, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 195-204

Seasonal and sex-specific prey composition of black-footed catsFelis nigripes

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During a 6-year field study on the game farm ‘Benfontein’ in the central Republic of South Africa 1725 prey items were observed consumed by 17 free-ranging habituated black-footed catsFelis nigripes Burchell, 1824. Average prey size was 24.1 g. Eight males fed on significantly larger prey (27.9 g) than 9 females (20.8 g). Fifty-four prey species were classified by their average mass into 8 different size classes, 3 for mammals, 3 for birds, 1 for amphibians/reptiles, and 1 for invertebrates. Small mammals (5–40 g) constituted the most important prey class (39%) of total prey biomass followed by larger mammals (>100 g; 17%) and small birds (<40 g; 16%). Mammals and birds pooled comprised 72% and 26% of total prey biomass, respectively, whereas invertebrates and amphibians/reptiles combined constituted just 2% of total prey mass consumed. Three seasons of 4-months duration were recognized. Heterotherm prey items were unavailable during winter, when larger birds and mammals (> 100 g) were mainly consumed. Small rodents like the large-eared mouseMalacothrix typica, captured 595 times by both sexes, were particularly important during the reproductive season for females with kittens. Male black-footed cats showed less variation between prey size classes consumed among climatic seasons. This sex-specific difference in prey size consumption may help to reduce intra-specific competition.
Associate Editor was Krzysztof Schmidt.