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Keywords:

  • feral cat;
  • fixed kernel;
  • home range;
  • minimum convex polygon;
  • movement patterns

Abstract

There is a paucity of data on the movement patterns of feral cats in Australia. Such data can be used to refine control strategies and improve track-based methods of monitoring populations of feral cats. In this study the home ranges and movements of male feral cats were examined over 3.5 years in a semiarid woodland environment in central Australia. Two home range estimators were used in the examination: (i) minimum convex polygon (MCP); and (ii) fixed kernel. The most widely used method of estimating home range in feral cats is MCP, while the fixed kernel method can be used to identify core areas within a home range. On the basis of the MCP method, the long-term home ranges of feral cats in central Australia were much larger than those recorded elsewhere (mean, 2210.5 ha). Twenty-four hour home ranges were much smaller (mean, 249.7 ha) and feral cats periodically shifted their 24 h ranges within the bounds of their long-term home ranges. Core area analysis indicated marked heterogeneity of space use by male feral cats. Several instances where feral cats moved large distances (up to 34 km) were recorded. These long distance movements may have been caused by nutritional stress. Using data from the literature, it is shown that prey availability is a primary determinant of long-term home range size in feral cats. The relevance of the results to the design of management strategies for feral cats in central Australia is also discussed.