Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Friday, 26 December 2014

Some cases of stray and village dogs' attack to wild ungulates in wildlife reserves in India

Two village dogs resting after bringing down a chital

Village Dogs Hunting Chital, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve

A pack of stray dogs attacking a nilgai in Sultanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, near New Delhi

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Progress in eradicating cats on Christmas Is

Algar, D., Hamilton, N., & Pink, C. (2014). Progress in eradicating cats (Felis catus) on Christmas Island to conserve biodiversity. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. Supplement No. 30: 45–53

The impact of cats (Felis catus) on the biodiversity of Christmas Island is of significant concern to land management agencies and the broader community. In 2010, a management plan for cats, and also black rats (Rattus rattus), was commissioned that would mitigate the environmental and social impacts of these alien invasives across the island. A strategy was recommended that provided a staged approach to their management and control leading to eradication of one or both target species. For cats, Stage 1 initially involved gaining approval of revisions to the current local cat management laws that prohibited importation of new cats; this was then followed by a veterinary programme to de-sex, micro-chip and register all domestic cats. Stage 2 required removal of all non-domestic (i.e., stray/feral) cats within the residential, commercial and light industrial zones. Without implementation of Stage 2, a significant source of cats, particularly natal recruits, would be available to disperse into or reinvade territories vacated across the island. Stage 2 was required before an island-wide control programme (Stage 3) could be implemented. 
Stage 1 of the programme has been completed with 135 domestic cats currently registered. Stage 2 has led to the majority of stray/feral cats being destroyed within the residential, commercial and light industrial area. Two hundred and seventy-eight stray/feral cats were removed from this area since May 2011, primarily through cage-trapping. Two baiting programmes have been conducted around the periphery of the residential area with between 36–49 cats being removed in 2011 and a further 103–142 stray/feral cats poisoned during a more extensive programme in 2012. The combined trapping and baiting programmes have resulted in between 417–469 stray/feral cats being removed since the commencement of the plan. Continued funding is essential for a successful conclusion to the cat
eradication programme on the island.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Evaluation of cats socialization in shelters

Slater, M., Garrison, L., Miller, K., Weiss, E., Makolinski, K., Drain, N., & Mirontshuk, A. (2013). Practical physical and behavioral measures to assess the socialization spectrum of cats in a shelter-like setting during a three day period. Animals3(4), 1162-1193.

Animal welfare organizations routinely accept large numbers of cats with unknown histories, and whose backgrounds vary from well-socialized pets to cats that have had little or no contact with humans. Agencies are challenged with making the determination of socialization level in a highly stressful environment where cats are often too frightened to show typical behaviors. A variety of structured behavioral assessments were conducted in a shelter-like environment, from intake through a three day holding period, on cats from the full range of socialization as reported by their caregivers. Our results show that certain behaviors such as rubbing, playing, chirping, having the tail up or being at the front of the cage were found to be unique to More Socialized cats. While not all more socialized cats showed these behaviors, cats that did were socialized. Assessing the cats throughout the three day period was beneficial in eliciting key behaviors from shyer and more frightened cats. These results will be used in future work to develop an assessment tool to identify the socialization status of cats as a standardized guide for transparent and reliable disposition decisions and higher live release rates for cats in animal shelters.

Slater, M., Garrison, L., Miller, K., Weiss, E., Makolinski, K., & Drain, N. (2013). Reliability and validity of a survey of cat caregivers on their cats’ socialization level in the cat’s normal environment. Animals, 3(4), 1194-1214.

Stray cats routinely enter animal welfare organizations each year and shelters are challenged with determining the level of human socialization these cats may possess as quickly as possible. However, there is currently no standard process to guide this determination. This study describes the development and validation of a caregiver survey designed to be filled out by a cat’s caregiver so it accurately describes a cat’s personality,
background, and full range of behavior with people when in its normal environment. The results from this survey provided the basis for a socialization score that ranged from unsocialized to well socialized with people. The quality of the survey was evaluated based on inter-rater and test-retest reliability and internal consistency and estimates of construct and criterion validity. In general, our results showed moderate to high levels of inter-rater (median of 0.803, range 0.211–0.957) and test-retest agreement (median 0.92, range 0.211–0.999). Cronbach’s alpha showed high internal consistency (0.962). Estimates of validity did not highlight any major shortcomings. This survey will be used to develop and validate an effective assessment process that accurately differentiates cats by their socialization levels towards humans based on direct observation of cats’ behavior in an animal shelter.

Slater, M., Garrison, L., Miller, K., Weiss, E., Drain, N., & Makolinski, K. (2013). Physical and behavioral measures that predict cats’ socialization in an animal shelter environment during a three day period. Animals, 3(4), 1215-1228.

Animal welfare organizations typically take in cats with unknown levels of socialization towards humans, ranging from unsocialized cats well-socialized but lost pets. Agencies typically determine the socialization status and disposition options of cats within three days, when even a well-socialized pet may be too frightened of the unfamiliar surroundings to display its typical behavior. This is the third part of a three-phase project to develop and evaluate a reliable and valid tool to predict cats’ socialization levels. We recruited cats from the full spectrum of socialization and, using information from the cats’ caregivers regarding typical behavior toward familiar and unfamiliar people, assigned each cat to a Socialization Category. This information was compared to the cats’ behavior during three days of structured assessments conducted in a shelter-like setting. The results of logistic regression modeling generated two models using assessments from the mornings of the second and third day, focusing on predicting shyer or more aloof but socialized cats. Using the coefficients from each of these models, two sets of points were calculated which were useful in differentiating More and Less Socialized cats. In combination with key socialized behaviors, these points were able to fairly accurately identify More and Less Socialized cats.

Feral cat attacks an endangered Hawaiian Petrel

Video provided by the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project shows a feral cat eating an endangered Hawaiian Petrel.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Cat eating endangered honeycreeper

The non-native feral cat in Hawaii is the most threatening predator to critically endangered palila. Palila did not evolve with these predators and are especially vulnerable to them. Evidence of their vulnerability was documented by researchers studying nest success of palila using continuous-loop video cameras to monitor the nests. Based on predation rates of the nests monitored, feral cats cause about 10% of all palila nests to fail every year.

Nest predation on endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper

Laut, M. E., Banko, P. C., & Gray, E. M. (2003). Nesting behavior of Palila, as assessed from video recordings. Pacific science, 57(4), 385-392.

We quantified nesting behavior of Palila (Loxioides bailleui), an endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper, by recording at nests during three breeding seasons using a black-and-white video camera connected to a videocassette recorder. A total of seven nests was observed. We measured the following factors for daylight hours: percentage of time the female was on the nest (attendance), length of attendance bouts by the female, length of nest recesses, and adult provisioning rates. Comparisons were made between three stages of the 40-day nesting cycle: incubation (day 1–day 16), early nestling stage (day 17–day 30 [i.e., nestlings ≤14 days old]), and late nestling stage (day 31–day 40 [i.e., nestlings > 14 days old]). Of seven nests observed, four fledged at least one nestling and three failed. One of these failed nests was filmed being depredated by a feral cat (Felis catus). Female nest attendance was near 82% during the incubation stage and decreased to 21% as nestlings aged. We did not detect a difference in attendance bout length between stages of the nesting cycle. Mean length of nest recesses increased from 4.5 min during the incubation stage to over 45 min during the late nestling stage. Mean number of nest recesses per hour ranged from 1.6 to 2.0. Food was delivered to nestlings by adults an average of 1.8 times per hour for the early nestling stage and 1.5 times per hour during the late nestling stage and did not change over time. Characterization of parental behavior by video had similarities to but also key differences from findings taken from blind observations. Results from this study will facilitate greater understanding of Palila reproductive strategies.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The effects of feral cats on insular wildlife

Hess, S. C., & Danner, R. M. (2013). The effects of feral cats on insular wildlife: The Club-Med syndrome. In Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference (Vol. 25, pp. 76-82).

