11 July 2016

The Cat Problem - New Zealand, Australia - Pukawa Too

Cats! Love them and loathe them. Let's face it, as ferals they have become a real problem in the environment. Here are a few of their sins. And I'm not even going to address the massive feral cat problem in Australia.

One single cat was responsible for wiping out an entire species of bird. The lighthouse keepers cat on Stevens Island almost singlehandedly wiped out the entire species population of Stevens Island wrens. Used to bring them in each day as a present for the keeper!

On Stewart Island (Rakiura) cats have gone out of control. A Trust set up to protect the Yellow-Eyed Penguin employed a person to attempt to control the cats, the penguins' chief predator.

One dead cat picked up on a Central Otago roadside had seven dead skinks in its stomach - and even worse, a shot feral cat had 14 undigested skinks in its stomach, one mornings catch!

Many other species are recorded as having been eliminated or at least severely predated by cats. These include the Saddleback, the Little Barrier Snipe, several petrel species, dotterels, Kakariki, Brown Teal and Robins.

Of course cats alone are not responsible for the destruction of so many NZ species (but they have been estimated to kill between 19 and 44 million animals per year). Rats and mustelids too are in on the act. To their credit cats kill rats and even a few mustelids. But the whole ecological story of predator and prey is very complex and needs to be addressed as such; by humans.

In my view the worst crimes are committed by humans - abandoning cats or litters of cats on the roadside to survive on their own - how else but by taking easy meals from the local fauna. And then there is the catch, neuter and release policy of the SPCA for stray cats. My view is that once a stray cat is given general anaesthetic for neutering it will 'know nothing' if it doesn't wake up! Maybe better not to wake up.

But as far as Stewart Island is concerned if all the pet moggies in urban Stewart Island are given back to their owners after neutering, the few animals they catch would be insignificant compared with the elimination of cats and other predators throughout the rest of the island. Then everyone is happy.

At Pukawa we regularly find cats within our PWMT control area - and have anecdotal evidence of their release into our area - maybe just telling the kids that they'd be picked up on the way back home from the holiday - ha, ha!

Victim (not that I care too much about sparrows) and Predator