Monday, April 30, 2012

Effects of Feral Cats on Antipredator Behaviors in Aegean Wall Lizard

Binbin Li's Thesis Presentation was April 10, 2012 at the University of Michigan > School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Title: Effects of Feral Cats on the Evolution of Antipredator Behaviors in the Aegean Wall Lizard (Pordarcis erhardii)

Authors: Li, Binbin

Keywords: antipredator behavior
feral cat
island endemics

Issue Date: Apr-2012


Exotic predators such as feral cats (Felis catus), have been the driving force behind the extinction of many endemic species of island mammals, birds and reptiles. Island endemics appear to be exceptionally susceptible to invasive predators because of small population size and frequent lack of anti-predator defenses. The goal of this study was to determine the impacts of feral cats on the island populations of Aegean Wall lizards (Podarcis erhardii, Lacertidae) in relationship to the expression of anti-predator behaviors. I estimated lizard population densities in areas with low cat density sites (LCD) versus high cat density (HCD) sites by conducting 100-m transect along dry-stone walls, on the island of Naxos, as well as on surrounding islets (Cyclades, Greece). Degree of expression of antipredator behaviors was determined by measuring flight initiation distance (FID) and rates of tail autotomy both in the field and in the lab for six populations in HCD, LCD sites and four satellite islets without cat presence. I also staged controlled encounters with mounted cats decoys and quantified escaping responses from lizards from these populations. I found that feral cats had a strong negative effect on lizard population densities. Lizards adapted their antipredator behaviors in response to cat predation by extending their FIDs, increasing their capacity for tail autotomy, and by staying closer to refugia. In laboratory predation simulations, lizards from cat-free islets had significantly shorter FIDs than LCD site lizards and in particular than HCD site lizards. Furthermore, some unique islet behaviors, presumably evolved in response to lack of predators and to ameliorate chronic conditions of food shortage, appear to render islet lizards strongly susceptible to cat predation. These behaviors include rarely utilizing available refugia, and moving towards anything new, including cat decoys. Nonetheless, I found that repeated exposures over three trials led to significant increases in FIDs for all populations, indicating at least some behavioral plasticity. My results suggest that although lizards may adapt their antipredator behaviors to cope with introduced predators, this offers at best only partial protection, so that there remains strong concern about their survival in the face of expanding feral cat populations.

download pdf of full text

Faculty Advisors:

Dr. Johannes Foufopoulos

Some journal articles by Dr. Johannes Foufopoulos

Dr. Peter Bednekoff

Some journal articles by Dr. Peter Bednekoff

USDA Wildlife Services and feral freeroaming cats

As previously mentioned on the Feral Cat Blog!, USDA > APHIS > Wildlife Services has killed and harassed millions of America’s wildlife, birds and feral animals. See annual reports for number totals, by state, methods used etc. and your state's annual WS report where accomplishments are highlighted. In addition, WS NEPA documents such as Environmental Assessments and FONSI’s provide WS’s justification for their work. You can also learn about activities of the National Wildlife Research Center including annual reports.

Below are just some of the USDA WS docs I’ve compiled over the years that include references to feral cats. Information presented and cited in such reports from government wildlife agencies is often misrepresented, inaccurate, limited, outdated, and not science-based (as with materials provided by TWS and ABC.) Docs can be accessed under the state lists for EA’s and FONSI’s and searched using keywords cats or feral or Trap Neuter Release (as always please read the entire docs.) In some, a discussion of TNR is included under sections: Alternatives Considered but not Analyzed in Detail with Rationale.

One of the telling and true statements sometimes made in these docs is
kill of cats by [WS] is comparably minor to the number killed by animal control and humane organizations in [state] each year.
This situation is slowly improving across the nation but would change rapidly if all animal control agency and humane society shelters would switch today to truly progressive and high-impact, lifesaving animal programs.

