The Audubon Society really seems to like Feral Cats and their Management, a report (they suggest is peer reviewed) from the University of Nebraska extension service. It's a shame the Audubon Society isn't acting a bit more enlightened here.
I am for protecting birds, but if the actions of this report are followed through on (which I highly doubt they can be), I argue birds will not be saved from predation by feral cats - because the tactics suggested in the report are so flawed.
The report, which has been highly publicized and in some places highly touted, actually recommends catching feral (or otherwise owned cats) in traps which are considered barbaric by many (these are not the humane traps shelters use), and then once discovered in the trap (perhaps languishing injured in the trap) to shoot the cat.
The report even recommends appropriate firearms to use.
In defense of the report, the authors do suggest an integrative approach for dealing with feral cats, using various methods to trap and kill the cats.
Trap, Neuter, Return is listed as possible, but seems their least favorite, suggesting clearly TNR is not effective.
The Audubon piece notes that there are now numerous local ordinances all around America allowing for TNR.This includes the Cook County ordinance.
The Audubon story goes on to say something really interesting, here it is word per word:
"The (Cook County) report authors
don't think TNR alone will reduce the impact on birds. "No real-world
example of eliminating a colony through TNVR exists, and evidence of
large-scale colony reduction is anecdotal," they write. "Furthermore,
TNVR can cost over $100 per cat (including trapping, spaying/neutering,
vaccination, and transport), and the cats are still able to prey on
native birds and mammals."
I live in Cook County and I know better....here's what I know:
I knew Cook County veterinarian Dr. Parmer, who wrote the TNR ordinance (with others) quite well. Several of us had been urging him for some time to go ahead with this. He remained absolutely unconvinced TNR would work, and was also bothered by one individual who was pretty 'militant' (Chicagoans will know who this is).
He went to a conference, and like many in veterinary medicine, was ultimately swayed by facts, that TNR works.
I'm sure the Audobon Society didn't make what they wrote up - and I have no clue where it is from - but I had many conversations about TNR with Dr. Parmer, (and others) here. In fact, Dr. Parmer's was so adamant about TNR being passed, it became his dying wish. I was among a contingent who met with two supporting Cook County Commissioners here as well.
TNR (sometimes referred to now as TNVR - V is for vaccinate), Feral
cats are individually trapped and ear-notched to identify them as colony
members. The cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies (and in
some instances microchipped for further identification), then
Friendly cats are scanned for a microchip, and if apparently unowned put into a shelter to be adopted. Little kitties are adopted. If there are any very sick
cats in the colony, they are humanely euthanized.
Volunteer caretakers watch over the
colonies, processing any new arrivals and supplementing the colony's
food. While cats will still instinctively kill some birds, with a full
tummy they're not as driven. Unable to reproduce, colony members dwindle
Listen, I concede TNR is not perfect. But it's not the fault of TNR, per se. It's because some colonies are so overwhelmed with new cats being added all the time, mostly by residents who seek a place to dump cats they know will be cared for. Or because of controversies just like this; they volunteers, who are there for the cats, understandably don't want to get into political messes. They are, after all, only volunteers. And like any volunteer dependent program, sometimes too many volunteers are lost for no particular reason.
The biggest problem of all is that TNR is not instant soup - and people want instant answers, desperate to save birds.
Also, I wonder why organizations supporting protection of birds are not complaining about destruction of habitat and pollution, which are more significant factors threatening most birds.
I am sure there are instances of bird species seriously impacted by feral cats. I also believe cats can not fly. So the truth is
somewhere down the middle - dependent and the types of birds being
impacted by cats (ground nesters, for example, more at risk).
Truth is, I agree - our cats should be indoors, not only to protect birds (and other wildlife) but also for their own protection.
I love ideas like cat fencing (to maintain cats on your property), or Catios (like patios for cats). Again, not only beneficial to wildlife, but also beneficial to cats (it's wonderful enrichment, and safe).
However, this is a complex issue - as most are - and the seemingly simple solution of trapping (in pretty much any trap that will catch something), and pointing and shooting a weapon doesn't seem right. What's the lessen we're are teaching our children here? As the American Humane Association has pointed out, not only is this "solution" inhumane to cats, it's also potentially dangerous to people (who may be shot at by mistake).
Besides, as I note in a previous blog - strategies like those outlined by the University of Nebraska have never before worked, why would they now?
I am desperate to save birds as well, and wonder why instead of squawking and one another we are not all working together?
Tags: American Humane Association, birds, Cook County Veterinarian, Dr. Dan Parmer, endangered songbirds, feral cats, feral cats and their management, songbird deaths, songbirds, Steve Dale, Steve Dale archives, stray cats, TNR, trap neuter return, trapping cats, Tree House Humane Society, University of Nebraska