Cats are best identified in the zone (video)

To protect wildlife from cats, zone defense may be more effective than trying to block all their roads.

[22 Aprile 2022]

Many pet cat owners say they should be able to roam freely outside their cats, while others point out that wild cats kill countless birds, reptiles, mammals and important insects such as butterflies and dragonflies that have become a global threat to biodiversity. Biologists often deal with this conflicting view, with Daniel Herrera and Travis Gallo at George Mason University wondering if there is room for a more subtle strategy than the usual yes / no answer. Study Free-roaming pet cats selection and hunting behavior (Felice Catas) In an Urban Ecosystem: The Impact of Urban Cat Management ”, recently published in Biological Conservation with other U.S. researchers, uses camera traps set up at hundreds of sites across Washington DC to analyze the predatory behavior of urban cats.

Upstairs Conversation Herrera and Gallo explain that “the cameras recorded all the cats they passed, so our study did not distinguish between wild cats and stray domestic cats. Our data show that when they are 500 Cats were less likely to prey on local wildlife such as songbirds or small mammals when they were more than 800 meters (250 meters) away from the edge of the forest. Rats were more likely to be preyed upon.

Since the range of an average urban domesticated cat is a small area of ​​about 170 meters, spread over one or two urban blocks, the distinction between exclusively native species and a diet without native prey can be studied within a single range. Of a cat

Two researchers at George Mason University wrote: “Our research shows that efforts to focus on cat population management near forests may be a more effective conservation strategy than trying to manage an outdoor cat population.” ‘The whole city’.

In Washington DC, which has a population of 200,000 domestic and stray cats, free-range cats are common and like other cities, cat management has raised a lot of controversy, but everyone agrees that keeping cats at home is safe. As the researchers recall, ‘The lifespan of a cat is usually around 5 years, compared to 10-15 years for a cat indoors. Wild cats face numerous threats, including investment by vehicles and exposure to rat venom. Acknowledging these risks, most animal welfare organizations encourage an internal lifestyle for cats.

From cat keepers to cats, almost everyone agrees on cat hunting: “For centuries people have used them to control rats – say Herrera and Gallo – but aggressive rats, which are often targeted. Modern rat control, they are easy prey for cats. Can be very large. In response, cats also chase small species that are easy to catch. Previous studies have linked cats to the extinction of 63 species of animals worldwide and have estimated that cats kill 12.3 billion wild mammals in the United States each year.

There is already disagreement over the management of cats living outside. Feline population management programs often use trap-neuter-return, or TNR, a process by which cats are trapped, spayed or neutered and released where they were caught. Two researchers wrote about this Conversation That ত্ত্ব theoretically, TNR limits population growth by reducing the number of dog births. In reality this is rarely effective, since 75% of individual cats need to neutralize each year to reduce the population, which is often not possible.

However, reproduction itself is not what conservation biologists are most concerned about: “Today the world is losing wildlife at such a rate that many scientists believe it is facing its sixth mass extinction. In this context, the impact of wild cats on wildlife is a matter of serious concern. Cats have an innate drive to hunt, even if they are fed by humans. Many wildlife populations are already struggling to survive in a rapidly changing world. Hunting a non-native species does not help them. Cats are not peak hunters but they do jump on prey. This general predatory behavior contributes to their bad reputation as one of the most harmful invading species. In our opinion, however, it could also be a key to limiting its environmental impact.

Ed Herrera and Gallo explain why: “Since cats are common predators, their wild food reflects the local species available. In areas like New Zealand where there are more birds than mammals, birds are the primary prey for cats. Similarly, in more urban areas of cities, the diet of cats probably reflects the most available prey species: rats. Cats are at the top of the list of harmful invasive species, but rats are no different. In cities, rats spread disease, contaminate food and damage infrastructure. Free-range cats aren’t too bad at hunting rats. There is no shortage of rats in city centers, which can be found anywhere, including parks, subways, sewers and buildings. But local animals tend to live in or near areas with adequate outdoor habitats such as parks and wooded neighborhoods. When cats hunt in this same place, they pose a threat to the local wildlife. But if cats do not share these areas with local species, the risk is greatly reduced.

With limited funding for biodiversity conservation, it is important to choose effective strategies. Herrera and Gallo noted that “traditional methods of cat management have been largely aimed at preventing cats from roaming around completely, an incredibly unpopular method among those who care for cats outside.” Despite calls to ban outdoor cats, several laws have been enacted. Instead, we recommend prioritizing areas where wildlife is most at risk. For example, cities could create “no-cat zones” near urban settlements, which would allow trap-neuter-return cats to be released in those areas and owners in those areas to be allowed to roam outside their cats. In Washington DC, this would include forested neighborhoods like Palisades or Buena Vista, and homes near parks like Rock Creek. In our view, this targeted approach would have far more impact than the citywide outdoor cat ban, which is unpopular and difficult to enforce.

Herrera and Gallo conclude: “Hard-core policies have done little to reduce outdoor cat populations in the United States. Instead, we believe that a focused, data-driven approach to cat management is a more effective way to protect wildlife.”

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