Similarities and contrasts in the diets of foxes, Vulpes vulpes, and cats, Felis catus, relative to fluctuating prey populations after drought

The diets of the fox, Vulpes vulpes, and feral cat, Felis catus, were studied at Yathong Nature Reserve in semi-arid western New South Wales. The overall occurrence of rabbit was 45.1% in stomachs of foxes and 54.0% in cats, representing 51.3 and 82.6% respectively of the weight of stomach contents. Both predators exhibited a functional response to rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, (their staple prey) during the rabbit breeding season. Predation on rabbits was greatest on an increasing prey population during good pasture conditions and a decreasing population during drought. After the rabbit breeding season, diet changed to other prey and resulted in an annual prey cycle which was similar for foxes and cats. Both predators successfully co-exist in the semi-arid environment by primarily utilising different age groups of the same staple prey and to some extent different supplementary prey. Foxes mainly ate adult rabbits and cats young rabbits. During the drought foxes preyed heavily on adult rabbits; cats ate some rabbits but relied heavily on other food sources. The supplementary prey of foxes were invertebrates, birds, reptiles and carrion; small mammals and fruits opportunely eaten. Invertebrates, birds, reptiles and small mammals were supplementary prey for cats with carrion opportunely eaten.

Author Catling, P. C.
Year 1988
Secondary title Australian Wildlife Research
Volume 15
Number 3
Pages 307-317
Region NSW