Some of the docs to review (and see all related docs such as FONSI's):

Management of Feral and Freeranging Cat Populations to Reduce Threats to Human Health and Safety and Impacts to Native Wildlife Species in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
December 2003

Environmental Assessment - Mammal Damage Management in Pennsylvania
April 2007

EA Mammal Damage Management in Georgia
March 2008

EA Predator Damage Management to Protect Avian Wildlife in Hawaii
February 2010

EA Predator Management in Nevada
June 2011

Management of Predation Losses to Threatened and Endangered Species Populations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (download doc titled Nest Predators)
March 2011
includes section, Feral Cats Population Info and Affects Analysis

EA Reducing Mammal Damage in the State of North Carolina
December 2011

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Previous Feral Cat Blog! Posts about USDA and Wildlife Services
Scroll down or use Edit Find for keywords USDA wildlife Services etc

This week, USDA Wildlife Services has been prominently in the news:

* the Sacramento Bee began a three-part series by Tom Knudson. On Sunday April 29, "The killing agency: Wildlife Services' brutal methods leave a trail of animal death" to be followed by articles April 30 and May 6.

and added May 1, 2012

* Wild Earth Guardians sues USDA Wildlife Services

picked up in numerous media outlets including the Washington Post.

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Feral Cat Blog! recurring request: Seek nonlethal and nontoxic solutions to all life and earth challenges, large or small.

Exurban feral cat study - Russellville Arkansas

Added 26 Apr 2012 on Society for Conservation Biology Job Board and on other usual wildlife job lists:

Job Title: M.S. Assistantship: Exurban Feral Cat Study

Opportunity Description:

[excerpt, see entire]

I am seeking an ambitious and highly motivated student to pursue a M.S. degree through the Fish and Wildlife program at Arkansas Tech University (ATU). Student salary and tuition will be covered through a teaching assistantship from July 2012 – May 2014.
The student will be expected to develop a study on feral cats in an exurban setting involving both field and lab work. Field work will include trapping feral cats and tracking using radio telemetry in an exurban environment. Lab work will include disease and parasitological investigations. Students with previous telemetry experiences and/or previous work handling cats for bloodwork are highly desirable.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

previous graduate student Rachael Urbanek

Dr. Urbanek's previous faculty advisor Clayton Neilsen

Urbanek, R. E., Allen, K. R. and Nielsen, C. K. (2011), Urban and suburban deer management by state wildlife-conservation agencies. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 35: 310–315. doi: 10.1002/wsb.37

[excerpt from Abstract]
Biologists and public constituents agree on the primary reasons to manage deer, yet their preferences for management options vary greatly. We recommend state agencies survey constituents regarding their beliefs and concerns about deer management beyond questions that simply address the acceptability of management techniques.

Thanks to Louise Holton of Alley Cat Rescue for letting me know of this study!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

FACA Policy Change > Feral Unowned Stray Cats

an improved Florida Animal Control Association (FACA) Policy Statement updated in late 2011!
Managing Feral/Unowned/Stray Cats

FACA recognizes that free-roaming cats are an ongoing concern and that measures must be taken with the ultimate goal of having no outdoor cats in the future. However, FACA further realizes that the problem has grown over centuries and the resolution of the problem will take substantial efforts and resources.
Since the number of cats entering shelters continues to rise each year with current practices; FACA recommends each community assess its local issues, resources and practices/policies to develop appropriate management programs for their areas – with the ultimate goal of having no outdoor cats. FACA further encourages community coalitions of stakeholders to best serve the needs of the local community.
With reductions in local animal control budgets and staffing over the past few years it is imperative that the local community, animal welfare organization, and charitable foundations provide the necessary resources to fund these new programs. The core function of the animal control agency is to enforce local and state laws, investigate animal cruelty and to address the issues of homeless and unwanted pets. Those functions tax the financial ability of most, if not all, animal control agencies making it difficult or impossible to fund new programs.
FACA encourages local agencies pass and strictly enforce both leash and license laws for owned cats to limit the number of owned and new cats that might be introduced into the area.
Should the local agencies wish to implement some form of feral/free-roaming cat management plan, the following minimum standards should apply:
• All cats MUST be sterilized and ear-tipped if allowed outdoors.
• Only healthy cats that have been vaccinated should be returned to caregivers and cats should only be returned to the location they came from and not relocated.
• Friendly cats and kittens should be removed and placed for adoption.
• Specific rules should be established to limit the time food may be
placed outdoors (restricting it to daylight hours only), to limit the amount of food available to a proper amount for the known cats (twice a day feeding preferred), and to limit the number of cats they assist. There should be substantial penalties for non-compliance.
• Those cats that are suffering or cannot be treated for illness should be humanely euthanized.
• Ongoing or severe nuisances should be addressed in the plan.
The goal of any community cat management program must be to assure a proper quality of life for the cats’ lifetimes and the elimination of all outdoor cats over time through attrition.

