, L.; Zewe, F.

    In: Biological Conservation, Vol. 206, 01.02.2017, p. 293-303.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    AU - Murphy, B. P.

    AU - McGregor, H.

    AU - Woinarski, J. C.Z.

    AU - Augusteyn, J.

    AU - Ballard, G.

    AU - Baseler, M.

    AU - Buckmaster, T.

    AU - Dickman, C. R.

    AU - Doherty, T.

    AU - Edwards, G.

    AU - Eyre, T.

    AU - Fancourt, B. A.

    AU - Ferguson, D.

    AU - Forsyth, D. M.

    AU - Geary, W. L.

    AU - Gentle, M.

    AU - Gillespie, G.

    AU - Greenwood, L.

    AU - Hohnen, R.

    AU - Hume, S.

    AU - Johnson, C. N.

    AU - Maxwell, M.

    AU - McDonald, P. J.

    AU - Morris, K.

    AU - Moseby, K.

    AU - Newsome, T.

    AU - Nimmo, D.

    AU - Paltridge, R.

    AU - Ramsey, D.

    AU - Read, J.

    AU - Rendall, A.

    AU - Rich, M.

    AU - Ritchie, E.

    AU - Rowland, J.

    AU - Short, J.

    AU - Stokeld, D.

    AU - Sutherland, D. R.

    AU - Wayne, A. F.

    AU - Woodford, L.

    AU - Zewe, F.

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    Y1 - 2017/2/1

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    Legge S, Murphy BP, McGregor H, Woinarski JCZ, Augusteyn J, Ballard G et al. Enumerating a continental-scale threat: How many feral cats are in Australia? Biological Conservation. 2017 Feb 1;206:293-303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.032