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Virus-vectored immunocontraception to control feral cats on islands: a mathematical model

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Summary

1. Feral cats Felis catus introduced onto oceanic islands pose a major ecological threat to endemic vertebrates, but their control is difficult. Immunocontraception has not been considered previously as a method for their control or eradication, and therefore we used a modelling approach to assess whether virus-vectored immunocontraception (VVIC) might be effective.

2. We compared the relative efficiency of cat control/eradication using immunocontraception and three different disseminating techniques, i.e. baits, genetically modified viral vectors, or both. We accounted for several forms of dynamic compensation likely to arise in a population with artificially reduced fertility.

3. We conclude that, under the assumptions of our model, immunocontraception can control or eradicate feral cats on oceanic islands. VVIC was found to be a more efficient dissemination technique than baits, but an integrated method involving viral-infected baits was the most likely to lead to eradication.

4. We advocate field trials of this VVIC technique, when available, under island conditions where any risks to non-target fauna would be minimal.
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Keywords: Felis catus; VVIC; baits; biological control; introduced predator; island conservation; mammal pest

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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