Shidao pouch shrew captured in Xihe Reserve during routine animal monitoring in April 2022.
Image credit: Scientific Reports/Pat Hodgens
It is estimated that there are only about 500 Shidao shrews left on Kangaroo Island. The island was severely damaged in the 2019-2020 wildfires, with about 98% of the shrew habitat severely burned. While the hunting of stray cats poses a significant risk to many native Australian species, it has not yet been confirmed whether cats pose a threat to the critically endangered shrew.
Researchers from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide, Australia, investigated the impact of stray cat predation on Shidao shrew, and assessed 86 shrew caught in a specially designated reserve on the island between February and August 2020. Stomach contents and digestive tract of stray cats. The cats were caught as part of the country’s National Stray Cat Control Program and euthanasia was carried out under the South Australian Animal Welfare Act. The team found the remains of eight shrews in the digestive systems of seven different cats (8.1 percent of the cats sampled).
This finding is the first confirmation that stray cats do hunt shrew, and given that few shrews were left after the wildfires, it shows that they hunt this species very efficiently. The team believes that the combined pressure of small and isolated populations, natural disasters such as wildfires, and the introduction of prey species such as stray cats may lead to the extinction of this vulnerable species. They highlight the need for continued control of stray cat populations in areas of threatened species’ habitat.