Activity of squirrels and rabbits to domestic cats in Detroit, MI – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Activity of squirrels and rabbits to domestic cats in Detroit, MI

Indira Sankaran


Pronouns: she/her/hers

Research Mentor(s): Nyeema Harris
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 4 (2pm-2:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 8
Presenter: 7

Event Link


Domestic cats are known invasive predators on small mammals and birds in urban areas. Due to domestic cats’ presence, concerns have raisen given the detrimental impact these pets can have on the local wildlife of metropolitan cities. In this study, we analyzed the temporal avoidance of squirrels (Sciurus niger, Sciurus carolinensis) and cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) to the presence of domestic cats (Felis catus) in Detroit Michigan. We expected squirrels and cottontail rabbits will shift their daily activity in the presence of domestic cats. Using camera traps throughout 25 urban parks, we collected trap success or the photos that captured each species’ images for domestic cats, eastern fox squirrels, and cottontail rabbits. In this study, we used data from October 2018-February 2019, and created temporal overlap graphs using Program R. We obtained 460 detections of rabbits, 3261 detections of squirrels, and 195 detections of domestic cats. We found that rabbits have more temporal overlap with domestic cats than squirrels, which could place rabbits at a higher predation risk. In order to further this analysis, we will also need to study the spatial avoidance of the species in order to see the overall impact of domestic cats on local wildlife. Additional actions are needed to investigate and manage the effects of domestic pets on urban wildlife.

Authors: Dr. Nyeema Harris, EEB, Indira Sankaran, student researcher, EEB
Research Method: Data Collection and Analysis

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