Biological Invasions

, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 1915–1927 | Cite as

Quantifying fine-scale resource selection by introduced feral cats to complement management decision-making in ecologically sensitive areas

  • Mariano R. Recio
  • Renaud Mathieu
  • Emilio Virgós
  • Philip J. Seddon
Original Paper


The feral domestic cat (Felis catus) is considered to be one of the most damaging introduced predators, responsible for the decline and extinction of numerous native species. Advanced satellite technologies enable the study of resource selection by small mammals at fine-scales through remote data. These tools can improve understanding of the spatial ecology of introduced predators in ecologically sensitive areas, such as where cats pose a threat to native species and where improvement of predator control methods is required. We studied fine-scale resource selection by feral cats in the ecologically important New Zealand braided-river ecosystem, where they pose a risk to endangered native ground-nesting birds. We collected 34 location datasets from 21 cats fitted with lightweight global positioning system-collars, and extracted landscape variables from a resource map created using very high spatial resolution satellite imagery (Quickbird) and object-base imagery analysis for image classification. We modelled second-order seasonal and annual resource selection functions and characterized landscape composition of highly-used areas using compositional analysis. At a population level, cats generally selected fine-scale landscapes that are important for their primary prey rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and for refugia. An external validation of the annual model using data from cats tracked in an independent study showed a positive correlation with model predictions. Individual cats also visited habitats used by native ground-nesting birds, and thus pose a threat to them through secondary predation or individual specialization. Cat control operations should therefore focus around areas of concentrated ground-nesting bird activity and in areas identified as high-use by cats.


Feral cats Braided-river Spatial ecology GPS-telemetry Remote sensing New Zealand 



We thank Richard Maloney and the Department of Conservation Twizel for logistic support. The ranger Simon Stevenson. To the Godley Peaks and Lylibank Station for access permission to their lands. To David and Cecilia Latham for valuable comments on this article. Trevor Wiens for model validation assistance. To two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. This project was conducted under University of Otago Animal Ethics Approval 14/08, funded by a Department of Zoology Research Grant (PJS), and School of Surveying Research Funds (PBRF). Mariano R. Recio was funded by a University of Otago Ph.D. scholarship and by MSI Grant UOOX09043 to PS.


