Introduced predators have been implicated in the decline of many fauna populations around the world and are the main factor responsible for the failure of numerous fauna reintroduction programs. As a result, control of introduced predators is a significant management action implemented in wildlife protection programs, particularly in Australia, New Zealand and on islands. Individual predators are seldom targeted in conservation programs, which usually conduct broad-scale, non-specific predator control based on the assumption that the removal of each individual predator is equally important. In contrast, predator management programs initiated by human–wildlife conflict typically use profiling or specific control techniques to target ‘problem’ predators.We investigated whether individual domestic cats vary in the magnitude of their predation threat to wildlife by first reviewing published and anecdotal information on incidences where feral cats have had significant impacts on wildlife protection or translocation programs. We concentrated on prey species that were likely to be more challenging to cats based on their size, novelty or behavior. We then used the results from this review to create a profile of cats that were most likely to cause significant problems for challenging prey, and tested this during a translocation of a threatened mammal species. Both the review and translocation suggested that large male cats 3.5kg or heavier were disproportionally responsible for predation events on challenging prey and possibly implicated in the failure of many protection or reintroduction programs of mammals greater than 1kg. Some cats within this demographic profile were responsible for multiple prey deaths suggesting that both demography and prior experience may define predators capable of ‘catastrophic predation’ that threatens prey populations.Current control programs for feral cats and foxes that do not target particular predator profiles may inadvertently avoid controlling individuals most likely to specialize on threatened prey. We call for the application of crime-fighting forensic and aggregate profiling techniques in wildlife protection programs to determine the profile of predators likely to prey on focal wildlife species and to guide the development of control methods that specifically target these individuals.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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