Domestic cats have been introduced to many of the world’s islands where they have been particularly devastating to insular wildlife which, in most cases, evolved in the absence of terrestrial predatory mammals and feline diseases. We review the effects of predation, feline diseases, and the life history characteristics of feral cats and their prey that have contributed to the extirpation and extinction of many insular vertebrate species. The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii is a persistent landbased zoonotic pathogen hosted by cats that is known to cause mortality in several insular bird species. It also enters marine environments in cat feces, where it can cause the mortality of marine mammals. Feral cats remain widespread on islands throughout the world, and are frequently subsidized in colonies which caretakers often assert have little negative effect on native wildlife. However, population genetics, home range, and movement studies all suggest that there are no locations on smaller islands where these cats cannot penetrate within two generations. While the details of past vertebrate extinctions were rarely documented during contemporary time, a strong line of evidence is emerging that the removal of feral cats from islands can rapidly facilitate the recolonization of extirpated species, particularly seabirds. Islands offer unique, mostly self-contained ecosystems in which to conduct controlled studies of the effects of feral cats on wildlife, having implications for continental systems. The response of terrestrial wildlife such as passerine birds, small mammals, and herptiles still needs more thorough long-term monitoring and documentation after the removal of feral cats.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Videographic evidence of endangered species depredation by feral cat in Hawaii

Judge, S., Lippert, J. S., Misajon, K., Hu, D., & Hess, S. C. (2012). Videographic evidence of endangered species depredation by feral cat. Pacific Conservation Biology, 18(4), 293.

Feral cats (Felis catus) have long been implicated as nest predators of endangered 'Ua'u (Hawaiian Petrel; Pterodroma sandwichensis) on Hawai'i Island, but until recently, visual confirmation has been limited by available technology. 'Ua'u nest out of view, deep inside small cavities, on alpine lava flows. During the breeding seasons of 2007 and 2008, we monitored known burrows within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Digital infrared video cameras assisted in determining the breeding behaviour and nesting success at the most isolated of burrows. With 7 cameras, we collected a total of 819 videos and 89 still photographs of adult and nestling 'Ua'u at 14 burrows. Videos also confirmed the presence of rats (Rattus spp.) at 2 burrows, 'Oma'o (Myadestes obscurus) at 8 burrows, and feral cats at 6 burrows. A sequence of videos showed a feral cat taking a downy 'Ua'u chick from its burrow, representing the first direct evidence of 'Ua'u depredation by feral cat in Hawai'i. This technique provides greater understanding of feral cat behaviour in 'Ua'u colonies, which may assist in the development of more targeted management strategies to reduce nest predation on endangered insular bird species.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Comparison of managed and unmanaged wedge-tailed shearwater colonies: Effects of predation

Smith, D. G., Polhemus, J. T., & VanderWerf, E. A. (2002). Comparison of managed and unmanaged wedge-tailed shearwater colonies on O'ahu: Effects of predation. Pacific Science, 56(4), 451-457.

On O‘ahu, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus) and other seabirds nest primarily on small offshore islets, but fossil evidence shows that many seabirds formerly bred on O‘ahu itself. Predation by introduced mammals is suspected to be the primary factor preventing shearwaters and other seabirds from reestablishing large nesting colonies on O‘ahu. We investigated the effects of predation on Wedge-tailed Shearwaters by comparing three small unmanaged colonies at Mālaekahana State Recreation Area on O‘ahu, where feral cats are fed by the public, with a large managed colony at nearby Moku‘auia Island State Seabird Sanctuary, where predators are absent. During three visits on 19 April, 16 June, and 23 October 2000, we located 69 occupied burrows in three colonies at Mālaekahana and 85 occupied burrows in four monitoring plots at Moku‘auia. Many more nests produced chicks at Moku‘auia (62%) than at Mālaekahana (20%). Among plots at Ma¯laekahana, reproductive success was lowest (zero) at the colony closest to the cat feeding site. In addition, 44 adult shearwater carcasses were found at Mālaekahana near the cat feeding site. Predation, most likely by cats attracted to supplemental food, had a devastating impact on shearwaters at Mālaekahana. At one colony there was complete reproductive failure and almost all adults were killed. Populations of long-lived species like seabirds are sensitive to adult mortality, and Ma¯laekahana may act as a sink, draining birds away from other areas.

Cat predation on Zino's petrel

Zino, F. (1992). Cat amongst the freiras. Oryx, 26(03), 174-174.

A further threat to Pterodroma madeira was identified in 1991 when feral cats killed 10 petrels on a single ledge

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Mongooses may be more dangerous predator than cats to burrowing seabirds

DUFFY, D. C. & CAPECE, P.I. 2014. Depredation of endangered burrowing seabirds in Hawai’i: management priorities. Marine Ornithology 42: 149–152.

Small Indian Mongooses Herpestes javanicus have until recently been absent from the island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i. In anticipation of required management, we examine evidence that mongooses may be a significantly more dangerous predator than cats Felis catus for burrowing seabirds, particularly the endangered Hawaiian Petrel Pterodroma sandwichensis and threatened Newell’s Shearwater Puffinus newelli. Mongooses are small enough to enter burrows, allowing them to take eggs, nestlings and adults. In contrast, cats appear too broad to enter any but the widest burrows, so they tend to attack adults and young when these come to the burrow mouth. Given that these seabird species no longer persist in any numbers at low elevations on islands where mongooses are present, and that Kaua’i is one of the lowest of the main Hawaiian islands, if resources are limited, local control or eradication of mongooses would be a higher priority for management than control of cats or rats Rattus spp., although control of just one predator might result in increases in the others. The most important management action is to keep mongooses off islands where they are not already established.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Indirect dispersal of seeds by lizard-preying cats

Nogales, M., Medina, F. M., & Valido, A. (1996). Indirect seed dispersal by the feral cats Felis catus in island ecosystems (Canary Islands). Ecography, 19(1), 3-6.

In this paper we present an unusual incidence of an introduced Camivora Felis catus as indirect seed disperser of plants that produce fleshy fruits in different ecosystems in the Canary Islands. Four hundred and twenty six seeds from at least 8 fleshy fruit plant species have been identified in the analysis of 1047 scat groups, the majority of them being found in the lower habitats (<600 m a.s.l.) of the Canary archipelago. Seeds from two plant species were significantly matched with the presence of lizard prey, and fruits of Juniperus phoenicea, Neochamaelea pulverulenta and Withania aristata were directly consumed by the cats. Passing through the gut of the Gallotia galloti(Lacertidae) and Felis catus apparently does not damage the seeds. At the moment, the phenomenon studied in this paper does not seem to have a great quantitative importance in the natural regeneration of the plants if we compare the direct vs indirect seed dispersal.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Feral cat hunting in backyard

Feral Cat Documentary. A beautiful feral cat starts hunting backyard wildlife - a dilemma for animal lovers! I decide to watch, film and try to get to know this wild creature and see if a win-win solution is possible.

Cat-Related Zoonoses

Sing, M. D. P. A. (2015). Cat-Related Zoonoses: Killing You Softly with Feces and Fleas. In Zoonoses-Infections Affecting Humans and Animals (pp. 587-628). Springer Netherlands.
In many countries worldwide, cats have become “man’s really best friend”. In the following chapter the public health relevance of cats will be highlighted by introducing the most relevant zoonotic pathogens including Toxoplasma gondii, Bartonella henselae, Toxocara cati, Rickettsia felis, enteropathogenic bacteria and the emerging cat-related pathogen Corynebacterium ulcerans.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Toxoplasma gondii in domestic and wild animals from forest fragments in Brazil

Fournier, G. F. D. S. R., Lopes, M. G., Marcili, A., Ramirez, D. G., Acosta, I. C. L., da Silva Ferreira, J. I. G., Aline Diniz Cabral, Ribeiro de Lima, J.T., de Jesus Pena,H.F., Dias, R.A. & Gennari, S. M. Toxoplasma gondii in domestic and wild animals from forest fragments of the municipality of Natal, northeastern Brazil. Braz. J. Vet. Parasitol., Jaboticabal, 23 (4): 501-508

Toxoplasmosis stands out as a global disease that has felines as definitive hosts. In the municipality of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte State, Brazil, two parks are notable for their ecological and social importance. This study aimed to investigate the presence of Toxoplasma gondii in short hair cats, bats and small non-volant mammals in these two ecological reserves. Altogether, biological samples were obtained from 154 mammals, 92 wild animals from both areas and 62 domestic cats of the Parque da Cidade. In total, 22 (53.7%) non-volant wild mammals, 11 (21.5%) bats and 28 (52.8%) cats were positive for IgG anti-T. gondii antibodies using the Modified Agglutination Test (≥ 25). It was
possible to detect the presence of T. gondii DNA, by means of a molecular amplification of a B1 gene fragment (155bp), in 92 tissue samples from wild animals, including Didelphis albiventris, Monodelphis domestica, Artibeus lituratusCarollia perspicillata and Glossophaga soricina. Of the 62 cats examined by the same molecular method, T. gondii DNA could be detected in 4 cats. In this study, it was observed the circulation of T. gondii in wild species and domestic cats, demonstrating the involvement of wild and domestic animals in the cycle of T. gondii.

Breed of abandoned and lost dogs in Czech Republic

Voslarova, E., Zak, J., Vecerek, V., & Bedanova, I. (2014). Breed Characteristics of Abandoned and Lost Dogs in the Czech Republic. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, (ahead-of-print), 1-11.
Records on sheltered dogs were collected from 3 municipal dog shelters situated in different regions of the Czech Republic from 2010 to 2013. A total of 3,875 dogs were analyzed in this study. Among these, 1,614 dogs were subsequently reclaimed (lost dogs) and 2,261 dogs were abandoned and offered for adoption. The ratio of purebred dogs and crossbred dogs differed significantly when comparing lost (66.4% vs. 33.6%) and abandoned dogs (35.0% vs. 65.0%). The median time until lost dogs were reclaimed was 1 day, and it was not affected by purebred status. The median time until abandoned dogs were adopted was 23 days. In abandoned dogs, purebred status had a significant effect on the time the dog spent at the shelter before adoption. The median time until adoption for crossbred dogs was 27 days, whereas the median time until adoption for purebred dogs was 19 days. The breed group influenced the length of stay (LOS) in abandoned dogs. Small companion dogs had the shortest LOS (median = 15 days) and guard dogs had the longest LOS (median = 25 days).

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Toxocara cati in Didelphis albiventris from Brazil

Pinto, H. A., Mati, V. L. T., & de Melo, A. L. 2014. Toxocara cati (Nematoda: Ascarididae) in Didelphis albiventris (Marsupialia: Didelphidae) from Brazil: a case of pseudoparasitism. Braz. J. Vet. Parasitol., Jaboticabal, 23, (4): 522-525
Eggs of Toxocara cati were found in the feces of Didelphis albiventris from a peridomestic urban environment in Brazil. Negative fecal tests following short-term captivity of the opossums, as well as the absence of ascaridids during necropsy, suggest the occurrence of pseudoparasitism. Implications of the findings for the epidemiology of toxocariasis are discussed.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Diet of the feral ca in central Australian grasslands during population cycles of its principal prey

Yip, S. J., Rich, M. A., & Dickman, C. R. (2014). Diet of the feral cat, Felis catus, in central Australian grassland habitats during population cycles of its principal prey. Mammal Research, 1-12.

Foraging theory predicts that animals should forage so as to maximize their net rate of energy gain or to minimize their risk of starvation. In situations where prey numbers fluctuate dramatically, theory predicts further that foragers will eat ‘optimal’ prey when it is abundant but expand their diet to include other prey types when the optimal prey is scarce; this is the alternative prey hypothesis. Here, we test this prediction by analyzing the diet of a mammalian predator, the feral house catFelis catus, during periods of scarcity and abundance of the long-haired rat Rattus villosissimus. We also investigate whether the body condition of feral cats differs during different stages of the prey population cycle. Feral cats were shot during culling operations in semi-arid grassland habitats in central Queensland, Australia, and the stomach contents later identified. We found that the body condition of feral cats did not differ between phases of the prey population cycle, but the diets of cats culled when long-haired rats were scarce were significantly more diverse than when this rodent was abundant. Rats comprised about 80 % of cats’ diet by volume and frequency of occurrence when they were present, whereas birds, reptiles and invertebrates comprised the bulk of the diet when rats were not available. We conclude that, whilst feral cats are often thought to be specialist predators, they may be better considered as facultative specialists that will shift their diet in predictable ways in response to changes in the abundance of primary prey.

Monday, 8 December 2014

A new technique for monitoring the detailed behaviour of domestic cat

Watanabe, S., Izawa, M., Kato, A., Ropert-Coudert, Y., & Naito, Y. (2005). A new technique for monitoring the detailed behaviour of terrestrial animals: a case study with the domestic cat. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 94(1), 117-131.

For many animal species that are difficult to access, the behaviour of free-ranging individuals cannot be assessed by direct observation. In order to remedy this, we developed a new technique using a motion detector (acceleration data-logger) for monitoring the activity and behaviour of free-ranging vertebrates and tested its efficiency on a domestic cat, Felis catus. A total of 3615 min of surging acceleration was measured along the longitudinal body axis of an adult male cat. The cat's behaviour was also filmed for 113 min, these video data being used to correlate the logger's signals with the cat's behaviour. Acceleration data-loggers attached on the cat's collar recorded acceleration signals which were influenced by both the gravitational acceleration resulting from the body posture and the dynamic acceleration resulting from the dynamic behaviour of the cat. By applying spectral analysis based on a fast Fourier Transform to acceleration signals, body postures and some of the dynamic behaviours of the cat such as drinking, eating, and several paces of travelling were efficiently determined. The present study shows that acceleration data-loggers represent a useful and reliable system for accurately recording the activities and detail behaviours of the terrestrial animals.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Exposure of jaguars to several domestic animal borne parasites

Onuma, S. S. M., Melo, A. L. T., Kantek, D. L. Z., Crawshaw-Junior, P. G., Morato, R. G., May-Júnior, J. A., Pacheco T. dos A. & de Aguiar, D. M. 2014. Exposure of free-living jaguars to Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum and Sarcocystis neurona in the Brazilian Pantanal.

Toxoplasma gondii, Neospora caninum and Sarcocystis neurona are related apicomplexan parasites that cause reproductive and neurological disorders in a wide range of domestic and wild animals. In the present study, the immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT) was used to investigate the presence of antibodies against T. gondii, N. caninum and S. neurona in the sera of 11 free-living jaguars (Panthera onca) in two protected areas in the Pantanal region of Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Ten jaguars (90.9%) showed seropositivity for T. gondii, eight (72.7%) for S. neurona, and seven (63.6%) for N. caninum antigens. Our findings reveal exposure of jaguars to these related coccidian parasites and circulation of these pathogens in this wild ecosystem. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first serological detection of N. caninum and S. neurona in free-living jaguars.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Challenges of Feral Cat Management

Hendrickson, J.L. 2014 The Challenges of Feral Cat Management: A Case Study on Population Control Methods. School of Education. Paper 51.