Most recent previous FACA policy (2006) from my files:

Managing Feral/Unowned/Stray Cats
FACA supports the Rabies Advisory Committee Position Statement in the State of Florida Rabies Prevention and Control in Florida, 2006 report:
“Managing Feral/Unowned/Stray Cats (updated 01/06)
The concept of managing free-roaming/feral cats is not tenable on public health grounds because of the persistent threat posed to communities from injury and disease. While the risk for disease transmission from cats to people is generally low when these animals are owned and routinely cared for, free-roaming cats pose a continuous concern to a communities. Children are among the highest risk for disease transmission from these cats.
While free-roaming cats can be vaccinated against rabies, this does not address the ongoing need to provide them health care,medications and prevention of other zoonotic diseases. Should one of these cats bite or scratch a person, it would need to be captured and observed for 10 days for signs and symptoms of rabies,even if it had been previously vaccinated. If the cat is not found, the person bitten would need to undergo rabies post-exposure treatment.
In the past 10 years, cats were reported with rabies more frequently than dogs in Florida. The overwhelming majority of these cats were free-roaming animals. Human rabies in Florida was largely controlled by the removal of stray dogs when dog rabies was common during first half of the 1900s.
Ideally, cats should have regular veterinary care and be maintained inside people’s homes. Allowing cats to roam free is not in the best interests of the community’s health and deliberate release or abandonment of feral or domestic cats is not sanctioned under Florida’s conservation and cruelty laws. Based upon Florida Statutes, Chapter 372.265, cats are not “indigenous” or native to Florida, and due to their adverse impact on wildlife, no permits have been or will be issued by the FWCC to make lawful either the release of feral/free-ranging cats or the establishment of feral/free-ranging cat colonies. Relocating and releasing non-native species into the wild is a violation of Florida Statute 372.265 and Florida Administrative Code 68A-4.005.”
FACA discourages the outdoor feeding of all free-roaming cats because of the significant threat of attracting high risk rabies species, such as raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes, etc.

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Previous related posts on Feral Cats in the News ~ the Feral Cat Blog

September 2006
Florida AC Feral Cat Policy Addition
Search this blog by entering the keyword Florida in the top menu bar then scroll down or use your browser's Edit/Find function.

Related Feral Cat Blog Resources:

Feral Freedom TNR Program - Jacksonville Florida
download pdf  Best Friends Feral Freedom Guide

Shelter Crowd Control Webinar January 2012 - Dr. Julie Levy

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stop USDA Wildlife Services killing and harrassment of animals

Stop killing and harassment of animals by USDA Wildlife Services (and other government agencies or private companies!)

The American Society of Mammalogists recently wrote to USDA APHIS with recommendations for redirection of management operations by Wildlife Services

We write to you to urge the redirection of management operations of an agency of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services known as Wildlife Services (WS) and specifically to substantially reduce its funding for lethal control of native wildlife species, especially native wild mammals. . . .

. . . we see from WS a heavy and inflexible emphasis on lethal control and a lack of scientific self-assessment of the effects of WS’s lethal control programs on native mammals and ecosystems.

. . . We call on USDA-APHIS to end the use of toxic chemicals left in the environment by WS (e.g. laced carcasses and M-44s); to cease aerial gunning activities in wilderness areas; to substantially reduce Wildlife Services’ budget for lethal control of native wild mammals, except in rare circumstances such as bona fide disease control, and where temporary predator control is necessary for another endangered species to become established and secured; and for WS to redirect its efforts at: 1) lethal control and eradication of invasive exotic species (including feral domestic species); 2) development, enhancement and public education in non- lethal remedies to avoid native wildlife conflict . . . and 3) research into holistic management, especially non-lethal methods, which acknowledges current ecosystem science and the value of top-down control by apex predators . . .

