Managing feral cats through an adaptive framework in an arid landscape.
Adaptive management is the systematic acquisition and application of reliable information to improve natural resource management over time. We have employed an adaptive management framework in the control and monitoring of feral cats (Felis catus) on the Matuwa Indigenous Protected Area over the past 16 years. We used 120 Reconyx PC900 camera-traps and a rapid survey technique called the cat track activity index (TAI) to determine if aerial baiting with Eradicat® was more efficient and/or cost-effective than track baiting plus leg-hold trapping. We found that aerial baiting at $0.54 per percent decrease in cat detections is more cost-effective than track-baiting alone at $0.56 per percent decrease in cat detections. Track baiting plus leg-hold trapping, however, is more cost-effective than aerial baiting alone at reducing the number of feral cats detections at $0.39 per percent decrease in cat detections. Aerial baiting plus trapping was the most effective method of suppressing feral cats in an arid landscape with 97.7% reduction in cat detections. Trapping reduced the proportion of the population made up of adult cats from 51.5% to 38.7%, which may influence the efficacy of Eradicat®. Additionally, we found that cats were twice as likely to be detected on spinifex sandplain habitats than stony or hardpan habitats. We make several recommendations for refining feral cat management programs and future research.