This project examines the impact of feral cats through a study of positive and negative effects on the environment, our communities, and people; while looking into the variety of population control methods being used. The research was accomplished with the use of a questionnaire designed to determine what population control methods are currently being used and what are the biggest concerns in regards to feral cats in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. This Capstone challenges the argument that there is only one solution to control feral cat populations and research shows more collaborative work should be done in order to see a significant change in feral cat populations.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Simulating free-roaming cat population management options in open demographic environments

Miller, P. S., Boone, J. D., Briggs, J. R., Lawler, D. F., Levy, J. K., Nutter, F. B., Margaret Slater, M. & Zawistowski, S. (2014). Simulating Free-Roaming Cat Population Management Options in Open Demographic Environments. PloS one, 9(11), e113553.

Large populations of free-roaming cats (FRCs) generate ongoing concerns for welfare of both individual animals and populations, for human public health, for viability of native wildlife populations, and for local ecological damage. Managing FRC populations is a complex task, without universal agreement on best practices. Previous analyses that use simulation modeling tools to evaluate alternative management methods have focused on relative efficacy of removal (or trap-return, TR), typically involving euthanasia, and sterilization (or trap-neuter-return, TNR) in demographically isolated populations. We used a stochastic demographic simulation approach to evaluate removal, permanent sterilization, and two postulated methods of temporary contraception for FRC population management. Our models include demographic connectivity to neighboring untreated cat populations through natural dispersal in a metapopulation context across urban and rural landscapes, and also feature abandonment of owned animals. Within population type, a given implementation rate of the TR strategy results in the most rapid rate of population decline and (when populations are isolated) the highest probability of population elimination, followed in order of decreasing efficacy by equivalent rates of implementation of TNR and temporary contraception. Even low levels of demographic connectivity significantly reduce the effectiveness of any management intervention, and continued abandonment is similarly problematic. This is the first demographic simulation analysis to consider the use of temporary contraception and account for the realities of FRC dispersal and owned cat abandonment.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Participatory approach to control free roaming dogs

Schurer, J. M., Phipps, K., Okemow, C., Beatch, H., & Jenkins, E. (2014). Stabilizing Dog Populations and Improving Animal and Public Health Through a Participatory Approach in Indigenous Communities. Zoonoses and Public Health.

Free-roaming dog populations are a global concern for animal and human health including transmission of infectious disease (e.g. rabies, distemper and parasites), dog bite injuries/mortalities, animal welfare and adverse effects on wildlife. In Saskatchewan (SK), Canada, veterinary care is difficult to access in the remote and sparsely inhabited northern half of the province, where the population is predominately Indigenous. Even where veterinary clinics are readily available, there are important barriers such as cost, lack of transportation, unique cultural perspectives on dog husbandry and perceived need for veterinary care. We report the effects of introducing a community action plan designed to improve animal and human health, increase animal health literacy and benefit community well-being in two Indigenous communities where a dog-related child fatality recently occurred. Initial door-to-door dog demographic surveys indicated that most dogs were sexually intact (92% of 382 dogs), and few had ever been vaccinated (6%) or dewormed (6%). Approximately three animal-related injuries requiring medical care were reported in the communities per 1000 persons per year (95% CL: 1.6–6.6), and approximately 83% of 101 environmentally collected dog faecal samples contained parasites, far above levels reported in other urban or rural settings in SK. Following two subsidized spay/neuter clinics and active rehoming of dogs, parasite levels in dog faeces decreased significantly (P < 0.001), and important changes were observed in the dog demographic profile. This project demonstrates the importance of engaging people using familiar, local resources and taking a community specific approach. As well, it highlights the value of integrated, cross-jurisdictional cooperation, utilizing the resources of university researchers, veterinary personnel, public health, environmental health and community-based advocates to work together to solve complex issues in One Health. On-going surveillance on dog bites, parasite levels and dog demographics are needed to measure the long-term sustainability of benefits to dog, human and wildlife health.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Reproductive behaviour of free-ranging rural dogs in West Bengal

Pal, S. K. (2003). Reproductive behaviour of free-ranging rural dogs in West Bengal, India. Acta theriologica, 48(2), 271-281.

Reproductive behaviour of free-ranging dogs Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in a village in the state of West Bengal, India. Increased synchronized breeding was the most striking feature of this study. October (late monsoon) represented the peak period of mating for the feral dogs. Of all courting males, only 41% were observed to mount and copulate. On average, each male mounted 5.47 ± 2.49 (mean ± SD) times per hour. Of all mountings, only 10% were successful matings, ie copulatory ties. There was a negative correlation between the number of courting males and the number of successful copulations. The average duration of copulatory tie was 15.73 ± 7.75 min. Several factors interrupting the duration of copulatory ties were identified. December was the peak period of pup rearing. Mean litter size was 5.70 ± 2.03 with a male-biased sex ratio 1.41:1. Only a single annual breeding cycle recorded here differed from the previous studies on European and American dogs. Mothers spent most of the time with their pups at the dens during the early stage of rearing. The duration of time spent at dens by mothers was minimum when the pups were highly mobile at the age of 10 weeks. The lactating mothers were observed to be more aggressive immediately following litter production. Typically, an old adult male remained near the den as a ‘guard’.

Intergroup agonistic behaviour in free-ranging dog

Pal, S.K. 2014. Factors influencing intergroup agonistic behaviour in free-ranging domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Acta ecologica.

We investigated the effects of sex, age, season and competitive context on the intergroup agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris). Data were collected in different places to record competitive cooperative behaviour during intergroup conflicts. Observations of 21 free-ranging dogs belonging to four neighbouring groups were made in Katwa town, India. Throughout the 12-month study period, 85 % of all intergroup agonistic interactions recorded were aggressive and 15 % submissive. Intergroup aggressive interactions were more frequent during the late monsoon months when the females were in oestrus, while submissive interactions reached a peak during the winter months when the females were lactating. Adult dogs, particularly males, displayed a higher rate of aggressive behaviour than other age classes, whereas juvenile dogs, particularly males, displayed the highest rate of submissive behaviour. Male dogs were observed to perform more agonistic behaviours in mating contexts and at the boundaries of their territories, whereas female dogs displayed more agonistic behaviours in feeding contexts and in the vicinity of the den. Both aggressive and submissive patterns displayed by the dogs varied with the competitive contexts. The most frequently observed category of aggressive behaviour was ‘barking, growling and snarling’ and submissive behavioural patterns were displayed frequently by ‘lips retracted in a submissive grin’. The striking feature of this study was that in most cases, more than one dog participated in aggressive conflicts. Such cooperative defense predominantly occurred at the boundaries of territory. Group home range size was largest during the late monsoon months and during the winter months.

Population ecology of free-ranging urban dogs in West Bengal

Pal, S. K. (2001). Population ecology of free-ranging urban dogs in West Bengal, India. Acta Theriologica, 46(1), 69-78.

A population of urban free-ranging dogs Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758 was studied in Katwa, West Bengal, India. The analysis of changes in the density of the dog population over a period of 4 years revealed a considerable stability of this population. Mean (±SD)2 seasonal population density was 185±19 dogs/km2, ranging from 156 to 214 dogs/km2. A sex ratio of 1.37∶1 in favour of male was recorded in this study. High mortality (67%) occurred under the age of 4 months, and 82% mortality occurred within the age of 1 year. Among the adults, 24% mortality under the age of 2.6 year was recorded. Only a single breeding cycle and synchronization of breeding was observed. Immigration was observed as a crucial factor affecting the stability of this population.

Agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs

Pal, S. K., Ghosh, B., & Roy, S. (1998). Agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris) in relation to season, sex and age. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 59(4), 331-348.

Observations on the agonistic behaviour of 12 free-ranging dogs from two neighbouring groups were recorded in Katwa town, India. Both intra- and inter-group agonistic encounters were recorded on a seasonal basis. Mean (±S.E.) seasonal number of intra-group agonistic encounters of individual dog was greatest in winter (13.33±1.89) and then in late monsoon (12.33±1.99), when the females were lactating and in oestrus, respectively. Similarly, the mean (±S.E.) seasonal number of inter-group agonistic encounters of individual dog was greatest in winter (32.25±4.43) and then in late monsoon (27.75±2.01). There was a significant difference between the intra- and inter-group agonistic encounters. Dominance hierarchies were established among the adult dogs of either sex based on aggressive encounters. Although individual differences in agonism were observed, overall levels of aggression were higher among the adult females than for other groups. In contrast, overall levels of submission were higher among the juvenile males than for other groups. The results from this study suggest that reproductive season, sex and age have a significant effect on the agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Patent: animal proof hooded barrier, related enclosure systems and method of maintaining an animal proof domain

Moore, D. E. 2014. Animal Proof Hooded Barrier, Related Enclosure Systems and Method of Maintaining an Animal Proof Domain. U.S. Patent Application 12/689,591, 19 Ene. 2010.

The invention encompasses a substantially animal-proof barrier (“APB”) that includes (a) two supports that are laterally spaced apart to define a substantially vertical plane there between; (b) fencing material that is attached to each of the supports and spans the defined substantially vertical plane to form a simple barrier that has a top edge, a bottom edge, a front surface and a back surface, wherein the simple barrier divides a domain into a first area and a second area; and (c) a hood having an inner surface, the hood originating from the top edge of the simple barrier. An angle formed by the inner surface of the hood and the front surface of the simple barrier measures about 10 degrees to about 80 degrees, such that a channel having a substantially V-shaped cross section is formed.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Limited capacity of anthropophilous scavengers to compensate loss of raptors

Huijbers, C. M., Schlacher, T. A., Schoeman, D. S., Olds, A. D., Weston, M. A., & Connolly, R. M. (2014). Limited functional redundancy in vertebrate scavenger guilds fails to compensate for the loss of raptors from urbanized sandy beaches. Diversity and Distributions.

Globally, urbanization is one of the most widespread, intense and ecologically destructive forms of landscape transformation, and it is often concentrated in coastal areas. Theoretically, species losses attributable to urbanization are predicted not to alter overall ecosystem function if functional redundancy (i.e. replacement of function by alternative species) compensates for such losses. Here, we test this expectation by measuring how coastal urbanization affects scavenger guilds on sandy beaches and whether changes in guild composition result either in an overall loss of scavenging efficiency, or in functional compensation under alternative guild structures, maintaining net ecosystem functioning.

Fourteen beaches along the east coast of Australia with variable levels of urbanization.

Scavenging communities and rates of carrion removal were determined using motion-triggered cameras at the beach-dune interface.

A substantial shift in the community structure of vertebrate scavengers was associated with gradients in urbanization. Iconic and functionally important raptors declined precipitously in abundance on urban beaches. Importantly, other vertebrates usually associated with urban settings (e.g. dogs, foxes, corvids) did not functionally replace raptors. In areas where < 15% of the abutting land had been developed into urban areas, carcass removal by scavengers was often complete, but always > 70%. Conversely, on beaches bordering coastal cities with < 40% of natural vegetation remaining, two-thirds of fish carcasses remained uneaten by scavengers. Raptors removed 70–100% of all deployed fish carcasses from beaches with < 8% urban land cover, but this number dropped significantly with greater levels of urbanization and was not compensated by other scavenger species in urban settings.

Main conclusions
There is limited functional redundancy in vertebrate scavenger communities of sandy beach ecosystems, which impacts the system's capacity to mitigate the ecological consequences of detrimental landscape transformations.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Urbanisation, predation and house sparrow populations

De Coster, G., De Laet, J., Vangestel, C., Adriaensen, F., & Lens, L. (2015). Citizen science in action—Evidence for long-term, region-wide House Sparrow declines in Flanders, Belgium. Landscape and Urban Planning, 134, 139-146.

Urban expansion is detrimental for many species. While the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) initially flourished in the vicinity of men, a decline in House Sparrow numbers has been observed in several European cities during the last decades. A lack of systematic data on the status of this species in the highly urbanized Flanders (Belgium) has been the reason why since 2002, the Flemish population has been called annually to count House Sparrows during the breeding season. Here, we describe the results of the first ten years of sparrow counting. While inhabitants from 99% of the municipalities participated at least once, large differences in numbers of participants were observed among municipalities: the larger the population size, the more people counted sparrows. Results indicated that House Sparrow abundances have been decreasing in Flanders over the past decade. Contrary to several other European regions, the decline appears equally strong in rural and urban areas. However, average numbers of House Sparrows were lower in more densely populated, urban areas, and where less cropland, grassland and parks surrounded the sampling location. House Sparrow abundances also decreased significantly over time at locations where predator pressure increased. These results suggest that the House Sparrow decline in Flanders is due to the ever encroaching urbanization and the reduction of the amount of green space. Furthermore, it shows that data collection by volunteers can be a useful approach to obtain large-scale and long-term data in a relatively easy way, in addition to raising public awareness to the natural environme

Friday, 21 November 2014

Mediterranean mesocarnivore communities along urban and ex-urban gradients

RECIO, M. R., ARIJA, C. M., CABEZAS-DÍAZ, S., & VIRGÓS, E. (2015). Changes in Mediterranean mesocarnivore communities along urban and ex-urban gradients.

Urbanization causes wildlife habitat loss, fragmentation, and the replacement of specialist species by generalists and/or exotic taxa. Because mesocarnivores are particularly vulnerable to habitat modifications, the rapid expansion of urban areas and the increasing trend for ex-urban development occurring in Mediterranean ecosystems may be major drivers of change in mesocarnivore communities. We combined camera trapping and sign surveys to quantify the richness and relative abundance of a set of wild and domestic mesocarnivores. We quantified these variables controlling for the gradient of urbanism, ex-urbanism, and other environmental variables in patches of natural vegetation in the region of Madrid (central Spain), and a non-urbanized control area ~220 km south of Madrid city. Using conditional autoregressive models (CAR) and model selection procedures, we found that urbanization influenced mesocarnivore community composition but this influence was not detrimental for all the species tested. Generalist carnivores such as the red fox Vulpes vulpes were more abundant in urban and ex-urban areas. Ex-urban development creates overlapping areas between wild and domestic species (such as the domestic cat Felis catus and the wildcat Felis silvestris) but contact between wild and domestic carnivores in natural areas is unlikely. Detection of species in the control area was very low. Therefore, the impact of urbanization in causing changes in mesocarnivore communities may be less than other factors such as illegal predator culling [Current Zoology 61 () : – , 2015 ].

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Stray dog's census in Lima

Ochoa, A., Falcón, P., Zuazo, R., & Guevara, P. (2014). Estimated population of stray dogs in the district of Los Olivos, Lima, Peru. Revista de Investigaciones Veterinarias del Perú (RIVEP), 25(3), 366-373.
The aim of this study was to estimate and characterize the stray dog population in Los Olivos district, Lima, during the period November-December 2012. Eight of the 34 areas that comprise the district according the map of Los Olivos Municipality were selected. The selection of the areas was at random; dog population counting and calculations were based on the criteria outlined in the guide of the World Society for the Protection of Animals entitled "Recensusing roaming dog populations: guidelines on methodology". Three consecutive sampling were performed at daytime and evening hours in each area. The average of the three measurements was used for statistical calculations. There was an average of 332 stray dogs at daytime and 217 stray dogs at evening; males and bigger dogs were observed in higher number. Most of the dogs showed low body condition score. The estimated number of stray dogs in the district was 1411±643 at daytime and 922±497 at night. Results are expected to contribute with the dog control population programme that is being implemented by the Municipality of Los Olivos.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Domestic dogs and disease transmission in Atlantic forest, Brazil

