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Where the wild things aren't: Cats avoid places coyotes roam

Large-scale study sheds light on habits of 74 million U.S. cats

Date:
June 30, 2015
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Caught in the act: millions of images from citizen scientists show that free-ranging domestic cats do their hunting close to home in neighborhoods and small urban forests, avoiding areas with coyotes.
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FULL STORY

This camera trap image of a cat with a mouse in its mouth was one of millions collected by students and citizen scientists for the study.
Credit: Roland Kays, North Carolina State University

Domestic cats might be determined hunters, but they stick mostly to residential areas instead of venturing into parks and protected areas where coyotes roam. That's the key finding from a North Carolina State University analysis of more than 2,100 sites -- the first large-scale study of free-ranging cats in the U.S. published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

Why is it important to know where 74 million pet cats spend their time away from home?

"Domestic cats are estimated to kill billions of birds and small mammals each year," says lead author Roland Kays, a zoologist with NC State's College of Natural Resources and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. "Knowing where they hunt helps assess the risk to wildlife."

Kays and his colleagues used camera trap data collected by hundreds of students and citizen scientists in six Eastern states. They analyzed millions of images data from motion-sensitive cameras located in 32 protected sites and the urban neighborhoods of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Cats were concentrated in residential areas and small urban forests, such as those along Raleigh's greenway trails.

"We detected cats 300 times more often in residential yards, where coyotes are rare, than in parks," Kays says.

The more coyotes in an area, the less likely cats were to venture nearby. The one area where both cats and coyotes overlapped was small urban woodlots.

"Most parks had no cats at all," Kays says. "Our cameras photographed a single cat at some parks, but we only found evidence for more than one cat in two of the 32 parks we surveyed."

Another interesting finding: Cats that did venture into nature preserves kept the same nocturnal schedule as coyotes, while those in residential areas were diurnal.

The study is part of the eMammal project, which enables citizen scientists to collaborate with researchers at the Smithsonian Institution and NC State University to document animal activity.


Story Source:

Materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Roland Kays, Robert Costello, Tavis Forrester, Megan C. Baker, Arielle W. Parsons, Elizabeth L. Kalies, George Hess, Joshua J. Millspaugh, William McShea. Cats are rare where coyotes roam. Journal of Mammology, June 2015

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Where the wild things aren't: Cats avoid places coyotes roam: Large-scale study sheds light on habits of 74 million U.S. cats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150630202036.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2015, June 30). Where the wild things aren't: Cats avoid places coyotes roam: Large-scale study sheds light on habits of 74 million U.S. cats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150630202036.htm
North Carolina State University. "Where the wild things aren't: Cats avoid places coyotes roam: Large-scale study sheds light on habits of 74 million U.S. cats." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150630202036.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

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