CBS Local — It’s not uncommon for cat owners to catch their four-legged friends doing a little hunting and leaving them a mauled bird on the doorstep. In Australia however, the feline hunters are reportedly racking up quite a body count. According to a new study, cats down under are killing over a million birds a day.
Researchers at Charles Darwin University say that wild cats alone are killing around 316 million birds a year on the continent. Another 61 million were picked off by pet cats. “Everyone knows that cats kill birds, but this study shows that, at a national level, the amount of predation is staggering,” lead researcher John Woinarski said.
It might be a natural instinct of cats to track down their feathered prey, but the study adds that the incredible kill rate in Australia is actually threatening some local bird species with extinction.
“We found records of cats killing 338 species of native birds, of which 71 were threatened species,” Sarah Legge of the Australian National University explained, via The Guardian. “That’s about 60 percent of the threatened species in Australia.”
Feral cats, which now have a population in the millions in Australia, have reportedly wiped out many local mammals since they were brought to the country from Europe nearly two hundred years ago.
“Australia is the only continent on Earth other than Antarctica where the animals evolved without cats, which is a reason our wildlife is so vulnerable to them,” threatened species commissioner Gregory Andrews added.
To protect the local birds from their furry predators, Australian officials have begun building a tremendous 170,000-acre cat-free zone in the country’s desert. The facility will reportedly give endangered animals a chance to repopulate and not end up on a cat owner’s doorstep.