  1. Aebischer NJ, Robertson PA, Kenward RE (1993) Compositional analysis of habitat use from animal radio-tracking data. Ecology 74:1313–1325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Araujo MS, Bolnick DI, Layman CA (2011) The ecological causes of individual specialization. Ecol Lett 14:948–958PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benz UC, Hofmann P, Willhauck G, Lingenfelder I, Heynen M (2004) Multi-resolution, object-oriented fuzzy analysis of remote sensing data for GIS-ready information. ISPRS J Photogramm 58:239–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berkeley EP (1982) Maverick cats: encounters with feral cats. Walker, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Bjørneraas K, van Moorter B, Rolandsen CM, Herfindal I (2010) Screening Global Positioning System location data for errors using animal movement characteristics. J Wild Manag 74:1361–1366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blackburn TM, Cassey P, Duncan RP, Evans KL, Gaston KJ (2004) Avian extinction and mammalian introductions on oceanic islands. Science 305:1955–1958PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bonnaud E, Medina FM, Vidal E, Nogales M, Tershy B, Zavaleta E, Donlan C, Keitt B, Le Corre M, Horwath SV (2010) The diet of feral cats on islands: a review and a call for more studies. Biol Invasions 13:581–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boyce MS, Vernier PR, Nielsen SE, Schmiegelow FKA (2002) Evaluating resource selection functions. Ecol Model 157:281–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradshaw JWS (1992) The behaviour of the domestic cat. C.A.B. International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  10. Buller WL (1905) Supplement to the birds of New Zealand, vol 2. Buller, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference, 2nd edn. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Cameron BG, van Heezik Y, Maloney RF, Seddon PJ, Harraway JA (2005) Improving predator capture rates: analysis of river margin trap site data in the Waitaki Basin, New Zealand. New Zeal J Ecol 29:117–128Google Scholar
  13. Congalton R (1991) A review of assessing the accuracy of classifications of remotely sensed data. Remote Sens Environ 37:35–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Courchamp F, Chapuis JL, Pascal M (2003) Mammal invaders on islands: impact, control and control impact. Biol Rev 78:347–383PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Definiens (2010) eCognition Developer 8.0.1—user guide, 1.2.1 ed. Definiens AG, MunichGoogle Scholar
  16. Duckworth JA, Byrom AE, Fisher P, Horn C (2006) Pest control: does the answer lie in new biotechnologies? In: Allen RB, Lee WG (eds) Biological invasions in New Zealand. Springer, Berlin, pp 422–434Google Scholar
  17. Estes LD, Reillo PR, Mwangi AG, Okin GS, Shugart HH (2010) Remote sensing of structural complexity indices for habitat and species distribution modeling. Remote Sens Environ 114:792–804CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fernandez N (2005) Spatial patterns in European rabbit abundance after a population collapse. Landscape Ecol 20:897–910CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fitzgerald BM, Karl BJ (1988) The diet of domestic cats and their impact on preypupulations. In: Turner D, Bateson P (eds) The domestic cat: the biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  20. Flux JEC (1965) Timing of the breeding season in the hare, Lepus europaeus Pallas, and rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.). Mammalia 29:557–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fretwell TJ, LaRue MA, Paul Morin P, Kooyman GL, Wienecke B, Ratcliffe N, Fox AJ, Fleming AH, Porter C, Trathan PN (2012) An emperor penguin population estimate: the first global, synoptic survey of a species from space. PLoS ONE 7(4):e33751PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Getz WM, Fortmann-Roe S, Cross PC, Lyons LJ, Ryan SJ, Wilmers CC (2007) LoCoH: nonparameteric kernel methods for constructing home ranges and utilization distributions. PLoS ONE 2(2):e207PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gillies C (2001) Advances in New Zealand mammalogy 1990–2000: house cat. J Roy Soc New Zeal 31:205–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gillies C, Fitzgerald BM (2005) The feral cat. In: King CM (ed) The handbook of New Zealand mammals. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp 294–307Google Scholar
  25. Gillies CS, Hebblewhite M, Nielsen SE, Krawchuk MA, Aldridge CL, Frair JL, Saher DJ, Stevens CE, Jerde CL (2006) Application of random effects to the study of resource selection by animals. J Anim Ecol 75:887–898PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heather B, Robertson H (2005) The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Penguin Group, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Hebblewhite M, Haydon DT (2010) Distinguishing technology from biology: a critical review of the use of GPS telemetry data in ecology. Philos Trans R Soc B 365:2303–2312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hirzel AH, Le Lay G, Helfer V, Randin C, Guisan A (2006) Evaluating the ability of habitat suitability models to predict species presences. Ecol Model 199:142–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hosmer DW, Lemeshow S (2000) Applied logistic regression. Wiley, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Howlin S, Erickson WP, Nielson RM (2004). A validation technique for assessing predictive abilities of resource selection functions. In: Western Ecosystem Technologies, Inc. (ed) Proceedings of the first international conference on resource selection laramie, Wyoming, January 13–15, 2003. Resource Selection Methods and Applications. Western, EcoSystems Technology, Inc., Cheyenne, Wyoming, pp 40–51Google Scholar
