Feral cats are a major cause of the extinction of numerous Australian mammals. The country has between 15 and 23 million wild cats and the animals are estimated to eat 75 million native animals every night.
Going on the stomach contents of captured cats, conservationists have considered small mammals to be at greatest risk. But new images of a feral cat killing and consuming an adult female Tasmanian pademelon – a marsupial similar to a kangaroo – shows that even bigger animals are not safe.
It means feral cats can kill prey up to four kilograms in body mass, with potential implications for the conservation of medium-sized mammals.
The pictures were taken by a motion-sensitive camera operated by Tasmanian researcher Bronwyn Fancourt. The feral cat attacked the pademelon while it was eating, killing it by biting its throat. It proceeded to consume virtually all of the animal, leaving only its intestines.
Fancourt, who published her discovery in Australian Mammology, says it suggests that controlling foxes might not be enough to save medium-sized marsupials.
Previously Fancourt has considered whether Tasmanian Devils, themselves threatened by a mysterious form of facial cancer, might hold the answer to controlling the feral cats.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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