Feral cats pose a new threat to blue penguins

17603-a-cat-licking-his-mouth-pv - free stock photosAn injured penguin found beside the highway at Awatuna in late July was found to have been attacked by a cat.

The injuries were serious enough that the Hokitika Vets decided the bird should be euthanized.  This is the first record of a penguin dying on the West Coast where a cat has been directly implicated.

It adds to evidence found by the Hokitika Department of Conservation in their work to locate and protect the Chesterfield skink last year.  Two feral cats were caught and put down as part of that work and, when dissected, one was found to have penguin feathers in its stomach.

Feral cats were not thought to be a threat to penguins on the West Coast until now although they have been recorded as having killed blue penguins in Stewart Island, on Banks Peninsula and in Victoria. 

West Coast Penguin Trust Chair, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, said the West Coast penguin mortality database, maintained in conjunction with DOC, has been dominated by vehicles with dogs in second place.  “This is the first time a cat has appeared as the cause of death and has alerted us to a new threat.  This sad story has been a reminder that penguins are present in unlikely places, including the highway, and that we need to be vigilant to new threats.” 

Sadly, the day after this penguin was found beside the State Highway, another was found on the same road, killed by a vehicle just north of Hokitika.  You can read our Letter to the Editor, Hokitika Guardian, 26 July 2015, highlighting the need to be aware of the presence of penguins on coastal roads. 

[NB Beautiful cat photo taken from freestockphotos.biz simply to illustrate the news item.]