Habitat selection of mammalian predators is known to be influenced by availability and distribution of prey. The habitat selection of feral cats on Stewart Island, southern New Zealand, was investigated using telemetry of radio-tagged cats. Compositional analysis of the habitat selection of radio-tagged cats showed they were using the available habitats non-randomly. Feral cats avoided subalpine shrubland and preferentially selected podocarp-broadleaf forest. The avoidance of subalpine shrubland by cats was probably due to a combination of the presence of a large aggressive prey species, Norway rats Rattus norvegicus, and the lack of rain-impervious shelter there. Most cats also used subalpine shrubland more often in dry weather than in wet weather. Cats did not preferentially select all the other habitats with only smaller rat species, Rattus rattus and Rattus exulans, present however. Cats were probably further influenced by the availability of large trees, in podocarp-broadleaf forest, that can provide shelter. Cats were also more active in dry rather than wet weather which supports this conclusion. Home ranges of feral cats on Stewart Island were some of the largest recorded, probably because of limited primary and alternative prey.
|Author||GRANT A. HARPER|
|Secondary title||Austral Ecology|
|Institution||University of Otago|