To reiterate, while the American Society of Mammalogists calls for (qualified) nonlethal control of native wild mammals, they call for lethal control and eradication of invasive exotic species including feral domestic species. No surprise as ASM sent a letter in opposition to feral or free roaming cats and Trap Neuter Release during the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issue in 2003 and issued a 2010 Position Statement in opposition.

* Educate yourself about issues of wildlife management.
* Seek nonlethal and nontoxic solutions to all life and earth challenges, large or small -- especially, as related to this blog -- for needs regarding pest management, nuisance animals, local animal control agencies and animal shelters, wildlife and bird management.
* Support those organizations and companies using and working for nonlethal and nontoxic solutions, that you can agree with on balance!

Feral Cat Blog! Resources:

USDA > Wildlife Services - Annual killing and harassment reports

Previous Feral Cat Blog! posts about government killing of wildlife, scroll down:

Some groups working to eliminate or reform USDA Wildlife Services:

Predator Defense

Natural Resources Defense Council

WildEarth Guardians
Campaign to end federal war on wildlife

Eradication challenges - Gambian Rats in Florida Keys

The original news article that touched off the recent round of multiple pickups by media outlets was a March 24, 2012 Keysnet news article, More huge Gambian rats found on Grassy Key By RYAN McCARTHY. It is no longer available free at the original html link but is available in this downloadable pdf version


After extensive bait trapping and surveillance in 2007 and 2008, state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials thought the fight against Gambian giant pouch rats on Grassy Key was over. .....

..... Hardin said another round of trapping is planned for July or August. Some 200 traps are baited primarily with cantaloupe and some peanut butter.

Gambian rats were identified as one of several nonnative invasive predators in the Florida Keys along with feral and free roaming cats. See the February 4, 2012 Feral Cat Blog! Post titled Florida Keys Refuges Feral Cat Removal Update

Previous Feral Cat Blog! Posts on:
Gambian Rats in Florida Keys
USDA Wildlife Services
(scroll down or do an Edit/Search with your browser)

Related reports and articles by Witmer and/or others at the USDA/APHIS/National Wildlife Research Center:
[most recent to earliest]

Attempting to eradicate invasive Gambian giant pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) in the United States: lessons learned
GW Witmer… - Island invasives: eradication and management, 2011 -

Evaluating commercially available rodenticide baits for invasive Gambian giant pouched rats (< i> Cricetomys gambianus)
[PDF] from
GW Witmer, NP Snow… - Crop Protection, 2010 - Elsevier

Potential attractants for detecting and removing invading Gambian giant pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus)
[PDF] from
GW Witmer, NP Snow… - Pest management science, 2010 - Wiley Online Library

Identifying Effective Attractants and Rodenticide Baits for Gambian Giant Pouched Rats
G Witmer, NP Snow… - 2010
and presented at the 2010 24th Vertebrate Pest Conference

Challenges and Unique Solutions to Rodent Eradication in Florida.
G Witmer, J Eisemann, P Hall, ML Avery… - 2010 -

The path to eradication of the Gambian giant pouched rat in Florida
[PDF] from
R Engeman, GW Witmer, JB Bourassa, JW Woolard… - 2007 -

Rapid assessment for a new invasive species threat: the case of the Gambian giant pouched rat in Florida
R Engeman, JW Woolard, ND Perry, G Witmer… - Wildlife Research, 2006 - CSIRO

New invasive species in southern Florida: Gambian rat (Cricetomys gambianus)
[PDF] from
ND Perry, B Hanson, W Hobgood, RL Lopez… - Journal of Mammalogy, 2006 - BioOne

USDA >> APHIS >> Wildlife Services >> National Wildlife Research Center NWRC)
Economic Research of Wildlife-Caused Agricultural, Public Health, and Natural Resource Impacts