Curi, N. H. D. A. (2014). Cães domésticos como espécie invasora na Mata Atlântica: sentinelas de saúde ecológica. Universidade Federal de Lavras.
The importance of health and diseases for biodiversity conservation is worldwide recognized since decades ago.  However, in Brazil, only recently this concern has entered the scientific and conservationist community. Despite the lack of data on the real impact of diseases over the Brazolian wildlife, some species shows ecological and epidemiological traits that may make them good health sentinels in certain scenarios, being also targets for prevention of outbreaks or disease-induced mortality in threatened populations. Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are considered an invasive species with high negative impact over wildlife. The yact as efficient mesopredators, competitively interfere and are the main reservoirs of pathogens to wild carnivores. They are also an important source of zoonosis, and recent studies demonstrate that they are strongly present inside Brazilian protected areas. However, little is known about their potential as disease reservoirs for humans and animals in wildlife/domestic animal/human interface zones in the country. Even less is known about the factors associated with this potential. With this background in mind, the aims of this study were to assess the occurrence and prevalence of infectious agents and parasites important for conservation (especially of mammal carnivores) and for human health in rural dog populations living around and near Atlantic Forest fragments, and also to raise disease-related rixk factors. Such factors can be ultimately manageable to protect human and animal health in these areas. We used a cross-sectional epidemilogical approach to perform a serologic inquiry of dogs for several diseases, such as leishmaniasis, canine distemper, parvovirosis, adenovirosis, coronavirosis and gastrointestinal parasites, and tested associations betweeen seropositivity versus individual and envireomental features involved with disease transmission between domestic animals, humans and wildlife. For this end, we usesd statistical tools such as logistic regressions and generalized linear mixed models, depending on pathogen type. We then listed the factors associated with disease presence, and suggested preventive measures in a case basis. Free-roaming behavior and poor management practices were among them. These results are important for human health protection in these scenarios. And, principally, provide guidelines for conservation action targeting a reduction of an important but neglected cause of extinction and threatening of wild carnivores in Brazil:diseases introduced and maintained by ubiquitous domestic dog populations. We hope the results stimulate practices, public policies and legislation to reduce the ecological and epidemiological impact of domestic dogs in biodiversity-rich areas.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Meta-analysis of the proportion of dogs surrendered for dog-related and owner-related reasons

Lambert, K., Coe, J., Niel, L., Dewey, C., & Sargeant, J. M. (2014). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the proportion of dogs surrendered for dog-related and owner-related reasons. Preventive Veterinary Medicine.


• We summarized results across identified studies that reported the proportion of dogs surrendered for various reasons and combined the results in an attempt to provide a more precise result for the most-commonly reported reasons.
• We determined possible sources of heterogeneity a priori and explored these to provide an explanation for the variation in results among the studies
.• Owner health/illness as a reason for dog surrender to a shelter had an overall estimate of 4.6% (95% CI: 4.1%, 5.2%).
• Country was identified as a significant source of variation (p < 0.01) among studies reporting behavioural problems as a reason for dog surrender for euthanasia.
• There is the need for further research and standardization of data collection to improve understanding of the reasons for dog relinquishment.


Companion-animal relinquishment is a worldwide phenomenon that leaves companion animals homeless. Knowing why humans make the decision to end their relationship with a companion-animal can help in our understanding of this complex societal issue and can help to develop preventive strategies. A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to summarize reasons why dogs are surrendered, and determine if certain study characteristics were associated with the reported proportions of reasons for surrender.

Articles investigating one or more reasons for dog surrender were selected from the references of a published scoping review. Two reviewers assessed the titles and abstracts of these articles, identifying 39 relevant articles. From these, 21 articles were further excluded because of ineligible study design, insufficient data available for calculating a proportion, or no data available for dogs. Data were extracted from 18 articles and meta-analysis was conducted on articles investigating reasons for dog surrender to a shelter (n = 9) or dog surrender for euthanasia (n = 5). Three studies were excluded from meta-analysis because they were duplicate populations. Other reasons for excluding studies from meta-analysis were, (1) the study only investigated reasons for dog re-relinquishment (n = 2), and (2) the study sample size was < 10 (n = 1). Two articles investigated reasons for both dog surrender to a shelter and dog surrender for euthanasia. Results of meta-analysis found owner health/illness as a reason for dog surrender to a shelter had an overall estimate of 4.6% (95% CI: 4.1%, 5.2%). For all other identified reasons for surrender there was significant variation in methodology among studies preventing further meta-analysis. Univariable meta-regression was conducted to explore sources of variation among these studies. Country was identified as a significant source of variation (p < 0.01) among studies reporting behavioural problems as a reason for dog surrender for euthanasia. The overall estimate for studies from Australia was 10% (95% CI: 8.0%, 12.0%; I2 = 15.5%), compared to 16% (95% CI: 15.0%, 18.0%; I2 = 20.2%) for studies from other countries.

The present systematic review and meta-analysis highlights the need for further research and standardization of data collection to improve understanding of the reasons for dog relinquishment.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Dog bite profile in urban India

Ghosh, A., & Pal, R. (2014) PROFILE OF DOG BITE CASES IN AN URBAN AREA OF KOLKATA, INDIA. National Journal of Community Medicine, 5 (3)

Background: There is no nationally representative community based data or organized surveillance system to get the actual magnitude of Ra- bies infection in India. 
Objectives: To estimate the extent of problem & the epidemiological characteristics of animal bite cases in urban field practice area of KPC Medical College and to assess the risk correlates regarding animal bites. 
Methods: The present community based cross sectional study was con- ducted in the urban field practice area of KPC Medical College; Kolkata during the period from 15th May to 15th June 2013 using classification of exposures as per guidelines lay down by WHO. 
Results: In the present study of the reported animal bite cases affected all the ages and both genders; the incidence of animal bites decreased with increasing age. Majority of the victims were males except in elderly population; children were more vulnerable. Two thirds of animal bite victims were from socioeconomic class IV and V. Dogs were the most common biting animal followed by Cats. Maximum number of study participants reported to health centre within 24 to 48 hours and very few cases within 24 hours after bite. Late reported cases, especially after 5 days, constituted by younger children or illiterate elderly people were forcefully brought to the hospital by their family members or caregivers. 
Conclusions: Dog bite is common in males and children less than ten years among our study population with more of third degree bites though health seeking behaviour is far from expectation.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Size estimation and demography of owned pets in NE ITaly

Capello, K., Bortolotti, L., Lanari, M., Baioni, E., Mutinelli, F., & Vascellari, M. (2014). Estimate of the size and demographic structure of the owned dog and cat population living in Veneto region (north-eastern Italy). Preventive Veterinary Medicine.

The knowledge of the size and demographic structure of animal populations is a necessary prerequisite for any population-based epidemiological study, especially to ascertain and interpret prevalence data, to implement surveillance plans in controlling zoonotic diseases and, moreover, to provide accurate estimates of tumours incidence data obtained by population-based registries. The main purpose of this study was to provide an accurate estimate of the size and structure of the canine population in Veneto region (north-eastern Italy), using the Lincoln-Petersen version of the capture-recapture methodology. The Regional Canine Demographic Registry (BAC) and a sample survey of households of Veneto Region were the capture and recapture sources, respectively. The secondary purpose was to estimate the size and structure of the feline population in the same region, using the same survey applied for dog population. A sample of 2,465 randomly selected households was drawn and submitted to a questionnaire using the CATI technique, in order to obtain information about the ownership of dogs and cats. If the dog was declared to be identified, owner's information was used to recapture the dog in the BAC. The study was conducted in Veneto Region during 2011, when the dog population recorded in the BAC was 605,537. Overall, 616 households declared to possess at least one dog (25%), with a total of 805 dogs and an average per household of 1.3. The capture-recapture analysis showed that 574 dogs (71.3%, 95% CI: 68.04% - 74.40%) had been recaptured in both sources, providing a dog population estimate of 849,229 (95% CI: 814,747 - 889,394), 40% higher than that registered in the BAC. Concerning cats, 455 of 2,465 (18%, 95%CI: 17% - 20%) households declared to possess at least one cat at the time of the telephone interview, with a total of 816 cats. The mean number of cats per household was equal to 1.8, providing an estimate of the cat population in Veneto region equal to 663,433 (95%CI: 626,585 - 737,159). The estimate of the size and structure of owned canine and feline populations in Veneto region provide useful data to perform epidemiological studies and monitoring plans in this area.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Model to understand multispecies disease transmition between domestic and wild canids

Belsare, A. V., & Gompper, M. E. (2015). A model-based approach for investigation and mitigation of disease spillover risks to wildlife: Dogs, foxes and canine distemper in central India. Ecological Modelling, 296, 102-112.

Multi-host pathogens can pose a serious conservation threat when free-ranging domestic animal populations occur alongside susceptible populations of wild species. An example is canine distemper virus (CDV), which can occur at high prevalence in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) populations from which it may be transmitted (spillover) into wild carnivore populations. Effective management of such disease threats is hindered by our limited understanding of the the dynamics of interspecific CDV transmission in natural settings. We used a modeling approach to better understand CDV spillover threats to wild Indian foxes (Vulpes bengalensis) occurring in a protected grassland habitat in central India. An agent-based stochastic simulation model was built, and parameterized with data from ecological and epidemiological studies. Based on the sensitivity analyses of the model, the CDV incidence rate in dogs was most influenced by the proportion of roamer dogs in the dog population. The CDV incidence rate in dogs was also sensitive to the CDV introduction frequency in the dog population. The proportion of roamer dogs in the dog population also influenced the number of CDV spillover events. The basic reproductive number (R0) for CDV in the model fox population was 0.85, indicating that CDV could not be independently sustained in the fox population. We used the model to explore potential management strategies to mitigate the risk of CDV spillover. Vaccination of local dog populations was an ineffective disease control strategy, while fox vaccination was highly effective. Interventions potentially resulting in lower contact rates between dogs and foxes, like reduction in village dog density and restricting dog movements in fox habitat, implemented in a sustained and integrated manner would be most effective in mitigating disease threats to foxes. Such modeling approaches can be used to better understand disease threats for other species of management concern, and to contrast potential management interventions.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Toxoplasmosis in prey species and consequences for prevalence in feral cats

Afonso, E., Thulliez, P., Pontier, D., & Gilot-Fromont, E. (2007). Toxoplasmosis in prey species and consequences for prevalence in feral cats: not all prey species are equal. Parasitology, 134(14), 1963-1971.

Toxoplasma gondii is largely transmitted to definitive felid hosts through predation. Not all prey species represent identical risks of infection for cats because of differences in prey susceptibility, exposure and/or lifespan. Previously published studies have shown that prevalence in rodent and lagomorph species is positively correlated with body mass. We tested the hypothesis that different prey species have different infection risks by comparing infection dynamics of feral cats at 4 sites in the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen archipelago which differed in prey availability. Cats were trapped from 1994 to 2004 and anti-T. gondii IgG antibodies were detected using the modified agglutination test (1:40). Overall seroprevalence was 51·09%. Antibody prevalence differed between sites, depending on diet and also on sex, after taking into account the effect of age. Males were more often infected than females and the difference between the sexes tended to be more pronounced in the site where more prey species were available. A difference in predation efficiency between male and female cats may explain this result. Overall, our results suggest that the composition of prey items in cat diet influences the risk of T. gondii infection. Prey compositon should therefore be considered important in any understanding of infection dynamics of T. gondii.

FIV and FeLV in native and stray felines

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are two of the most common viruses affecting domestic cats (Felis catus). During the last two decades, reports show that both viruses also infect or affect other species of the family Felidae. Human landscape perturbation is one of the main causes of emerging diseases in wild animals, facilitating contact and transmission of pathogens between domestic and wild animals. We investigated FIV and FeLV infection in free-ranging guignas (Leopardus guigna) and sympatric domestic cats in human perturbed landscapes on Chiloé Island, Chile. Samples from 78 domestic cats and 15 guignas were collected from 2008 to 2010 and analyzed by PCR amplification and sequencing. Two guignas and two domestic cats were positive for FIV; three guignas and 26 domestic cats were positive for FeLV. The high percentage of nucleotide identity of FIV and FeLV sequences from both species suggests possible interspecies transmission of viruses, facilitated by increased contact probability through human invasion into natural habitats, fragmentation of guigna habitat, and poultry attacks by guignas. This study enhances our knowledge on the transmission of pathogens from domestic to wild animals in the global scenario of human landscape perturbation and emerging diseases.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Sponsored neutering programs reduces shelter intake and euthanasia

White, S. C., Jefferson, E., & Levy, J. K. (2010). Impact of publicly sponsored neutering programs on animal population dynamics at animal shelters: The New Hampshire and Austin experiences. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 13(3), 191-212.

This study found that government-funded surgical sterilization of companion animals has been widely promoted as a means of decreasing shelter intake and euthanasia. However, little information is available about the true impact of these programs on community and shelter nonhuman animal population dynamics. This study estimated the impact of the Animal Population Control Program in New Hampshire by comparing shelter intake and euthanasia data before and after the onset of the neutering initiative. Regression analysis demonstrated a significant decrease in cat intake and euthanasia during the years after program onset, a trend that appears to begin prior to the program's initiation; however, there was no decrease in dog intake or euthanasia. This study also estimated the impact of the Austin-based EmanciPET Free Spay/Neuter Program by comparing shelter intake and euthanasia data from the targeted program areas versus nonprogram areas within the city. Regression analysis demonstrated a significantly lower rate of increase for dog and cat intake and euthanasia in the program areas. Prospective studies should determine the effectiveness and affordability of different models for funding and delivering neutering services.

Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter

Levy, J. K., Isaza, N. M., & Scott, K. C. (2014). Effect of high-impact targeted trap-neuter-return and adoption of community cats on cat intake to a shelter.The Veterinary Journal.

Approximately 2–3 million cats enter animal shelters annually in the United States. A large proportion of these are unowned community cats that have no one to reclaim them and may be too unsocialized for adoption. More than half of impounded cats are euthanased due to shelter crowding, shelter-acquired disease or feral behavior. Trap-neuter-return (TNR), an alternative to shelter impoundment, improves cat welfare and reduces the size of cat colonies, but has been regarded as too impractical to reduce cat populations on a larger scale or to limit shelter cat intake. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of TNR concentrated in a region of historically high cat impoundments in a Florida community. A 2-year program was implemented to capture and neuter at least 50% of the estimated community cats in a single 11.9 km2 zip code area, followed by return to the neighborhood or adoption. Trends in shelter cat intake from the target zip code were compared to the rest of the county.

A total of 2366 cats, representing approximately 54% of the projected community cat population in the targeted area, were captured for the TNR program over the 2-year study period. After 2 years, per capita shelter intake was 3.5-fold higher and per capita shelter euthanasia was 17.5-fold higher in the non-target area than in the target area. Shelter cat impoundment from the target area where 60 cats/1000 residents were neutered annually decreased by 66% during the 2-year study period, compared to a decrease of 12% in the non-target area, where only 12 cats/1000 residents were neutered annually. High-impact TNR combined with the adoption of socialized cats and nuisance resolution counseling for residents is an effective tool for reducing shelter cat intake.

Effect on shelter cat intakes and euthanasia from a shelter neuter return project

Johnson, K. L., & Cicirelli, J. (2014). Study of the effect on shelter cat intakes and euthanasia from a shelter neuter return project of 10,080 cats from March 2010 to June 2014. PeerJ, 2, e646.

Cat impoundments were increasing at the municipal San Jose animal shelter in 2009, despite long-term successful low cost sterilization programs and attempts to lower the euthanasia rate of treatable-rehabilitatable impounds beginning in 2008. San Jose Animal Care and Services implemented a new strategy designed to control overall feral cat reproduction by altering and returning feral cats entering the shelter system, rather than euthanizing the cats. The purpose of this case study was to determine how the program affected the shelter cat intakes over time. In just over four years, 10,080 individual healthy adult feral cats, out of 11,423 impounded at the shelter during this time frame, were altered and returned to their site of capture. Included in the 11,423 cats were 862 cats impounded from one to four additional times for a total of 958 (9.5%) recaptures of the previously altered 10,080 cats. The remaining 385 healthy feral cats were euthanized at the shelter from March 2010 to June 2014. Four years into the program, researchers observed cat and kitten impounds decreased 29.1%; euthanasia decreased from over 70% of intakes in 2009, to 23% in 2014. Euthanasia in the shelter for Upper Respiratory Disease decreased 99%; dead cat pick up off the streets declined 20%. Dog impounds did not similarly decline over the four years. No other laws or program changes were implemented since the beginning of the program.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The welfare of feral cats and wildlife

Jessup, D. A. (2004). The welfare of feral cats and wildlife. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 225(9), 1377-1383.

No. of animals accessioned
No. Cat related accessions
All birds
All mammals
All reptiles

Table 1—Data used to calculate the percentage of cat-related accessions to the Lindsay Museum of Walnut Creek, Calif, for all species and for susceptible birds (ie, nonraptors and pelagic birds).
Morris, K. N., Wolf, J. L., & Gies, D. L. (2011). Trends in intake and outcome data for animal shelters in Colorado, 2000 to 2007. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 238(3), 329-336.

Objective—To measure trends in animal shelter intake and outcome data for dogs and cats in Colorado on a statewide, urban, and rural basis from 2000 through 2007.

Design—Retrospective cohort study.

Sample Population—A group of 104 animal shelters and rescue organizations from Colorado representing 92% and 94% of statewide dog and cat intake, respectively, in 2007.

Procedures—Annual animal shelter data were analyzed for trends by use of linear regression analysis. Trends in urban and rural subgroups of shelters were compared by use of Student t tests.

Results—Statewide, the number of intakes/1,000 residents decreased by 10.8% for dogs during the 8-year study period, but increased by 19.9% for cats. There was no change in the dog euthanasia rate at 3.7/1,000 residents/y, but the rate for cats increased by 35.7% to 3.9/1,000 residents/y. There was no change in the statewide live release rate for dogs or cats, but there was a decrease of 12.6% for cats in the urban subgroup.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The trends suggested that the number of unwanted dogs in Colorado decreased during the study period, whereas the number of unwanted cats in animal shelters increased. There were clear differences in the trends in the urban and rural data, suggesting different needs in each type of community. At the current level of resource allocation, the shelter dynamics for dogs appeared to have reached equilibrium with respect to euthanasia. Transfers were increasingly being used within all regions of the state to optimize the chances of adoption.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Cat predation assessed through kitty-cams

Morling, F. (2014). Cape Town's cats: reassessing predation through kitty-cam. Mini Thesis.

Domestic cats (Felis catus) are abundant generalist predators that exploit a wide range of prey within and adjacent to the urban matrix. Cats are known to have contributed to the extinction and endangerment (mostly on islands) of a number of indigenous species, including birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Most research on this important topic has been carried out in the developed world, predominantly in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada with only four studies carried out in Africa. Of these, two studies in Cape Town suggest that domestic cats have a big impact on wildlife but these studies may have underestimated predation because they failed to account for the proportion of prey not returned to participants’ homes. In this study I used kitty-cams in an attempt to provide a prey correction factor for urban cats in Cape Town, South Africa. I investigated hunting of wildlife by free-ranging domestic cats in Newlands, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa over 5 weeks in 2013. I monitored 13 cats (6 deep-urban and 7 urban-edge) by questionnaire survey, asking cat owners to record all prey items returned by their cats. A total of 43 prey items were returned, 42% of which were small mammals, 30% invertebrates, 12% reptiles, 9% amphibians and 7% birds. Combining these data with two similar survey studies carried out in Cape Town I estimated that a total of 118 cats caught an average of 0.04 prey items per cat per day. Ten of the 13 cats were also monitored for 3 weeks using kitty-cam video cameras. Participating cats wore a video camera and all activity was analysed for prey captures and behavioural activity patterns.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Factors regulating the presence of domestic dogs in a national park

Soto, C. A., & Palomares, F. (2014). Human-related factors regulate the presence of domestic dogs in protected areas. Oryx, 1-7.

The presence of domestic species such as dogs Canis familiaris in protected areas can cause problems for native species as a result of competition, predation and disease transmission. To improve our ability to design effective control policies we investigated the factors affecting detection of dog tracks in a Mediterranean national park.
We investigated the presence of dogs across 69 2 × 2 km grid squares in Doñana National Park in south-west Spain and used logistic regression models to analyse the associated environmental and human constraints. We did not detect dogs in areas away from the edges of the national park close to human settlements (track census effort > 470 km) and the detection of dog tracks was correlated with human presence. We conclude that domestic dogs occasionally enter the Park from the surrounding area and are a direct threat to wildlife at the edges of the Park. Management actions to reduce the effects of domestic dogs in protected areas where feral dog populations are not established should focus on the spatial extent of local settlements, regulation and awareness-raising to encourage responsible dog-ownership, and control measures such as removing un-owned dogs from boundaries and areas close to human dwellings, and forbidding unleashed dogs in public facilities.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Adjustments to new predators in the Galapagos marine iguana

Berger, S., Wikelski, M., Romero, L. M., Kalko, E. K., & Rödl, T. (2007). Behavioral and physiological adjustments to new predators in an endemic island species, the Galapagos marine iguana. Hormones and behavior, 52(5), 653-663.

For the past 5 to 15 million years, marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), endemic to the Galápagos archipelago, experienced relaxed predation pressure and consequently show negligible anti-predator behavior. However, over the past few decades introduced feral cats and dogs started to prey on iguanas on some of the islands. We investigated experimentally whether behavioral and endocrine anti-predator responses changed in response to predator introduction. We hypothesized that flight initiation distances (FID) and corticosterone (CORT) concentrations should increase in affected populations to cope with the novel predators. Populations of marine iguanas reacted differentially to simulated predator approach depending on whether or not they were previously naturally exposed to introduced predators. FIDs were larger at sites with predation than at sites without predation. Furthermore, the occurrence of new predators was associated with increased stress-induced CORT levels in marine iguanas. In addition, age was a strong predictor of variation in FID and CORT levels. Juveniles, which are generally more threatened by predators compared to adults, showed larger FIDs and higher CORT baseline levels as well as higher stress-induced levels than adults. The results demonstrate that this naive island species shows behavioral and physiological plasticity associated with actual predation pressure, a trait that is presumably adaptive. However, the adjustments in FID are not sufficient to cope with the novel predators. We suggest that low behavioral plasticity in the face of introduced predators may drive many island species to extinction.

Feral Cats in the Ogasawara Islands

Last week, the Ogasawara Islands were named a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site:

The island chain, which has never been connected with a continent, has been dubbed the “Galapagos of the Orient” because animals and plants there have undergone unique evolutionary processes–similar to wildlife on the Galapagos Islands.

In particular, 100 of the 106 species of land snails found on the islands are indigenous.

The islands, which include Chichijima and Hahajima islands, are regarded as the only place in the world where geological features visible from the ground show how an archipelago is formed when oceanic plates bump against each other.

Conservation groups have been working hard to protect the islands’ unique ecosystem. One conservation project involves the capture of feral cats, descendants of pets that humans brought to the island

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