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Measuring the Welfare Impact of Soft-Catch Leg-Hold Trapping for Feral Cats on Non-Target By-Catch

Environment and Conservation Cluster, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia
Perth Zoo Science, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 217;
Received: 14 March 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 5 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Interactions of Free-Roaming Cats and Wildlife)
Feral cats are linked to fauna extinctions and declines globally through predation, disease transmission, and hybridisation. Soft-catch leg-hold trapping, with or without olfactory lures, is used to capture feral cats; however, by-catch may occur, including species of conservation concern. Using data from 431 non-target animals trapped at six Western Australian sites over 18 years, we demonstrate that birds are at greatest risk of serious injury. Appropriate placement of traps, careful choice of lures depending on the non-target species known to be in the study area, adjustment of traps to minimize the chance of closing on small animals, and training of all personnel associated with trapping will minimize the risk to birds and other non-target fauna.
To inform trapping protocols to reduce by-catch while trapping feral cats by-catch welfare costs should be quantified. During cat trapping programs at six Western Australian sites from 1997–2015, 431 non-target individuals, including 232 individuals from native species (132 mammals, 52 birds and 42 reptiles) were captured. Among the native fauna; birds were more likely to be severely injured (33%, compared to 12% in mammals and 21% in reptiles). Amongst other vertebrates, larger individuals were less likely to be injured. Olfactory lures used in these studies attracted reptiles, but repelled mammals. By-catch varied with climate and landscape. Trap injury to by-catch species poses ethical concerns, especially for threatened species that can least afford an additional threat. Future trapping should consider the timing of trapping, trap placement, trap settings (especially the treadle pressure needed to close the trap) and new innovations sending immediate capture alerts to minimise by-catch and potential injury associated with prolonged restraint. By-catch welfare data should be analysed to identify best practice and on-going improvement. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal; welfare; by-catch; cat; trapping animal; welfare; by-catch; cat; trapping
MDPI and ACS Style

Surtees, C.; Calver, M.C.; Mawson, P.R. Measuring the Welfare Impact of Soft-Catch Leg-Hold Trapping for Feral Cats on Non-Target By-Catch. Animals 2019, 9, 217.

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