PROJECT GOAL: Quantify the benefits and costs of NWRC products and Wildlife Services activities that aim to mitigate the impacts of wildlife diseases, wildlife damage to agriculture and natural resources, and wildlife risks to public health/safety.
Project Accomplishments 2006--Monitoring and Tracking:
Gambian Giant Pouched Rats in the Florida Keys
The Gambian giant pouched rat (GGPR) has become an invasive species of concern for the State of Florida. An NWRC researcher worked with Florida WS in 2006 to develop information for planning the species’ eradication from Grassy and Crawl Keys, where it is currently established. A pilot eradication campaign on Crawl Key, employing population monitoring methods developed by NWRC, was carried out in spring of 2006.
Recent camera surveys indicated no GGPR survival on Crawl Key following Hurricane Wilma and the pilot eradication effort. As a result, eradication efforts will now focus on the primary population on Grassy Key. The first step in the eradication process will be to monitor Grassy Key using a camera-indexing methodology cooperatively developed by NWRC and WS Operations personnel. This setup will determine current GGPR distributions and relative abundances throughout the island. Subsequent steps this fall will include the construction and deployment of bait stations especially designed to exclude native species. Bait-station density will be based on the results of the camera survey, with a higher density of bait stations in areas where GGPRs are found. Prebaiting will be done at all bait stations with nontoxic bait to acclimate GGPRs prior to using toxic bait.
The researcher has also been working with economists from the U.S. Department of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey who are attempting to model this invasive species' impacts should it escape the Keys and become established on the mainland. Work has focused on developing methods to place monetary values on imperiled natural resources, such as rare species and habitats. GGPRs likely would negatively impact agriculture through direct crop losses, contamination of harvested crops, reduced marketability of damaged produce, and contamination and consumption of livestock feed. GGPRs also could negatively impact populations of some threatened and endangered species, especially the endangered Key Largo woodrat, the Key Largo cotton mouse, and the Lower Keys marsh rabbit. GGPRs also have been associated with a variety of pathogenic diseases that could be spread to humans, livestock, or other wildlife.
[above article no longer available at this link: ]

Thursday, April 05, 2012

AU researcher gets $400K grant for spay/neuter vaccine

AU researcher gets $400K grant for spay/neuter vaccine

By: OANow Staff
Opelika-Auburn News
Published: April 04, 2012 Updated: April 04, 2012 - 10:17 PM

Tatiana Samoylova, an associate research professor at the Scott-Ritchey Research Center at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, has received a two-year, $412,106 Michelson Grant from the Found Animals Foundation to continue her research to develop an alternative to surgical spaying and neutering of cats and dogs.

“To control the overpopulation of unowned animals, my laboratory, in collaboration with Drs. Nancy Cox, Valery Petrenko, Bettina Schemera, Frank Bartol and Mark Carpenter, is developing immunocontraceptive vaccines that are based on phage-GnRH constructs via phage display technology,” Samoylova said. “Such vaccines are designed to be used primarily by animal shelters as cost-effective alternatives to surgical neutering.”

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Related previous Feral Cat Blog! posts:

do a search (blue bar at top of blog) using keywords such as contraception, immunocontraception, nonsurgical sterilization, ACCD, spay neuter and so on then scroll down or use your browser's Edit/Find with same keywords.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control - Winograd

Today Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center posted on the website a new document titled “Dollars & Sense: The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control” and I listened to him speak about it on Animal Wise Radio this morning; you can listen to the podcast when posted.

I have researched information about animal protection issues for over a decade with a focus on facts, statistics, formulas, model programs, best practices, how-to’s, research, studies, surveys and reports (still a challenging task! still in short supply!) I always hope to find citation sources but they are most often missing. I am very appreciative of the materials Nathan Winograd and the No Kill Advocacy Center have provided over the years. But for others’ convenience, below are the sources for the study or survey statements in the Economic Benefits document. If I missed existing source citations, apologies and I can correct this post. Just a note that it took quite a bit of effort to find the source documents even though I am very familiar with the subject material!

