RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Friday, January 22, 2010

Conservation Biologists must oppose Feral Cat Colonies

Ten conservation biologists have just published What Conservation Biologists Can Do to Counter Trap-Neuter-Return: Response to Longcore et al., an article in the latest issue of the journal Conservation Biology, urging conservation biologists to oppose the establishment and maintanence of feral cat colonies through trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs.

The article is not available for free online, but here are some quotes:
"By way of example, those of us who are conservation biologists should look to the evolutionary biology community. When local policies or regulations are put forth that promote the teaching of creationism or intelligent design, the evolutionary biologists have responded in force from across the nation and world. Such responses have been successful in defeating the attempts to favor the teaching of creationism or intelligent design and serve to remind the public that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the theory of evolution. We the conservation community should consider the issue of TNR in the same light and challenge such propositions when they are raised. Without such challenges by those of us who are knowledgeable about the subject, we simply allow the use of tNR to grow and thereby gain further acceptance"

And this:
"The animal welfare community opposes "cat hoarding," whereby people care more for pets than they can adequately support, because it is considered inhumane. Trap-neuter-return is essentially cat hoarding without walls. Considering that most communities have laws banning animal hoarding, we should consider the same standard for outdoor cats as those that are in a person's home."

Here are the actions the authors propose:

1) Conservation professionals should "open dialogues with the animal welfare, sheltering, veterinary, adn public-health communities" to "promote animal welfare and reduce cat overpopulation"

2) Challenge policies promoting feral cat colonies and TNR

3) Advocate for policies that endcourage responsible pet ownership--including "requiring licenses for cats, substantially decreasing unwanted breeding of pet cats through mandatory or subsidized spaying and neutering, and requiring cats to be kept under their owners control at all times when outdoors."

4) If needed, seek legal recourse against TNR and feral cat colonies as violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act, as well as laws prohibiting animal abandonment

5) "Seek laws making it illegal to maintain cat colonies on public lands"

6) Increase public awareness about responsible pet ownership

7) Recognize as conservation professionals that depredation of wildlife species is still a major concern even where wildlife populations are currently still intact--the time to reduce predation is now before the problem gets even worse.


PurpleMartins-R-Us said...

When we all grow the bravery needed to confront these cat groups and TNR vocalists, then maybe we, as birders and conservationists, can finally start to make a difference. As it is now, law makers, congressman, city commisioners, only here the TNR side of the story. Thus we have the problem that exists today with free roaming cats plundering our backyard habitats.
GREAT article!

Sheryl said...

The data do not support claims that feral cats kill millions of birds annually. According to Alley Cat Allies, "while many studies have shown that cats do not have a detrimental impact on wildlife on continents, there are several who feel that cats are to blame for the depletion of songbirds and other animals. Two studies most often quoted are the Stanley Temple study and the Churcher /Lawton study. Some groups use these studies in misguided efforts to discredit the work of TNR groups to humanely control feral cats. Over sixty studies have been done on different continents all showing three very important points:

• Cats are opportunistic feeders, eating what is most easily available. Feral cats are scavengers, and many rely on garbage and hand-outs from people.

• Cats are rodent specialists. Birds make up a only small percentage of their diet when they rely solely on hunting for food.

• Cats may prey on a population without destroying it. If this weren't so, we would no longer have any mice around.

Even though some cats can become efficient hunters and do kill birds, many international biologists agree that only on small islands do cats possibly pose a severe threat to the wildlife populations. They agree with biologist C.J. Mead that 'Any bird populations on the continents that could not withstand these levels of predation from cats and other predators would have disappeared long ago...'

And finally, while many concentrate their efforts on blaming cats, the real culprit homo sapiens, goes free; continuing the destruction of habitat, hunting and killing, and using pesticides that endanger entire populations of wildlife, including millions of birds. Experts who have studied predation do not lay the blame on cats."

birdchaser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
birdchaser said...

Sheryl, unfortunately Alley Cat Allies is not a reliable source on this and the data does show that collectively, the large number of outdoor and especially feral cats do kill huge numbers of songbirds.

We have measured songbird predation by cats several times in various places across the U.S., and the studies show that on average each cat will kill 10 birds a year (they kill many more rodents and other small animals). That is an average. Some kill more, some kill less. But on average, each free-roaming cat kills about 10 birds a year.

That doesn't seem like a lot of birds (less than one killed per/month), but multiply that by about 100,000,000 free-ranging cats (a conservative estimate based on census data of cat ownership and local cat populations) and you've got a billion birds being killed annually.

Granted, these are extrapolations--but these are based on real measured numbers.

To put this number of killed birds in perspective, there are only an estimated 20 billion individual birds in North America during the fall migration when the population is at it's peak after the breeding season. Perhaps a little over half of that in the spring. So cats are killing 5% of all individual birds in North America each year.

That's a lot of dead birds.

Alley Cat Allies has misrepresented the extent of the bird and wildlife kill by cats to support TNR. Sorry, but real science doesn't back up their claims.

Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites