Friday, 4 October 2013

Wildcat

Animal of the Month


What's so special about it?

Wildcat (Kalahari race); Photo by Maddie Lausted
When you look at your familiar Housecat, you are actually looking at a selectively-bred version of the majestic Wildcat (Felis silvestris). Genetic testing and archaeological evidence indicates that twelve thousand years ago, the world's first farmers in the Middle East began encouraging Wildcats to remain in their company so that they could control surging mice populations. Over thousands of years, these cats became domesticated
and genetically altered to the extent that they are now usually considered a different species - Felis catus. Housecats still interbreed freely with their wild ancestors, and the Scottish Wildcat race (Felis silvestris grampia) in its pure form is now reduced to less than 400 individuals as a result.

Where can I see one?

Wildcats have a wide distribution that includes most of Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. While they remain secure in most areas, European populations have not coped well with urbanisation and inter-breeding with Housecats. Though small numbers survive in Scotland, Portugal and the Netherlands, their stronghold lies in the wilderness of the Pyrenees region. African Wildcats are often sighted on wildlife tours in the Kalahari Desert.

Is there anything similar near Brisbane?

Feral Cat; Photo by Susan Heron
Unfortunately, yes. Housecats came to Australia with the First Fleet and have had a devastating impact on our landscape ever since. Adapting to our harsh environment with ease, Feral Cats have contributed to the extinction of many small native mammals and one bird - the beautiful Paradise Parrot (Psephotus pulcherrimus). In Brisbane, they are common in even the smallest patch of bushland, and seem to thrive particularly well in wetland environments like Sandgate Lagoon and Hays Inlet. Feral Cat sightings in Brisbane can be reported to the Council by calling (07)  3403 8888.

Original Wildcat photo can be seen on the Lausted Sisters blog.
Original Feral Cat photo can be seen on the Geelong Advertiser website.




14 comments:

  1. i guess our housepets had to start somewhere.

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    1. I'm more of a dog person myself, but 'cat history' is interesting!

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  2. a very good background account on the feral cats Christian. It's a shame they make such a devastating impact on our native mammals and birds etc.

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    1. Thanks Carole, yes it always depresses me when I see them running around in the reserves!

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  3. HI Christian You post was most interesting and informative. I have never seen a wildcat myself. Pity they harm the environment.

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    1. Thanks Margaret! Seeing a Scottish Wildcat could be a good excuse to head to the highlands? :)

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  4. That first photo looks just like my old (dead) cat Martin. A case in point I guess.

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  5. I really think there need to be some hard decisions made about feral animals here - cats, foxes etc etc are such a menace. I saw a number of feral cats in central Australia a while back.


    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne.

    PS: sorry for slow reply - I have been out of phone / Internet range for most of the week - it was strangely pleasant!

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    1. Hi Stewart! I had a similar 'internet free' long weekend, so I know the pleasure!

      I have a hard enough time killing Cane Toads in my pond, so while I agree that something should be done, I couldn't imagine killing all these pests myself. We handled the Rabbit problem reasonably well!

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  6. Sorry but feral cats did not cause the extinction of the Paradise Parrot. The parrot's close relatives, the Hooded and Golden-shouldered, have lived side-by-side with feral cats for 200 years without difficulty. The Paradise Parrot is extinct due to the extensive modification of its habitat for pastoral purposes. And mammal extinctions are due primarily to introduced foxes, not cats, Which is not to defend feral cats - they should be wiped out wherever possible.

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    1. Hi Greg! Most of my reference material for the 'Feral Cat' section of this post comes from Department of Environment factsheets. The one for the Paradise Parrot lists habitat modification as a main cause, but feral cats as a contributing factor, so in response to your post I have amended "responsible for" to "contributed to". The Department also identifies cats as having "probably contributed to the extinction of many small to medium-sized mammals" and considers them a greater threat to the Julia Creek Dunnart than foxes, for one example. Searching around www.environment.gov.au should pull up the pages for the Parrot, Cat and Dunnart. Feral Cats should be wiped out because they are 'high impact' predators - surely one of those impacts is greater propensity for extinction, which is my original point.

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  7. Wonderful captures of the wildcat. the post written well with nice information..
    thanks for sharing...

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    1. Thank you, they are not my captures but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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