Landowners and Cat Predation across Rural-to-Urban Landscapes


Lepczyk, Christopher; Mertig, Angela G.; Liu, Jianguo "Jack"

Journal or Book Title: Biological Conservation

Keywords: Domestic cat (Felis catus); Landowner; Human impacts; Breeding bird survey; Rural to urban; Bird feeding; Private land; Humandominated landscape

Volume/Issue: 115

Page Number(s): 191-201

Year Published: 2003


Fluctuations of bird abundances have been attributed to such factors as supplemental feeding, landscape change, and habitat fragmentation. Notably absent from consideration, however, is the role of private landowners and their actions, such as owning free-ranging domestic cats (Felis catus; cats allowed free access to the outdoors). To understand the impacts of cat predation on birds, we surveyed all 1694 private landowners living on three breeding bird survey (BBS) routes (120 km) that represent a continuum
of rural-to-urban landscapes in Southeastern Michigan, where the majority (>90%) of land is privately owned. Our data indicate that among the 58.5% of landowners that responded, one quarter of them owned outdoor cats. On average a cat depredated between 0.7 and 1.4 birds per week. A total of 23+ species (12.5% of breeding species) were on the list of being killed, including two species of conservation concern (Eastern Bluebirds and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds). Across the three landscapes there were 800 to 3100 cats, which kill between 16,000 and 47,000 birds during the breeding season, resulting in a minimum of 1 bird killed/km/day. While the number and density (no./ha) of free-ranging cats per landowner differed across the rural to urban landscapes, depredation rates were similar. Landowner participation in bird feeding showed no relationship with the number of free-ranging cats owned. Similarly, selected demographic characteristics of landowners were not significantly related to the number of free-ranging cats owned. Our results, even taken conservatively, indicate that cat predation most likely plays an important role in fluctuations of bird populations and should receive more attention in wildlife conservation and landscape studies.

DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3207(03)00107-1

Type of Publication: Journal Article