Wild cats roaming island

17:00, Aug 19 2014
feral cat
DANGER ZONE: An infrared camera shows a feral cat stalking a dotterel nest in Whakanewha Regional Park in 2011.

Wild strays and feral cats continue to put pressure on volunteers to trap them before they kill off native birdlife.

Many unwanted felines are being dumped down the southern end of Waiheke Island near Whakanewha Regional Park - home to many species including the endangered New Zealand dotterel.

Senior conservation ranger for Whakanewha Ali Meade says one cat killed three adult dotterel in 2011 - almost half of the park's breeding population.

Minnie
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Minnie, a 12-week-old wild stray, was dying when she was brought to SPCA Waiheke Island, Michell Sanders says.

Auckland Council's regional parks staff capture on average five or six feral cats a year at Whakanewha.

"Dotterels nest on the ground and cats can have a devastating impact, as they eat eggs," Meade says.

"Cats also scare the adult birds off the nest leaving eggs and chicks exposed to the weather and other predators."

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Cats also prey on birds, skinks, geckos and insects - so effective cat control is important for protecting the environment, Meade says.

"We use live capture cat cages and soft jaw leg hold traps. This reduces the risk of accidentally killing non-target species or a domestic cat.

"They are placed around the dotterel breeding area on the beach. Cages and traps are checked first thing in the morning every day.

"If a domestic cat is caught they are returned to the owner or the SPCA."

Infrared cameras are used at Whakanewha to monitor predators, Meade says.

Resident Philip Tarr says he has been doing his bit to catch feral cats for 10 years.

Tarr says he kills the occasional cat but the problem is growing.

He says he has partnered with Forest and Bird to educate people about keeping domesticated cats well-fed to stop them from chasing dotterels.

SPCA centre manager and inspector Michell Sanders says one cat has the potential to have two litters of five kittens a breeding season.

Sanders urgers cat owners to get them desexed. She stresses it does not alter temperament or personality - common myths associated with desexing.

SPCA offers financial help for families wanting to desex their cats and is constantly looking for funding to make desexing free, Sanders says.

She says awareness of other predators, including stoats, weasels and hedgehogs, is also needed.

Auckland Council offers neighbours of Whakanewha cat collars or a $20 contribution towards microchipping.

Waiheke cat owners should keep their animals inside, especially at night, use a cat collar with a bell and identification tag, council says.

It advises people to use traps or bait to control rats and mice rather than relying on a cat, and to reconsider whether to replace a cat when it dies.

CUPCAKE DAY

The sweet SPCA fundraiser Cupcake Day returns this year on Monday (August 25).

SPCA Waiheke Island centre manager and inspector Michell Sanders says all money raised for the organisation on the island, stays on the island.

The funds are much needed after the SPCA was burgled last Saturday.

The thief got in about 3pm through the rear ranchslider door. They smashed the office door lock, Sanders says.

All the SPCA's money was taken.

"I feel like I've been suckerpunched." Call police on 372 1150 if you have any information.

The SPCA is calling for volunteer cooks to make batches of treats to sell on Cupcake Day.

Registrations are open at spcacupcakeday.co.nz.

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