Do caracals eat livestock?

Caracals take livestock such as sheep and goats in South Africa and the farmers retaliate
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Do caracals eat livestock? Yes, must be the answer but it depends where the caracal lives for obvious reasons because livestock has to be available to be taken. And in some parts of South Africa, the caracal has a reputation for killing livestock. Further, this obviously annoys South African farmers who retaliate.

It should be said, however, that South Africans tend (I’m not going to generalise) to have a less than optimal relationship with wild animals because, for instance, they are well known for breeding lions to be shot by trophy hunters within enclosures. This is canned lion hunting. It is cruel and brutal.

I will carry on with caracals killing livestock. Caracals are known to indulge in surplus killing. This, by the way, is a trait for which the mountain lion is well known as another example.

In a study conducted in Cape Province South Africa, there were 79 incidents of domestic stock killed by caracals. Of these, 17 involved the killing of two or more animals. Twenty-one goats were killed in a single spree of killing.

In another study/report two caracals killed 22 sheep. In most cases of surplus killing, the victims were confined to pens or along fence lines. Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their book Wild Cats of the World state that, “Caracals rarely feed on the carcasses of sheep and goats left after these killing sprees.”

I’ll return to the farmers of South Africa. In one episode, a group of farmers used dogs to systematically hunt down caracals. The dogs managed to kill 103 caracals. The stomach contents were checked. Roughly half contained the remains of sheep and goats. About 25% were empty. The remaining 25% contained hyraxes or the prey was unidentifiable.

Thus, confirming that caracals kill livestock. However, in this episode, the farmers actively pursued caracals known for killing livestock so the statistics are distorted by that fact.

In another similar episode, 394 caracals were killed during a control operation i.e. deliberate killing of caracals to control the numbers to prevent predation on livestock. In this episode, 37% of the stomachs were empty. Twenty-eight percent of the stomachs held the remains of goats and sheep. About 33% contained the remains of larger ungulates (hooved animals) and most of the remainder contained rodents at 9.8%, hares and hyraxes at 13.7%, and birds at 8.1%.

As is typical of domestic cats, caracals also like occasionally to eat vegetation and about 5% of the stomachs contained grass.

The studies referred to are as follows:

  • Felids in Israel dated 1989 by H. Mendelssohn
  • The incidence of surplus killing by Panthera Pardus and Felis caracal in Cape Province, South Africa dated 1986 by CT Stuart and GC Hickman
  • Prey of caracal Felis caracal into areas of Cape province, South Africa dated 1991 by CT Stuart and GC Hickman.
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