  31. Hurford A (2009) GPS measurement error gives rise to spurious 180° turning angles and strong directional biases in animal movement data. PLoS ONE 4:e5632PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ims RA (1995) Movement patterns related to spatial structures. In: Hansson L, Fahrig L, Merriam G (eds) Mosaic landscapes and ecological processes. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 85–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. IUCN (2013) IUCN red list of threatened species. Version 2013.1. Accessed 24 Sept 2013
  34. Johnson D (1980) The comparison of usage and availability measurements for evaluating resource preference. Ecology 61:65–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnson CJ, Seip DR, Boyce MS (2004) A quantitative approach to conservation planning: using resource selection functions to map the distribution of mountain caribou at multiple spatial scales. J Appl Ecol 41:238–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. King CM (2005) Editor’s introduction. In: King CM (ed) The handbook of New Zealand mammals. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp 1–25Google Scholar
  37. Lowe SJ, Browne M, Boudjelas S (2000) 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species. IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), AucklandGoogle Scholar
  38. Manly BFJ, McDonald LL, Thomas DL, McDonald TL, Erickson WP (2002) Resource selection by animals: statistical design and analysis for field studies, 2nd edn. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  39. McGarigal K, Marks BJ (1995) FRAGSTATS: spatial pattern analysis program for quantifying landscape structure. Gen Tech Rep PNW-GTR-351, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  40. McGlone MS (2006) Becoming New Zealanders: immigration and the formation of the biota. In: Allen RB, Lee WG (eds) Biological invasions in New Zealand. Springer, Berlin, pp 17–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Norbury G, Reddiex B (2005) European rabbit. In: King C (ed) The handbook of New Zealand mammals. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp 131–158Google Scholar
  42. Norbury GL, Norbury DC, Heyward RP (1998) Space use and denning behaviour of wild ferrets (Mustela furo) and cats (Felis catus). New Zeal J Ecol 22:149–159Google Scholar
  43. R Development Core Team (2008) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  44. Recio MR, Seddon PJ (2013) Understanding determinants of home range behaviour of feral cats as introduced apex predator in insular ecosystems: a spatial approach. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. doi:10.1007/s00265-013-1605-7 Google Scholar
  45. Recio MR, Mathieu R, Maloney R, Seddon PJ (2010) First results of feral cats (Felis catus) monitored with GPS collars in New Zealand. New Zeal J Ecol 34:288–296Google Scholar
  46. Recio MR, Mathieu R, Denys P, Sirguey P, Seddon PJ (2011a) Lightweight GPS-tags, one giant leap for wildlife tracking? An assessment approach. PLoS ONE 6(12):e28225PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Recio MR, Mathieu R, Seddon PJ (2011b) Design of a GPS backpack to track European hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus. Eur J Wildl Res 57:1175–1178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Recio MR, Mathieu R, Hall GB, Moore AB, Seddon PJ (2013a) Landscape resource mapping for wildlife research using very high resolution satellite imagery. Methods Ecol Evol. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12094 Google Scholar
  49. Recio MR, Mathieu R, Latham MC, Latham ADM, Seddon PJ (2013b) Quantifying fine-scale resource selection by introduced European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in ecologically sensitive areas. Biol Invasions 15:1807–1818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rettie WJ, McLoughlin PD (1999) Overcoming radiotelemetry bias in habitat-selection studies. Can J Zool 77:1175–1184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Richter R (1998) Correction of satellite imagery over mountainous terrain. Appl Optics 37:4004–4015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sanders MD, Maloney RF (2002) Causes of mortality at nests of ground-nesting birds in the Upper Waitaki Basin, South Island, New Zealand: a 5-year video study. Biol Conserv 106:225–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sinclair ARE, Pech RP (1996) Density dependence, stochasticity, compensation and predator regulation. Oikos 75:164–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Smith PG (2003) Compositional analysis Excel tool user’s guide. Version 5.0. 1, Bettws Cottage, Bettws, Abergavenny, NP7 7LG, UKGoogle Scholar
  55. Tapia L, Domínguez J, Rodríguez L (2010) Modelling habitat use by Iberian hare Lepus granatensis and European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus in a mountainous area in northwestern Spain. Acta Theriol 55:73–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Toutin T (2004) Geometric processing of remote sensing images: models, algorithms and methods. Int J Remote Sens 25:1893–1924CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Urban D (2005) Modeling ecological processes across scales. Ecology 86:1996–2006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Virgós E, Cabezas-Diaz S, Malo A, Lozano J, Lopez-Huertas D (2003) Factors shaping European rabbit abundance in continuous and fragmented populations of central Spain. Acta Theriol 48:113–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. White GC, Bennetts RE (1996) Analysis of frequency count data using the negative binomial distribution. Ecology 77:2549–2557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wiens TS, Dale BC, Boyce MS, Kershaw GP (2008) Three way k-fold cross-validation of resource selection functions. Ecol Model 212:244–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariano R. Recio
    • 1
    • 2
  • Renaud Mathieu
    • 3
  • Emilio Virgós
    • 4
  • Philip J. Seddon
    • 2
  1. 1.School of SurveyingUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  3. 3.Earth Observation Research GroupCSIR-Natural Resource EnvironmentPretoriaSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of Biology and Geology, College of Experimental Science and TechnologyUniversidad Rey Juan CarlosMóstolesSpain

Personalised recommendations