Fish & Game study finds loads of feral cats hunting near duck nests

It is coming up to game bird season, and if you are lacking in ducks or other game birds there is a good chance that it is because of feral cats.

New research by Fish & Game shows that more than ever we need to promote the Morgan Score for feral cats.

Fish & Game rangers were caught off guard when a recent study they did found an abundance of feral cats hunting on central Southland farmland.

Fish & Game field officer Erin Garrick said 25 game cameras were set up on farmland at Lochiel with the hope of identifying what sort of predators were out hunting and where they were doing it.

Cameras were set up in places like road edges, shelterbelts and ditches, close to where ducks would nest.

The farmers living in the neighbouring areas had been visited so that any pet cats could be identified if they were caught on camera.

Most of the farmers believed that their cats did not leave their backyard, Garrick said.

One cat that was known to belong to a local farmer was seen on more than half the cameras that were set, which was almost 2km from the farmer’s house.

When they visited the farmer to show them their cat was getting around at night, they still did not believe it was their cat caught on camera, Garrick said.

Almost all of the cameras had captured images of cats and Fish & Game staff were able to identify at least 18 different cats.

One camera alone captured footage of at least 8 feral cats.

The expectation was that they would see a lot of stoats so it was surprising to find such an abundance of cats, Garrick said.

In a previous study Garrick had done on ducks and how they coped with raising ducklings, she found that up to 20 per cent of female ducks were killed on the nest by stoats and feral cats.

During a two year period, 75 female ducks were tagged with transmitters to monitor their breeding and nesting behaviour.

In the first year of the study, 20 per cent of females were killed on the nest and in the second year 15 per cent.

This year, the opening weekend for duck shooting season would fall on May 5 and 6.

It was looking like an average year for the duck population compared to the last couple of years when there had been huge numbers, Garrick said.

The bag limit for opening weekend is 20 per day.

The rest of the season from May 7 to July 29 the bag limit is 10 per day.

Readers of The Wild know what to do, get out there and nails some feral cats. Send us a video or photos of your measurements and be in to win a prize.

This video shows how to properly measure for the Morgan Score: