Managing Free-Roaming Cats at the Patuxent Research Refuge

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The Challenge: Free-roaming cats (Felis catus) are nonnative predators of small mammals, songbirds and gamebirds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. They are also competitors of native predators and vectors for diseases to human and wildlife. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is authorized to remove cats from National Wildlife Refuges. Presently cat trapping on Refuge lands is conducted opportunistically. Therefore a systematic monitoring and trapping scheme for estimating cat abundance and distribution needs to be tested. The scheme also needs to incorporate trapping methods that minimize non-target species interference to minimize the drain on Refuge resources.

The Science: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Patuxent Research Refuge will be used as a study site for a systematic survey of free-roaming cats on National Wildlife Refuges. The presence of free-roaming cats at the Refuge will be confirmed using trail cameras and the pedestal trap method (developed earlier) will be used to live trap the cats. Data will be collected on the number of cats and their locations within the Refuge. This study has been approved by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s Animal Care and Use Committee and the Patuxent Research Refuge.

The Future: Free-roaming cat distribution and abundance will be estimated at the Patuxent Research Refuge over three years. Results will be discussed with Refuge managers to improve cat management at the Refuge. Results will be published in scientific peer-review journals so other natural resource managers can implement the methods used in this study.