In the Economic Benefits document:

Page 3 In a national survey 96% of Americans said we have a moral obligation to protect animals etc
The above statement appears to refer to the 2006 Kindness Index of Best Friends Animal Society.

Page 4 Disproving Pet Overpopulation
Think there are “too many animals and not enough homes”? Think again...
Nationally, roughly four million animals are killed in shelters every year. Of these, roughly 95% of all shelter animals are healthy and treatable. The remainder consists of hopelessly ill or injured animals and vicious dogs whose prognosis for rehabilitation is poor or grave. That would put the number of savable animals at roughly 3.8 million.At the same time, over 23 million Americans will get a new pet every year, and 17 million of those households have not decided where they will get that animal and can be influenced to adopt from a shelter.

The above section refers to Maddie’s Fund research:
The Shelter Pet Project By the Numbers

Page 5

National multi-state study found no correlation between per capita funding and save rates

This info is on this No Kill Advocacy Center webpage: No Kill Advocacy Center > Shelter Reform > Projects Campaigns then download pdf: Cost of Saving Lives (Funding 09)

The above 3-page study IS included the No Kill 101 / No Kill Primer that readers of The Economic Benefits are referred to.

Page 7
California Hayden law

In 1998, California passed a law making it illegal for public (and private) shelters to kill animals when qualified rescue groups were willing to save them.

. . .

A separate analysis found that the number of animals saved, rather than killed, jumped by roughly 4,000 per year in just one of 58 California counties.

The above info is found in Hayden Report, January 2011, Jennifer Wang

Page 7

The source document for statements about the New York State Rescue Access Survey are found in: New York State Rescue Access Survey

I cannot locate a source document for the 2011 Florida Rescue Access Survey statements, only this press release and content on the Florida Animal Rescue website which outline its results:

Report: Florida Survey Shows Animals Needlessly Killed; Rescue Access Law Introduced
PR Newswire
MIAMI, Nov. 11, 2011

and on
Florida Survey Shows Animals Needlessly Killed; Rescue Access Law Introduced!
"Florida Animal Rescue Act, SB 818/HB 597, would make it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal when a qualified non-profit rescue organization is willing to save that animal."
A statewide survey of rescue groups across Florida State found that 63% of non-profit animal rescue groups have had at least one Florida state shelter refuse to work collaboratively with them and then turn around and kill the very animals they were willing to save. The most common reason given was shelters either having a policy of not working with rescue groups or being openly hostile to doing so.
It makes no sense to kill animals in the face of cost-effective alternatives, nor does it make sense that taxpayers are spending money to kill animals when non-profit organizations are willing and able to save them at private expense. California's "rescue access" law saves tens of thousands of animals every year at no cost to the public.
The same survey also found that 45% of respondents are afraid to complain about inhumane conditions or practices at Florida shelters because if they did complain, they would not be allowed to rescue animals, thus allowing those inhumane conditions to continue.
In addition, 81% of rescue groups that have tried to work with more than one shelter said that different shelters have different rescue access policies, with more than half of those respondents saying that criteria for saving animals changes depending on what staff is on duty or whether staff changes. This creates inefficiency and limits the number of animals who can and should be saved.

Page 9 Reducing births: research on spay/neuter
Reducing Births: Research shows that investment in spay/neuter programs not only provides immediate public health and public relations benefits but also long-term financial savings to a jurisdiction as well.

I have requested the source(s) for the above statement.

Update April 2, 2011 - The No Kill Advocacy Center replied:
"We relied on several sources: A 2003 paper by the International City County Management Association, a Stanford University fellowship study (Ward, L, The Role of Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics in the Control of Stray and Unwated Animals, 1984), a 1994 NSAL study that showed low-cost neutering doubled the number of individuals who get their animals sterilized, a summary of the low-income spay/neuter clinics in Los Angeles, California in the 1970s, and more recently, a study out of Austin and New Hampshire for cats:"
The latter url goes to ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Previous Feral Cat Blog! Posts

Do a search on this blog (navy blue bar above the blog) for keywords such as Winograd, Nathan Winograd, No Kill Advocacy or No Kill Solutions etc. then scroll down or use your browser search function using same keywords.