Assessment of potential impact of domestic cats on small mammals in a protected insular area

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Abstract

The presence of domestic cats in natural areas is considered one of the main reasons for species loss, especially on islands and among native small non-volant mammals, birds and reptiles. However, in this study, we detected values opposite to those expected for species richness, abundance, and diversity among different areas when considering the presence or absence and density of these felines. We also observed that in the evaluated environments, prey availability did not influence consumption of small mammal species. Our results reinforce the theory of domestic cats’ behaviour as being opportunistic and generalist predators. In addition, we only recorded the presence of exotic species in the faeces of cats; that is, we did not capture exotic species in the traps. The close relationship between these exotic species and anthropogenic environments indicates that felines are likely hunting in areas close to the homes where they live. Assessing the impact of predation by domestic cats on native fauna is important for the development and implementation of strategic resource management and to minimize long-term impacts.

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Figures
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    The location of the study area in the Environmental Protection Area Ilha Comprida (EPAIC): (A) location of the State of São Paulo (SP), Brazil; (B) the area corresponding to EPAIC (shaded in grey); and (C) the area known as ‘Boqueirão Sul’, highlighting the three main areas studied: Sítio (St), Balsa (Bs) and Praia (Pr).

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    Number of individuals and species of small non-volant mammals captured per sampling point and identified in the faecal samples of cats collected in the Environmental Protection Area Ilha Comprida.

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    Distribution of the richness (A and C) and relative abundance (B and D) of species of small non-volant mammals depending on the sampling site (A and B) and according to the local area divided by their phytophysiognomies (C and D) and estimated by catches in the south portion of the APA Ilha Comprida-SP, Brazil. The dashed lines with arrows indicate the location of significant differences between the compared values: *P<0.05; **P<0.001.

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    Comparison between the frequencies of occurrence for species of small non-volant mammals found in the three areas sampled and in faecal samples from domestic cats that were collected between January 2013 and December 2013 in Ilha Comprida, São Paulo, Brazil.

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    A paired comparison of the number of individuals of each species related to species richness and relative abundance and based on the results obtained through capture with traps for each sampled area and phytophysiognomy (Local/Phytophysiognomy).

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    The diversity indices calculated for the three sampled areas separated by their phytophysiognomy in Environmental Protection Area Ilha Comprida.

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    The symmetric matrix with distance values obtained by the Bray-Curtis (top) and Morisita-Horn (lower) similarity indices and based on the relative abundance of species of small non-volant mammals in the EPA Ilha Comprida. Faecal samples were analysed and three different areas were sampled for the presence and number of domestic cats (two types of vegetation were also evaluated).

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