Populations of Tasmanian Devils have drastically reduced because a facial cancer decimates populations.
The Devil is a top predator on the Island. So it held in check, feral cats. That is until facial tumors decimated Devil population and feral cats assumed the position of top predator.
Feral cat population have increased now the devil population has declined. Devils do not attack adult cats but they do go after kittens that are dened. The feral cat population was held in check by limited breeding success.
Now feral cats are more numerous their hunting habits may change to suit the environment they are in.
With less devil's populations to intimidate cats they may change their hunting routines.
The cat is such an adaptable resourceful creature, it is difficult to see how this will end well.
The problem is according to Mr Mooney (Senior wildlife biologist) "Almost nothing is known about the numbers of feral cats or their impact on native fauna".
So it's impossible to determine a strategy to protect native fauna from feral cat predation.
So logic would dictate that reducing the feral cat population will have some beneficial impact on native fauna but if the population is unknown how can you measure a reduction.
If the native species density threatened by feral cats but the population density of feral cats is not known how can you know the impact.
What is the cat's diet, what are their numbers and what are the hunting habits. These are the question that need to be addressed.
Feral cats on the mainland have been hunted, autopsies reveal their diet and studies into areas have revealed numbers.
With the reduction in devil's according to a University of Tasmania study possum's are changing their habits, spending more time on the ground and moving further away from the sanctuary of trees.
With this change of behaviour possums will become more vulnerable to feral cats if the cat population continues to increase and take the devils position of apex predator.
So a couple of questions that are logic based and not science based.
- Will an increase in cat population improve or harm the native fauna populations.
- Will a decrease of feral cats lead to an explosion in native species that will be a problem in the future.
- As predation is shifted from devils to cats what will happen to species previously unaffected by devils but are part of a cat's diet.
- Will stray cats move into bushland without fear of the devil's population being a threat.
- A cat is a powerful hunter and will take rodent, amphibians, birds and small mammals.
- The devil is a nocturnal scavenger and can hunt. With road kill, carrion and rotting flesh the devil will consume all bone and fur.
This is a complex issue. Farmers are concerned with disease from feral cats affecting their lambing. There are competing issues and of course there are animal rights activists.
Do you have a view. This article is best discussed on your facebook page. You maybe surprised about another's point of view. Australia is facing serious issues with feral cats and threatened species. We should discuss these things as a community. Your Facebook is the best starting point. Post and discuss with you family and friends.