New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2022) 46(3): 3493

Spatial ecology meets eradication of feral cats on Auckland Island

Research Article
Mariano Rodriguez-Recio 1,2*
Rachael L. Sagar 3
Lindsay Chan 4
Finlay S. Cox 3
Paul M. Jacques 3
  1. Department of Biology and Geology, Physics and Inorganic Chemistry, Unit of Biodiversity and Conservation, Rey Juan Carlos University, C/Tulipán s/n, Móstoles 28933, Madrid, Spain
  2. Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
  3. Department of Conservation, PO Box 743, Invercargill 9840, New Zealand
  4. Department of Conservation, Private Bag 4715, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Restoration initiatives of ecosystems transformed by human actions require optimisation of eradication measures of introduced species, particularly in fragile insular ecosystems. We studied aspects of the spatial ecology of introduced feral cats (Felis catus) on subantarctic Auckland Island of New Zealand to assist eradication efforts of pests from this remote, biologically rich island. Firstly, we estimated home range sizes and identified core areas of activity based on movement-rooted dynamic Brownian bridge models. Second, we used resource selection functions with generalised linear mixed models to identify seasonal patterns of space use associated to topographic, vegetation and other landscape predictors. Lastly, we quantified cats daily movement rates within home ranges. Average home range size was larger than on other offshore islands and mainland New Zealand, which might relate to lower cat densities and the abundance and predictability of food resources on the island. Cats mostly selected mosaic areas of forest, shrubs and tall tussocks near the coast, and in predominantly flat areas or nearby steep cliffs, which are all typical habitats of seabirds and terrestrial birds. Cats also selected alpine short tussocks during the cold season, likely related to the upsurge of mice (Mus musculus) due to tussock mast seeding and to transiting to steep cliffy areas. Male cats had home ranges that were larger, contained more core areas, and covered longer daily distances in the warm season than females, which might be associated with different breeding and reproductive behaviour. Eradication tools will need to target all habitats on Auckland Island with increased efforts in areas of identified higher use by cats. Understanding aspects of pest species’ spatial ecology on offshore islands worldwide can assist decision-makers in optimising eradication programs such as Predator Free 2050 in New Zealand.