The impact that Feral Cats have had and are still having on Australia’s wildlife is significant and well-known. Feral Cats are implicated in the demise of dozens of threatened species and the tremendous toll they have on birds, mammals and reptiles is on-going. For a good summary of Feral Cat impact and control, visit The Conversation.
That Feral Cats occur in the Strathbogie Forest is not surprising, but our citizen science trailcam surveys have shown just how widespread and common they are. They were recorded at a third of the trailcam survey sites and in all variety of settings and habitats – open, grassy sites; rocky outcrops; riparian zones with dense understory. Realistically, it’s safe to assume there are no parts of the forest where Feral Cats do not occur, at least occasionally. Using coat colour and pattern, location and time of detection, we estimate that a minimum of 15 individual cats were detected during the survey – eight cats with black coat colour, six with tabby coats and one bicolour. Several trailcam sites detected multiple individual cats, with one site detecting at least three different individuals over a six month period.
This video collates a selection of the trailcam detections made over the last four years of the Strathbogie Citizen Science program. Whilst it’s interesting seeing Feral Cats in the wild, we can learn more from these detections than just the presence or absence of cats at different locations in the forest.
We can’t estimate with any confidence exactly how many Feral Cats occur in the forest, but the population is undoubtedly much larger than the 15 individuals detected by our trailcams. Research has shown that the average feral cat kills 748 reptiles, birds and mammals each year, suggesting that the 15 animals we detected kill more than 10,000 animals per year – most of these would be native species. Other research estimates that a Feral Cat eats two birds every three days which equates to more than a million birds every day in Australia! Feral Cat predation in the Strathbogie Forest on small mammals like the Long-nosed Bandicoot must be considerable and added to the impact foxes have, it’s perhaps no wonder that the only places bandicoots are now found in the Strathbogie Ranges is where there are extensive areas of dense, ground-layer vegetation that provide adequate refuge from cats and foxes.