Living in harmony with caracals and other wildlife
We receive frequent calls requesting assistance with "problem" caracals. Often, no specific problems have arisen– rather one has been spotted and feared that it will become a "problem." Or perhaps a pet has gone missing, and a caracal is presumed to be responsible. Read below for a list of common questions we get and our answers:
Will you capture and relocate a caracal?
Trapping and relocating individuals is often thought of as a humane-solution to current or potential conflict with predatory species. However, we strongly advocate for other solutions, and only under exceptionally rare circumstances, advocate for relocation as an option.
The truth about capture and relocations
- Trapping is stressful to animals and they could injure themselves in the process. They may chew on cage bars and break their teeth. If a trap is improperly set or infrequently monitored, a trapped animal could severely cause bodily injury that would affect its ability to hunt.
- If a female is trapped, she may have kittens she is tending nearby, and without her, the kittens may die, depending on their age. If a kitten is captured, on the other hand, and moved, it will be moved away from its care-taker.
- By Cape Nature law, relocation is to occur approximately 3-5 km from the capture location. We have noted that male caracals have home ranges exceeding 70 square km. Thus, by moving an individual a relatively short distance, in no time, that trapped caracal will be right back to the area it was originally trapped.
- Where there is one caracal, there are often others. Thus, trapping and relocating one caracal will not solve the "caracal problem."
- If you want to trap and relocate because you want to protect fowl, livestock, or pets, you will persistently have to trap to try to manage the safety of your free-roaming domestic animals, in particular because caracals are not the only predators that prey on domestic animals! (See below)
So, when asked if we will capture and relocate caracals, we first respond with our own question – is there a problem you've noted, and if so, what makes you think there is a "problem" caracal in the area? These are important questions when considering solutions that are not necessarily humane, and do not actually solve issues long-term.
Are caracals responsible for disappearing cats?
Caracals are opportunistic predators that will prey on a variety of bird and mammal species. While we know that caracals will feed on domestic cats and dogs, there are numerous factors that can lead to the disappearance of domestic pets and livestock. For example, the most frequent cause of death for domestic cats in urban areas is being hit by cars! These deaths are not always seen however. Cats hit by cars may be scavenged, be knocked off a road when hit by a car, and people will take dead animals found alongside roads (we've learned this after extensive efforts to collect roadkill). The absence of proof of a pet being hit by a car is therefore not proof of death due to predation.
Additionally, caracals are not the only predatory species capable of feeding on domestic cats. Within Table Mountain National Park, other predatory species include small gray mongoose, water mongoose, and large spotted genets. Conceivably, any of these predatory species could also prey on domestic cats. In fact, genets and mongoose are far more numerous than caracals, and are also very adaptable to habitat modification. Just because you have seen a caracal in your area simultaneous to pet losses, it does not mean that caracals are responsible.
When we are asked about the danger caracals pose to pets, we also like to remind pet owners that their pets may even pose more risk to wildlife:
Humans, pets, and their effects on wildlife
- Human activities (e.g. habitat modification, roads and traffic, recreation, and ownership of domestic animals) near protected parklands affect wildlife in many ways
- Residents that live near protected park areas often express concern about the effects wildlife may have on their pets, including potential predation on domestic cats and dogs but rarely express concern for the effects their domestic animals may have on wild species
- Domestic cats and dogs can have big impacts on wildlife including by spreading disease and by preying on wildlife
- Free-ranging domestic cats (including pet indoor/outdoor cats) are considered one of the most important conservation threats for birds and mammals in numerous countries where the issue has been investigated
News articles that discuss subject:
A University of Cape Town study on the effects of domestic cats on wildlife in South Africa also found domestic cats to be a serious conservation threat locally
- Studies have shown that the primary cause of death for domestic cats that roam outdoors is being hit by cars
How can I keep my pets safe from potential wildlife predation?
- Preventative measures are the only foolproof way to protect your pets
- Keeping your pets indoors protects them from a much more probable danger– being hit by a car
- Keep your pets indoors. If they roam free, try to at least keep them indoors at night when predatory species are more active
- If you have fowl such as chickens and ducks, put them in a coop. By having free-roaming pets and livestock, you invite predatory species to come close to residential areas
- Do not feed or water wildlife
- Spay or neuter you pets to reduce unwanted kittens and lower the number of stray/feral animals. Roaming animals will attract predators to your area
Why do cats eat cats?