Update: Rescuing Japan’s Pets

Some additional updates about pet rescue in the wake of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. Among the greatest challenges right now is keeping pets and owners together, as many shelters don’t allow pets.

  • The video above appears to be taken within 48 hours of the disaster—the last few seconds require no translation at all.
  • From the Animals in Disasters blog: “The Disaster Assessment Needs Analysis (DANA) estimates that between 16,000 and 19,000 pets are affected in two of the worst hit regions alone.”
  • From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: “I understand that saving people is the first priority, but we should not forget animals do provide mental support,” Ms. Gallaon-Aoki. “Some people lost everything, from their families to their house, and are left with nothing but their pets.”
  • From AFP, a story that I think typifies how many of us feel about our pets: “I can’t imagine not being here together. If anybody said to me I couldn’t keep Momo here, we would leave with her, we would go somewhere else.” Video available here.

How to help: In addition to the sources I mentioned previously, Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support—a coalition of three groups: HEART-Tokushima, Animal Garden Niigata, and Japan Cat Network—is accepting online donations via ChipIn!

(Thanks to reader Vicky Smith for all the links!)

Blowback

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
Sir Walter Scott

Wind turbine near Walnut, IowaWind turbine near Walnut, Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Bill Whittaker.

Two stories from New York Times writer Elisabeth Rosenthal caught my eye this past Monday. The first, “Tweety Was Right: Cats Are a Bird’s No. 1 Enemy”—the latest recounting of Pete Marra’s catbird research—reads more like a joint press release from ABC and the Smithsonian than it does a Times-worthy science story.

In the second piece, posted on the Green blog, Rosenthal weighs bird mortalities from wind turbines against the number of birds killed each year by cats: 440,000 compared to 500 million.

The figure for wind turbines comes, presumably, from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), while the estimate for annual cat kills comes from the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). Interestingly, I’ve been unable to locate anything on the USFWS Website to support the estimate attributed to that organization; in fact, the only place I’ve seen the connection made is on ABC’s Website.

Thanks to one of my devoted (and well-informed) readers, I need to correct this last point. In fact, the USFWS estimate comes from a 2009 paper (PDF available for download here) by Albert Manville, Senior Wildlife Biologist with USFWS.

Not that it makes a great deal of difference, I suppose—I don’t have much confidence in either ABC or USFWS.

Beyond the Numbers
Even setting aside for the moment the questionable accuracy of each mortality estimate, the comparison is still not as straightforward as it first appears. “If your interest is in protecting several iconic American bird species,” suggests Rosenthal, “the whooping crane, the golden eagle and the sage grouse—wind turbines are possibly the bigger problem.”

The greater sage-grouse, a species listed as Near-Threatened, and the whooping crane, officially Endangered, with perhaps fewer than 500 remaining in the wild, are of particular concern.

“In protecting America’s wildlife,” argues Robert Bryce in a 2009 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, “federal law-enforcement officials are turning a blind eye to the harm done by ‘green’ energy.” [1]

Bryce, who, according to his bio, “has been writing about the energy business since 1989,” says oil companies and electric utilities have often been sued under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. “Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies.” [1]

Like Bryce, Michael Fry, ABC’s Director for Conservation Advocacy, doesn’t care for this double standard. “Somebody has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free card,” he told Bryce. “If there were even one prosecution, the wind industry would be forced to take the issue seriously.” [1]

But there’s a certain irony in Fry’s complaint.

If the wind industry’s been given a “pass,” it’s due in no small part to ABC and their relentless campaign against free-roaming cats. Since at least 1997, when their Cats Indoors! program was launched, ABC has been telling anybody who would listen that free-roaming cats kill an extraordinary number of birds each year.

In so doing, ABC has given the wind industry one of its strongest arguments against making the kinds of changes ABC is now demanding.

The Marketing of the Wisconsin Study
Their undated brochure Domestic Cat Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife, for example, still available on the ABC Website, cites, among other apparently damning evidence, the infamous “Wisconsin Study”: “Rural free-roaming cats kill at least 7.8 million and perhaps as many as 217 million birds a year in Wisconsin. Suburban and urban cats add to that toll.” [2]

Not that ABC hasn’t had help. USFWS, too, has tried its best to legitimize these back-of-the-envelope “estimates,” settling on the researchers’ “most reasonable estimate” [3] of 39 million birds killed each year in Wisconsin for its publications on the subject. [4, 5]

And these efforts have paid off. For years now, news stories of birds killed by wind turbines have referred—sometimes directly, and sometimes not—to predation rates that Stanley Temple himself admitted “aren’t actual data.” [6]

A 2005 U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service report cites Coleman and Temple’s work specifically, [7] suggesting that their own “estimate of 100 million birds killed by cats on an annual basis” is therefore “highly conservative” by comparison. [8] According to the report:

“…annual bird mortality from anthropogenic sources may easily approach 1 billion birds a year in the U.S. alone. Buildings, power lines and cats are estimated to comprise approximately 82 percent of the mortality, vehicles 8 percent, pesticides 7 percent, communication towers 0.5 percent, and wind turbines 0.003 percent.” [8]

In Wind Power: Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife, also published in 2005, the Government Accountability Office offers no total for birds killed by wind turbines, but goes into detail regarding several other causes of mortality, including cats (“hundreds of millions of bird deaths”) using data from USFWS. [9]

Industry insiders, too, have been paying attention.

Wisconsin Focus on Energy, for example, uses Coleman and Temple’s figures to “put the situation in perspective”:

“Cats, both feral and domestic, also take their toll on birds. A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources report [3] states, ‘recent research suggests that rural free-ranging domestic cats in Wisconsin may be killing between 8 million and 217 million birds each year. The most reasonable estimates indicate that 39 million birds are killed in the state [Wisconsin] each year.’” [10]

Laurie Jodziewicz, communications and policy specialist for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) offered a similar perspective in a 2009 interview with Mother Earth News: “Even if we got 100 percent of our electricity from wind turbines, bird mortality wouldn’t be even close to that which is caused by communication towers, buildings, automobiles or even cats.” [11]

•     •     •

And the debate continues.

In a news release from earlier this month, ABC challenges AWEA’s estimates:

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has estimated that approximately 440,000 birds are already being killed each year by wind turbines, yet AWEA continues to assert that the death toll is less than one quarter of this. More importantly, the industry association ignores the fact that wind development is currently a tiny fraction of that proposed for 2030 when it is anticipated to kill a minimum of one million birds annually, and likely many more.”

Still, it’s a difficult argument to make on the basis of the numbers alone.

Perhaps the folks at ABC and USFWS might offer some perspective of their own—pointing out, for instance, that predators, cats included, tend to prey on unhealthy birds [12–15], whereas mortalities from non-predatory events—collisions with wind turbines, for example—tend to include healthy and unhealthy individuals alike. Or that cat owners are increasingly keeping their cats indoors—thus reducing their impact on wildlife. [16—18]

Or that the “Wisconsin Study” numbers are meaningless. Or that context matters.

It’s all true, of course, and it would bolster their case against the growing wind industry. On the other hand, ABC and USFWS would have to do the unthinkable: concede some of the very points TNR advocates have been making for years.

Literature Cited
1. Bryce, R. (2009, September 7). Windmills Are Killing Our Birds. The Wall Street Journal, from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203706604574376543308399048.html

2. ABC, Domestic Cat Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife. n.d., American Bird Conservancy: The Plains, VA. http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/materials/predation.pdf

3. Coleman, J.S., Temple, S.A., and Craven, S.R., Cats and Wildlife: A Conservation Dilemma. 1997, University of Wisconsin, Wildlife Extension. http://forestandwildlifeecology.wisc.edu/wl_extension/catfly3.htm

4. USFWS, Migratory Bird Mortality. 2002, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Arlington, VA. http://www.fws.gov/birds/mortality-fact-sheet.pdf

5. USFWS, Perils Past and Present : Major Threats to Birds Over Time. 2003, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Arlington, VA. http://www.fws.gov/birds/documents/PastandPresent.pdf

6. Elliott, J. (1994, March 3–16). The Accused. The Sonoma County Independent, pp. 1, 10.

7. Coleman, J.S. and Temple, S.A., On the Prowl, in Wisconsin Natural Resources. 1996, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Madison, WI. p. 4–8. http://dnr.wi.gov/wnrmag/html/stories/1996/dec96/cats.htm

8. Erickson, W.P., Johnson, G.D., and Jr., D.P.Y., A Summary and Comparison of Bird Mortality from Anthropogenic Causes with an Emphasis on Collisions (USDA Forest Service Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-191). 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/Asilomar/pdfs/1029-1042.pdf

9. GAO, Wind Power: Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife. 2005, U.S. Government Accountability Office: Washington, DC. www.gao.gov/new.items/d05906.pdf

10. Sagrillo, M., Wind turbines and birds: Putting the situation in perspective in Wisconsin. 2007, Wisconsin Focus on Energy. http://www.focusonenergy.com/Information-Center/Renewables/Fact-Sheets-Case-Studies/Wind.aspx

http://www.focusonenergy.com/files/document_management_system/renewables/windturbinesandbirds_factsheet.pdf

11. Rogers, A., Do Wind Turbines Really Kill Birds?, in Mother Earth News. 2009. http://www.motherearthnews.com/Renewable-Energy/Do-Wind-Turbines-Kill-Birds.aspx

12. Baker, P.J., et al., “Cats about town: is predation by free-ranging pet cats Felis catus likely to affect urban bird populations? Ibis. 2008. 150: p. 86-99. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bsc/ibi/2008/00000150/A00101s1/art00008

13. Møller, A.P. and Erritzøe, J., “Predation against birds with low immunocompetence.” Oecologia. 2000. 122(4): p. 500–504. http://www.springerlink.com/content/ghnny9mcv016ljd8/

14.  Gill, F.B., Ornithology. 3rd ed. 2007, New York: W.H. Freeman.

15. Klem, D., Glass: A Deadly Conservation Issue for Birds, in Bird Observer. 2006. p. 73–81. http://www.massbird.org/BirdObserver/index.htm

16. Clancy, E.A., Moore, A.S., and Bertone, E.R., “Evaluation of cat and owner characteristics and their relationships to outdoor access of owned cats.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2003. 222(11): p. 1541-1545. http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2003.222.1541

17. Lord, L.K., “Attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio.”Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2008. 232(8): p. 1159-1167. http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_232_8_1159.pdf

18. APPA, 2009–2010 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. 2009, American Pet Products Association: Greenwich, CT. http://www.americanpetproducts.org/pubs_survey.asp

It’s Not the Media, It’s the Message

To hear The Wildlife Society’s staunch opponents of TNR tell it, the media’s just not interested in stories about “the impacts of free-ranging and feral cats on wildlife.”

“This January when thousands of blackbirds fell from the sky in Arkansas, articles about mass extinctions and bird conservation were a dime-a-dozen. When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed 6,000 birds between April to October 2010, news organizations ran ‘Breaking News’ about the negative impacts on the environment. Meanwhile it is estimated that one million birds are killed everyday by cats, and the only news organizations covering it are small, local branches. The bigger problem is being shuffled to the backburner for more sensational news.”

According to The Wildlife Society (TWS), however, “the bigger problem” is “greater than almost any other single-issue.”

In their effort to get the issue on the front burner, TWS has “gathered the facts about these cats, and published them in the Spring Issue of The Wildlife Professional in a special section called ‘The Impact of Free Ranging Cats.’” (available free via issuu.com)

Thus armed, readers are expected to, as it says on the cover, “Pick One: Outdoor Cats or Conservation”

Back Burner or Hot Topic?
Before we get to the “facts,” it’s worth looking back over the past 15 months to see just how neglectful the media have been re: “the bigger problem.”

  • January 9, 2010: Travis Longcore, science director for the Urban Wildlands Group, tells Southern California Public Radio: “Feral cats are documented predators of native wildlife. We do not support release of this non-native predator into our open spaces and neighborhoods, where they kill birds and other wildlife.”
  • January 17, 2010 Longcore, whose Urban Wildlands Group was lead plaintiff in a lawsuit aimed to put an end to publicly supported TNR in Los Angeles, tells the L.A. Times: “It’s ugly; it’s gotten very vicious. It’s not like we’ve got a vendetta here. This is a real environmental issue, a real public health issue.” In the same story, American Bird Conservancy’s Senior Policy Advisor, Steve Holmer, tells the Times: “The latest estimates are that there are about . . . 160 million feral cats [nationwide]… It’s conservatively estimated that they kill about 500 million birds a year.”

  • September 30, 2010: “Scientists are quietly raging about the effects that cats, both owned and stray, are having on bird populations,” claims Washington Post columnist Adrian Higgins. “It’s not an issue that has received much attention, but with an estimated 90 million pet cats in the United States, two-thirds of them allowed outdoors, the cumulative effect on birds is significant, according to experts.” Higgins’ story is riddled with misinformation, courtesy of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), The Wildlife Society, and Dauphine and Cooper’s 2009 Partners in Flight paper.

“Palmer said one of the most ‘heartbreaking’ scenes during filming was at a volunteer spay-neuter clinic in Los Angeles that sterilized 80 ferals a day. She said most of the cats had infections that never healed, as well as broken bones, large abscesses around their teeth and mange.” (A claim easily discredited, if only the reporters had bothered to check.)

  • January 2011: Utah Representative Curtis Oda sponsors HB 210, which would permit “the humane shooting of an animal in an unincorporated area of a county, where hunting is not prohibited, if the person doing the shooting has a reasonable belief that the animal is a feral animal.”

Yet, the folks at TWS would have us believe that “the only news organizations covering [the cat-bird issue] are small, local branches.” As is often the case, their story doesn’t hold up well alongside the facts.

Indeed, other than when Higgins got Executive Director/CEO Michael Hutchins’ name wrong, it’s hard to see what TWS has to complain about.

The Art of Selling Science
“After years of arguments,” laments Nico Dauphine and Robert Cooper, recalling last year’s decision by Athens, GA, to adopt TNR, “the vote was cast: 9–1 in favor of the ordinance, with an additional 7–3 vote establishing a $10,000 annual budget to support the TNR program.”

“How could this happen in a progressive community like Athens, Georgia, home to one of the nation’s finest university programs in wildlife science? The answer is a complex mix of money, politics, intense emotions, and deeply divergent perspectives on animal welfare… If we’re going to win the battle to save wildlife from cats, then we’ll need to be smarter about how we communicate the science.” [1]

Something tells me this “smarter” communication doesn’t allow for much in the way of honesty and transparency—attributes already in short supply.

Old Habits
“The Impact of Free Ranging Cats” has given its contributors the opportunity to revive and reinforce a range of dubious claims, including the ever-popular exaggerations about the number of free-roaming cats in the environment.

According to Dauphine and Cooper, “The number of outdoor pet cats, strays, and feral cats in the U.S. alone now totals approximately 117 to 157 million,” [1] an estimate rooted in their earlier creative accounting. Colin Gillin, president of the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, who penned this issue’s “Leadership Letter” (more on that later), follows suit, claiming  “60 million or more pet cats are allowed outdoors to roam free.” [2]

The American Pet Products Association 2008 National Pet Owners Survey, though, indicates that 64 percent of pet cats are indoor-only during the daytime, and 69 percent are kept in at night [3]. Of those that are allowed outdoors, approximately half are outside for less than three hours each day. [4, 5]

This information is widely available—and has been for years—yet many TNR opponents continue to inflate by a factor of two the number of free-roaming pet cats.

And it only gets worse from here.

Dense and Denser
Not content to inflate absolute cat numbers, Dauphine and Cooper go on to misrepresent research into population demographics as well. “Local densities can be extremely high,” they write, “reaching up to 1,580 cats per square kilometer in urban areas.” [1] In fact, the very paper they cite paints a rather different picture. For one thing, there’s quite a range involved: 132–1,579 cats per square kilometer (a point recognized by Yolanda van Heezik, another contributor to the special issue [6].)

Also, this is a highly skewed distribution—there are lots of instances of low/medium density, while high densities are far less common. As a result, the median (417) is used “as a measure of central tendency” [7] rather than the mean (856). So, although densities “reaching up to 1,580 cats per square kilometer in urban areas” were observed, more than half fell between 132 and 417 cats per square kilometer (or 51–161 cats per square mile).

Even more interesting, however, are what Sims et al. learned when they compared bird density and cat density: in many cases, there were more birds in the very areas where there were more cats—even species considered especially vulnerable to predation by cats. It may be, suggest Sims et al., that, because high cat density corresponds closely to high housing density, this measure is also an indication of those areas “where humans provide more supplementary food for birds.” [7]

Another explanation: “consistently high cat densities in our study areas… and thus uniformly high impacts of cat populations on urban avian assemblages.” [7] (Interestingly, the authors never consider that they might be observing uniformly low impacts.)

The bottom line? It’s difficult enough to show a direct link between observed predation and population impacts; suggesting a causal connection between high cat densities and declining bird populations is misleading and irresponsible. (Not that Dauphine and Cooper are the only ones to attempt it; recall that no predation data from Coleman and Temple’s “Wisconsin Study” were ever published, despite numerous news stories in which Temple referred to their existence in some detail [8–10].)

Predation Pressure
Dauphine and Cooper make a similar leap when, to buttress their claim that “TNR does not reduce predation pressure on native wildlife,” [1] they cite a study not about predation, but about the home ranges of 27 feral cats on Catalina Island.

While it’s true that the researchers found “no significant differences… in home-range areas or overlap between sterilized and intact cats,” [11] this has as much due to their tiny sample size as anything else. And the difference in range size between the four intact males and the four sterilized males was—while not statistically significant—revealing.

The range of intact males was 33–116 percent larger during the non-breeding season, and 68–80 percent larger during the breeding season. In his study of “house-bound” cats, Liberg, too, found differences: “breeding males had ranges of 350–380 hectares; ranges of subordinate, non-breeding males were around 80 hectares, or not much larger than those of females.” [12]

All of which suggests smaller ranges for males that are part of TNR programs. What any of this has to do with “predation pressure on native wildlife,” however, remains an open question.

On the other hand, Castillo and Clarke (whose paper Dauphine and Cooper cite) actually documented remarkably little predation among the TNR colonies they studied. In fact, over the course of approximately 300 hours of observation (this, in addition to “several months identifying, describing, and photographing each of the cats living in the colonies” [13] prior to beginning their research), Castillo and Clarke “saw cats kill a juvenile common yellowthroat and a blue jay. Cats also caught and ate green anoles, bark anoles, and brown anoles. In addition, we found the carcasses of a gray catbird and a juvenile opossum in the feeding area” [13].

Another of Dauphine and Cooper’s “facts”—that “TNR does not typically reduce feral cat populations”—is contradicted by another one of the studies they cite. Contrary to what the authors suggest, Felicia Nutter’s PhD thesis work showed that “colonies managed by trap-neuter-return were stable in composition and declining in size throughout the seven year follow-up period.” [14]

Indeed, Nutter observed a mean decrease of 36 percent (range: 30–89 percent) in the six TNR colonies they studied over two years. By contrast, the three control colonies increased in size an average of 47 percent. [15]

Additional TNR success stories Dauphine and Cooper fail to acknowledge:

  • Natoli et al. reported a 16–32 percent decrease in population size over a 10-year period across 103 colonies in Rome—despite a 21 percent rate of “cat immigration.” [16]
  • As of 2004, ORCAT, run by the Ocean Reef Community Associa­tion (in the Florida Keys), had reduced its “overall population from approximately 2,000 cats to 500 cats.” [17] Accord­ing to the ORCAT Website, the population today is approximately 350, of which only about 250 are free-roaming.

Toxoplasma gondii
In recent years, Toxoplasma gondii has been linked to the illness and death of marine life, primarily sea otters [18], prompting investigation into the possible role of free-roaming (both owned and feral) cats. [19, 20] But if, as the authors claim, “the science points to cats,” then it does so rather obliquely, an acknowledgement Jessup and Miller make begrudgingly:

“Based on proximity and sheer numbers, outdoor pet and feral domestic cats may be the most important source of T. gondii oocysts in near-shore marine waters. Mountain lions and bobcats rarely dwell near the ocean or in areas of high human population density, where sea otter infections are more common.” [21, emphasis mine]

Correlation, however, is not the same as causation. And not all T. gondii is the same.

In a study of southern sea otters from coastal California, conducted between 1998 and 2004, a team of researches—including Jessup and Miller—found that 36 of 50 otters were infected with the Type X strain of T. gondii, one of at least four known strains. [22] Jessup and Miller were also among 14 co-authors of a 2008 paper (referenced in their contribution to “The Impact of Free Ranging Cats”) in which the Type X strain was linked not to domestic cats, but to wild felids:

“Three of the Type X-infected carnivores were wild felids (two mountain lions and a bobcat), but no domestic cats were Type X-positive. Examination of larger samples of wild and domestic felids will help clarify these initial findings. If Type X strains are detected more commonly from wild felids in subsequent studies, this could suggest that these animals are more important land-based sources of T. gondii for marine wildlife than are domestic cats.” [20, emphasis mine]

Combining the results of the two studies, then, nearly three-quarters of the sea otters examined as part of the 1998–2004 study were infected with a strain of T. gondii that hasn’t been traced to domestic cats. (I found this to be such surprising news that, months ago, I tried to contact Miller about it. Was I missing something? What studies were being conducted that might confirm or refute these finings? Etc. I never received a reply.)

As Miller et al. note, “subsequent studies” are in order. And it’s important to keep in mind their sample size was quite small: three bobcats, 26 mountain lions, and seven domestic cats (although the authors suggest at one point that only five domestic cats were included).

Still, a recently published study from Germany seems to support the hypothesis that the Type X strain isn’t found in domestic cats. Herrmann et al. analyzed 68 T. gondii-positive fecal samples (all from pet cats) and found no Type X strain. [23] (It’s interesting to note, too, that only 0.25 percent of the 18,259 samples tested positive for T. gondii.)

This is not to say that there’s no connection between domestic cats and Toxoplasmosis in sea otters, but that any “trickle-down effect,” as Jessup and Miller describe it, is not nearly as well understood as they imply. There’s too much we simply don’t know.

Money and Politics
I agree with Dauphine and Cooper that science is only part of the TNR debate—that it also involves “a complex mix of money, politics, intense emotions, and deeply divergent perspectives on animal welfare.” And I agree with their assessment of the progress being made by TNR supporters:

“Advocates of TNR have gained tremendous political strength in the U.S. in recent years. With millions of dollars in donor funding, they are influencing legislation and the policies of major animal-oriented nonprofit organizations.” [1]

What I find puzzling is Dauphine’s rather David-and-Goliath portrayal of the “cat lobby” (my term, not hers) they’re up against—in particular, her complaint, “promotion of TNR is big business, with such large amounts of money in play that conservation scientists opposing TNR can’t begin to compete.” [24]

The Cat Lobby
In “Follow the Money: The Economics of TNR Advocacy,” she notes that Best Friends Animal Society, “one of the largest organizations promoting TNR, took in over $40 million in revenue in 2009.” [24] Fair enough, but this needs to be weighed against expenses of $35.6 million—of which $15.5 million was spent on “animal care activities.”

But Dauphine’s got it wrong when she claims that Best Friends “spent more than $11 million on cat advocacy campaigns that year.” [24] Their financials—spelled out in the same document Dauphine cites—are unambiguous: $11.7 million in expenditures went to all “campaigns and other national outreach.” Indeed, there is no breakdown for “cat advocacy campaigns.”

Dauphine does a better job describing Alley Cat Allies’ 2010 financials: of the $5.2 million they took in, $3.3 million was spent in public outreach. But she’s overreaching in suggesting that their “Every Kitty, Every City” campaign is nationwide. For now, at least, it’s up and running in just “five major U.S. cities.”

Echoing Dauphine’s concerns, Florida attorney Pamela Jo Hatley decries ORCAT’s resources: “At a meeting hosted by the Ocean Reef Resort in June 2004,” recalls Hatley, “I learned that the ORCAT colony then had about 500 free-ranging cats, several paid employees, and an annual operating budget of some $100,000.” [25]

What Hatley fails to mention is how those resources have been used to make ORCAT a model for the rest of the country—using private donations. Hatley doesn’t seem to object to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shelling out $50,000—of tax dollars—in 2007 to round up fewer than 20 cats (some of which were clearly not feral) along with 81 raccoons (53 of which were released alive) in the Florida Keys. [26, 27]

Following the Money
According to their 2008 Form 990, ORCAT took in about $278,000 in revenue, compared to $310,000 in expenses. How does that compare to some of the organizations opposing TNR? A quick visit to Guidestar.com helps put things in perspective.

  • In 2009, ABC took in just under $6 million, slightly more than their expenses.
  • TWS had $2.3 million in revenue in 2009, which was more than offset by expenses of $2.5 million.
  • Friends of the National Zoo, which oversees the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, showed $15 million in revenue, just exceeding their 2009 expenses of $14.7 million. (The Smithsonian Institute topped $1 billion in both the revenue and expense categories.)
  • And the National Audubon Society took in $61.6 million in 2008 (the most recent year for which information is available). And, despite expenses in excess of $86 million, finished the year with more than $255 million in net assets.

These numbers clearly don’t reflect the funding each organization dedicates to opposing TNR—but neither do they offer any evidence that, as Dauphine argues, “conservation scientists opposing TNR can’t begin to compete.”

Intense Emotions
Nobody familiar with the TNR debate would suggest that it’s not highly emotional. How can it be otherwise? Indeed, the very idea of decoupling our emotions from such important discourse is rather absurd.

Having an emotional investment in the debate does not, however, make one irrational or stupid.

“On the surface,” suggest Dauphine and Cooper, their tone unmistakably condescending, “TNR may sound reasonable, even logical.” [1] Gillin, for his part, bemoans the way the TNR debate “quickly shifts from statistics to politics to emotional arguments.” [2]

What’s particularly fascinating about all of this—the way TNR supporters are made out to be irrational (if not mentally ill—as in a letter to Conservation Biology last year, when several TNR opponents, including four contributors to “The Impact of Free Ranging Cats,” compared TNR to hoarding [28])—is just how emotionally charged the appeal of TNR opponents is.

Witness the “gruesome gallery of images,” for example, in which “one cat lies dead with a broken leg, one lies dying in a coat of maggots, and another suffers as ticks and ear mites plague its face.” [1] The idea, of course, is that these cats would have been better off if they’d been rounded up and killed “humanely.” A preemptive strike against the inevitability of “short, brutal lives.” (This phrase, which I first saw used by Jessup, [28] has become remarkably popular among TNR opponents.)

But is it that simple? Applying the same logic (if that’s what it is) to pelicans covered in oil, for instance, would we suggest that these birds should either be in captivity or “humanely euthanized”? Obviously not.

Divergent Perspectives on Animal Welfare
While I disagree that “the debate is predominately about whether cats should be allowed to run wild across the landscape and, if not, how to effectively and humanely manage them,” [29] I tend to agree with Lepczyk et al. when they write:

“It’s much more about human views and perceptions than science—a classic case where understanding the human dimensions of an issue is the key to mitigating the problem.” [29]

But, like Dauphine and Cooper, Lepczyk et al. seem more interested in broadcasting their message—loudly, ad nauseam—than in listening. “We need to understand whether people are even aware,” they write, “of the cumulative impact that their actions—choosing to let cats outdoors—can have on wildlife populations.” [29]

Although it’s packaged somewhat “softly,” we’re back to the same old speculative connections between predation and population impacts (familiar terrain for Lepczyk, who tried to connect these same dots in his PhD research). But how much of a connection is there, really? In their review of 61 predation studies, Mike Fitzgerald and Dennis Turner are unambiguous:

“We consider that we do not have enough information yet to attempt to estimate on average how many birds a cat kills each year. And there are few, if any studies apart from island ones that actually demonstrate that cats have reduced bird populations.” [30]

While the tone used by Lepczyk et al. is very much “we’re all in this together,” their prescription for “moving forward” suggests little common ground. (They actually cite that 2010 letter to Conservation Biology [28]—not much of an olive branch.)

“One approach is exemplified in Hawaii,” explain the authors, “where we’ve become part of a large coalition of stakeholders working together with the shared goal of reducing and eventually removing feral cats from the landscape.” [29] So, who’s involved?

“Our diverse group includes individuals from the Humane Society of the United States, the Hawaiian Humane Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the University of Hawaii. Our team also regularly interacts with other groups around the nation such as regional Audubon Societies and the American Bird Conservancy. Several stakeholders in the group have differing views, such as on whether or not euthanasia or culling is appropriate, or whether people should feed feral cats.” [29]

Other than the Humane Society organizations (whose position on TNR I don’t take for granted, considering they were early supporters of ABC’s Cats Indoors! campaign [31]), I don’t see a real diversity of views in this coalition.

I suppose it’s easy to make room at the table when you’re offering so few seats.

For Dauphine, though, any such collaboration approaches treason. Or selling out, at least.

“In some cases,” she explains, “conservation groups accept funding to join in efforts promoting TNR. The New Jersey Audubon Society, for example, had previously rejected TNR but began supporting it in 2005, acknowledging funding from the Frankenberg and Dodge Foundations for collaboration with TNR groups.” [24]

Dauphine doesn’t go into detail about the amount of funding, and it’s not clear what, if any, role it played in the decision by NJAS (which took in $6.8 million in 2008) to participate in the New Jersey Feral Cat-Wildlife Coalition—the kind of collaborative effort that should be encouraged, not derided:

“From 2002 to 2005, NJAS had actively opposed the practice of TNR in New Jersey. Despite this opposition, municipalities continued to adopt TNR ordinances. In 2005, NJAS, American Bird Conservancy, Neighborhood Cats and Burlington Feral Cat Initiative began exploratory dialogue about implementing standards to protect rare wildlife vulnerable to cat predation in towns which have already adopted TNR programs.” [32]

Message Received, Loud and Clear
Rather than wringing their hands over how to “better communicate the science” [1] or how to better facilitate “legal or policy changes, incentives, and increased education,” [29] TNR opponents might want to reconsider the message itself.

What they are proposing is the killing—on an unprecedented scale—of this country’s most popular pet.

I don’t imagine this tests well with focus groups and donors, of course, but there it is.

These people seem perplexed by a community’s willingness to adopt TNR (“In the end,” lament Lepczyk et al., referring to the decision in Athens, GA, “the professional opinion of wildlife biologists counted no more than that of any other citizen, a major reason for the defeat.” [29]) but fail to recognize how profoundly unpalatable their alternative is.

And, unworkable, too.

Which may explain why it’s virtually impossible to get them to discuss their “plan” in any detail. (I was unsuccessful, for example, in pinning down Travis Longcore during our back-and-forth on the Audubon magazine’s blog and couldn’t get Jessup or Hutchins to bite when I asked the same question during an online discussion of public health risks.)

In light of what’s involved with “successful” eradication programs, I’m not surprised by their eagerness to change the subject.

  • On Marion Island, it took 19 years to eradicate something like 2,200 cats—using disease (feline distemper), poisoning, intensive hunting and trapping, and dogs. This on an island that’s only 115 square miles in total area, barren, and uninhabited. [33, 34] The cost, I’m sure, was astronomical.
  • On the sparsely populated (fewer than 1,000, according to Wikipedia) Ascension Island (less than 34 total square miles), a 2003 eradication effort cost nearly $950,000 (adjusted to 2009 dollars). [35]
  • A 2000 effort on Tuhua (essentially uninhabited, and just 4.9 square miles) ran $78,591 (again, adjusted to 2009 dollars). [35]
  • Efforts on Macquarie Island (also small—47.3 square miles—and essentially uninhabited) proved particularly costly: $2.7 million in U.S. (2009) dollars. And still counting. The resulting rebound in rabbit and rodent numbers prompted “Federal and State governments in Australia [to commit] AU$24 million for an integrated rabbit, rat and mouse eradication programme.” [36] (To put this into context, Macquarie Island is about one-third the size of the Florida Keys.)

These examples represent, in many ways, low-hanging fruit. By contrast, “the presence of non-target species and the need to safely mitigate for possible harmful effects, along with substantial environmental compliance requirements raised the cost of the eradication.” [37] Eradicating rodents from Anacapa Island, “a small [1.2-square-mile] island just 80 miles from Los Angeles International Airport, cost about $2 million.” [38]

Now—setting aside the horrors involved—how exactly do TNR opponents propose to rid the U.S. of it’s millions of feral cats? [cue the sound track of crickets chirping]

I think the general public is starting to catch on. Even if they fall for the outlandish claims about predation, wildlife impacts, and all the rest—they don’t see anything in the way of a real solution. As Mark Kumpf, former president of the National Animal Control Association, put it in an interview with Animal Sheltering magazine, “the traditional methods that many communities use… are not necessarily the ones that communities are looking for today.” [39]

“Traditional” approaches to feral cat management (i.e., trap-and-kill) are, says Kumpf, akin to “bailing the ocean with a thimble.” [39]

For all their apparent interest—22 pages in the current issue of The Wildlife Professional alone—TWS might as well be handing out thimbles to its members. Although Gillin’s “Leadership Letter” invites “dialogue among all stakeholders,” it offers nothing substantive to advance the discussion:

“If removal and euthanasia of unadoptable feral cats is not acceptable to TNR proponents, then they need to offer the conservation community a logical, science-based proposal that will solve the problem of this invasive species and its effect on wildlife and the environment.” [2]

So much for leadership.

Literature Cited
1. Dauphine, N. and Cooper, R.J., “Pick One: Outdoor Cats or Conservation.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 50–56.

2. Gillin, C., “The Cat Conundrum.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 10, 12.

3. APPA, 2009–2010 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. 2009, American Pet Products Association: Greenwich, CT. http://www.americanpetproducts.org/pubs_survey.asp

4. Lord, L.K., “Attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2008. 232(8): p. 1159-1167. http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_232_8_1159.pdf

5. Clancy, E.A., Moore, A.S., and Bertone, E.R., “Evaluation of cat and owner characteristics and their relationships to outdoor access of owned cats.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2003. 222(11): p. 1541-1545. http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2003.222.1541

6. van Heezik, Y., “A New Zealand Perspective.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 70.

7. Sims, V., et al., “Avian assemblage structure and domestic cat densities in urban environments.” Diversity and Distributions. 2008. 14(2): p. 387–399. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1472-4642.2007.00444.x

8. Wilson, M. (1997). Cats Roaming Free Take a Toll on Songbirds. Boston Globe, p. 11.

9. Seppa, N. (1993, July 22). Millions of Songbirds, Rabbits Disappearing. Wisconsin State Journal, p. 1A.

10.  Wozniak, M.D. (1993, August 3). Feline felons: Barn cats are just murder on songbirds. The Milwaukee Journal, p. A1.

11. Guttilla, D.A. and Stapp, P., “Effects of sterilization on movements of feral cats at a wildland-urban interface.”Journal of Mammalogy. 2010. 91(2): p. 482–489. http://dx.doi.org/10.1644/09-MAMM-A-111.1

12. Liberg, O. and Sandell, M., Spatial organisation and reproductive tactics in the domestic cat and other felids, in The Domestic cat: The biology of its behaviour, D.C. Turner and P.P.G. Bateson, Editors. 1988, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge; New York. p. 83–98.

13. Castillo, D. and Clarke, A.L., “Trap/Neuter/Release Methods Ineffective in Controlling Domestic Cat “Colonies” on Public Lands.” Natural Areas Journal. 2003. 23: p. 247–253.

14. Nutter, F.B., Evaluation of a Trap-Neuter-Return Management Program for Feral Cat Colonies: Population Dynamics, Home Ranges, and Potentially Zoonotic Diseases, in Comparative Biomedical Department. 2005, North Carolina State University: Raleigh, NC. p. 224.

15. Stoskopf, M.K. and Nutter, F.B., “Analyzing approaches to feral cat management—one size does not fit all.”Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004. 225(9): p. 1361–1364. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15552309

www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_225_9_1361.pdf

16.  Natoli, E., et al., “Management of feral domestic cats in the urban environment of Rome (Italy).” Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 2006. 77(3-4): p. 180-185. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6TBK-4M33VSW-1/2/0abfc80f245ab50e602f93060f88e6f9

www.kiccc.org.au/pics/FeralCatsRome2006.pdf

17. Levy, J.K. and Crawford, P.C., “Humane strategies for controlling feral cat populations.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004. 225(9): p. 1354–1360. http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/default.asp

http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_225_9_1354.pdf

18. Jones, J.L. and Dubey, J.P., “Waterborne toxoplasmosis – Recent developments.” Experimental Parasitology. 124(1): p. 10-25. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6WFH-4VXB8YT-2/2/8f9562f64497fe1a30513ba3f000c8dc

19. Dabritz, H.A., et al., “Outdoor fecal deposition by free-roaming cats and attitudes of cat owners and nonowners toward stray pets, wildlife, and water pollution.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2006. 229(1): p. 74-81. http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_229_1_74.pdf

20. Miller, M.A., et al., “Type X Toxoplasma gondii in a wild mussel and terrestrial carnivores from coastal California: New linkages between terrestrial mammals, runoff and toxoplasmosis of sea otters.” International Journal for Parasitology. 2008. 38(11): p. 1319-1328. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6T7F-4RXJYTT-2/2/32d387fa3048882d7bd91083e7566117

21. Jessup, D.A. and Miller, M.A., “The Trickle-Down Effect.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 62–64.

22. Conrad, P.A., et al., “Transmission of Toxoplasma: Clues from the study of sea otters as sentinels of Toxoplasma gondii flow into the marine environment.” International Journal for Parasitology. 2005. 35(11-12): p. 1155-1168. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6T7F-4GWC8KV-2/2/2845abdbb0fd82c37b952f18ce9d0a5f

23. Herrmann, D.C., et al., “Atypical Toxoplasma gondii genotypes identified in oocysts shed by cats in Germany.”International Journal for Parasitology. 2010. 40(3): p. 285–292. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6T7F-4X1J771-2/2/dc32f5bba34a6cce28041d144acf1e7c

24. Dauphine, N., “Follow the Money: The Economics of TNR Advocacy.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 54.

25. Hatley, P.J., “Incompatible Neighbors in the Florida Keys.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 52–53.

26. O’Hara, T. (2007, April 3). Fish & Wildlife Service to begin removing cats from Keys refuges. The Key West Citizen, from http://keysnews.com/archives

27. n.a., Lower Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan. 2009, U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service: Atlanta, GA. http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/

http://www.fws.gov/southeast/planning/PDFdocuments/Florida%20Keys%20FINAL/TheKeysFinalCCPFormatted.pdf

28. Jessup, D.A., “The welfare of feral cats and wildlife.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004. 225(9): p. 1377-1383. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15552312

http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_225_9_1377.pdf

29. Lepczyk, C.A., van Heezik, Y., and Cooper, R.J., “An Issue with All-Too-Human Dimensions.” The Wildlife Professional. 2011. 5(1): p. 68–70.

30. Fitzgerald, B.M. and Turner, D.C., Hunting Behaviour of domestic cats and their impact on prey populations, in The Domestic Cat: The biology of its behaviour, D.C. Turner and P.P.G. Bateson, Editors. 2000, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, U.K.; New York. p. 151–175.

31. Berkeley, E.P., TNR Past present and future: A history of the trap-neuter-return movement. 2004, Bethesda, MD: Alley Cat Allies.

32. Stiles, E., NJAS Works with Coalition to Reduce Bird Mortality from Outdoor Cats. 2008, New Jersey Audubon Society. http://www.njaudubon.org/Portals/10/Conservation/PDF/ConsReportSpring08.pdf

33. Bester, M.N., et al., “A review of the successful eradication of feral cats from sub-Antarctic Marion Island, Southern Indian Ocean.” South African Journal of Wildlife Research. 2002. 32(1): p. 65–73.

http://www.ceru.up.ac.za/downloads/A_review_successful_eradication_feralcats.pdf

34. Bloomer, J.P. and Bester, M.N., “Control of feral cats on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, Indian Ocean.” Biological Conservation. 1992. 60(3): p. 211-219. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V5X-48XKBM6-T0/2/06492dd3a022e4a4f9e437a943dd1d8b

35. Martins, T.L.F., et al., “Costing eradications of alien mammals from islands.” Animal Conservation. 2006. 9(4): p. 439–444. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2006.00058.x/abstract

http://i3n.iabin.net/documents/pdf/Costingeradicationsofalienmammalsfromislands.pdf

36. Bergstrom, D.M., et al., “Indirect effects of invasive species removal devastate World Heritage Island.” Journal of Applied Ecology. 2009. 46(1): p. 73-81. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01601.x/abstract

http://eprints.utas.edu.au/8384/4/JAppEcol_Bergstrom_etal_journal.pdf

37. Donlan, C.J. and Heneman, B., Maximizing Return on Investments for Island Restoration with a Focus on Seabird Conservation. 2007, Advanced Conservation Strategies: Santa Cruz, CA. http://www.advancedconservation.org/roi/ACS_Seabird_ROI_Report.pdf

38. Donlan, C.J. and Wilcox, C., Complexities of costing eradications, in Animal Conservation. 2007, Wiley-Blackwell. p. 154–156. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2007.00101.x/abstract

http://www.advancedconservation.org/library/donlan_&_wilcox_2007a.pdf

39. Hettinger, J., Taking a Broader View of Cats in the Community, in Animal Sheltering. 2008. p. 8–9. http://www.animalsheltering.org/resource_library/magazine_articles/sep_oct_2008/taking_a_broader_view_of_cats.html

http://www.animalsheltering.org/resource_library/magazine_articles/sep_oct_2008/broader_view_of_cats.pdf

Cat Island Update

japan_cat_island_nasa_1_590Updates courtesy of Dmitri at pet captain:

A NASA photo (above) from March 12th shows Cat Island above the water level (red arrow)! This, along with a recent report suggesting that the island may have been spared the worst of the tsunami’s wrath, are hopeful signs. See pet captain’s cat blog for details.

Man_reunited_with_his_dog_590px

As this photo (original source unknown) makes clear, rescue efforts are in full swing—donations are badly needed! More information at pet captain.

Helping the Pets Affected by Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami

While the extent of the devastation caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami is still unknown, there’s no doubt that many pets have been injured and/or left homeless. Several organizations are pitching in—and they need all the help they can get!

The pet captain blog has details and several links for aid agencies responding to the crisis. (Thanks to Dmitri for contacting me about this.) The Best Friends Network is also covering the story, and promises updates as new information becomes available.

Especially troubling is a recent update on the Life With Cats Website, which isn’t optimistic about the fate of Cat Island’s many residents:

“At this moment, there is no official news available on the status of “Cat Island” (Tashiro Island), although the speculation is that it has been submerged by the tsunami’s surge. Cat Island, located on Japan’s vulnerable eastern coast, is the home of 100 elderly humans and hundreds of cats.”

My heartfelt condolences go out to all of those who’ve lost friends and family—human and non-human alike—in this disaster, and my deepest gratitude to the many courageous souls involved in the ongoing rescue efforts.

UPDATE: Some good news about Cat Island from a commenter on Ingrid King’s  The Conscious Cat blog:

“I have a friend in Japan who managed to get in touch with people who knew about Tashirojima – people and cats are said to be okay, but there was a lot of building damage and they need bare necessities for humans and cat food… The Japanese organizations said they couldn’t help at the moment (my friend was very frustrated) and he’s checking for some other foreign organisations which maybe could help. He also found out that a the Japanese defense forces’ helicopter landed there this afternoon. So that’s hopeful.
Lots of volunteers are going to be needed there to help rebuild the island.”

A House Deluded

On February 25th, the Utah House of Representatives voted rather decisively—44 to 28—in favor of HB 210, which would amend the state’s animal cruelty laws. Whether or not the representatives knew what they were voting for, however, is anybody’s guess.

Listening to the floor debate, one gets the impression there were two—maybe three—different bills up for discussion. Not that House members got any help from sponsor Curtis Oda (R). Indeed, Oda’s rambling, disjointed presentation only muddied the waters further.

Among the bill’s provisions is an exemption for animal cruelty in cases where the individual responsible for harming or killing an animal acted reasonably, in the protection of people or property. Also included—and the source of the greatest controversy—is an allowance for “the humane shooting of an animal in an unincorporated area of a county, where hunting is not prohibited, if the person doing the shooting has a reasonable belief that the animal is a feral animal.”

This Is Not About Cats
Referring to the bad press HB 210 has received over the past few weeks (including a stinging satire on The Colbert Report, which was widely circulated on the Web), Oda was, not surprisingly, defensive.

“It wasn’t about cats; it’s about all animals that are feral—including cats, dogs, pigeons, pigs, whatever it might be… But the cat community has made it a cat issue, so let’s talk cats.”

And talk cats he did.

“Let’s get into some of the other reasons why we need some of this… The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—and because it was made into a cat issue, I’m using cats—cites that cats and other introduced predators are responsible for much of the migratory bird loss. Domestic and feral may kill hundreds of millions of songbirds and other avian species every year, roughly 39 million birds annually. They’re opportunistic hunters, taking any small animal available—pheasants, native quail, grouse, turkeys, waterfowl, and endangered piping plovers. Most of these birds are protected species.”

That 39 million figure, of course, comes from the notorious Wisconsin Study, and represents Coleman and Temple’s “intermediate… estimate of the number of birds killed annually by rural cats in Wisconsin.” [1] Nothing more than a “best guess,” as the authors call it, and one based entirely on the predation of a single cat in rural Virginia. [2, 3]

It’s a figure commonly found in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) publications, [4, 5] and on their Website. (Oda’s not the first one to mistake this for an estimate of predation across the country, however; Frank Gill made the same error in his book Ornithology. [6])

Oda’s choice of bird species surely raised a few eyebrows—at least among those who were paying attention. First of all, a number of the birds are hunted in Utah—which would seem to complicate the predation issue significantly (though, of course, hunters are paying for the “privilege” of killing wildlife).

And those “endangered piping plovers” (technically, listed as “Near Threatened”)? According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Website, this “small pale shorebird of open sandy beaches and alkali flats…[apparently, Utah’s salt flats don’t count] is found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as inland in the northern Great Plains.”

Another obvious blunder: Oda would have us believe that cats are both opportunistic hunters (which they are) but that they also target rare and endangered species. (But again, Oda’s not alone: USFWS made a similar argument in their recent Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Predator Management Plan/Draft Environmental Assessment.

Economic Impact
Once Oda brought up Wisconsin, it seemed almost inevitable that Nebraska, too, would creep into the debate. It didn’t take long.

“The Audubon magazine recently cited a new peer-reviewed paper by University of Nebraska–Lincoln—researchers concluding that feral cats—domestic that live outdoors and are ownerless—in other words, feral—account for $17 billion—that’s billion—in economic loss from predation on birds in the U.S. every year.”

That $17 million dollar figure (which, apparently, was just too good for the National Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, and others to pass up) is based on some very dubious math (indeed, the paper notes that birders spend just $0.40 for each bird seen, whereas hunters spend $216 for each bird shot, suggesting, it seems, that dead birds are far more valuable than live birds—a point NAS and ABC, of course, ignored entirely).

The origins of the figure can be traced to two papers by Cornell’s David Pimentel and his colleagues, [7, 8] in which the authors estimate “economic damages associated with alien invasive species.” [8]

Referring to this work, Hoagland and Jin, resource economists at the Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, (using the case of the European green crab to make their point) warn: “There are many reasons to be concerned about the use of these estimates for policymaking.” [9] Among their concerns, are the use of potential rather than actual impacts, and the validity of the underlying science—as well as the overall lack of rigor involved in developing such estimates.

“Heretofore, estimates of the economic losses arising from invasive species have been far too casual. Unfounded calculations of economic damages lacking a solid demonstration of ecological effects are misleading and wasteful.” [9]

Predation Estimates
Oda then tried to put the predation into context:

“In Utah alone, if we assume a million households, you can estimate around a third of them have cats—that’s 333,333. If we just add a feral population of at least that many, making it two-thirds of a million—if each cat killed just three birds per year, you can see that the predation is around two million each year.”

Three birds/year is more conservative than what’s used for many back-of-the-envelope estimates, but that doesn’t excuse the flaws in Oda’s calculation—beginning with his suggestion that the number of feral cats in the state equals the number of pet cats. Where’s the evidence?

He’s also assuming that all cats hunt. However, about two-thirds of pet cats don’t even go outside. [10–12]

And then, of course, there’s the issue of impact. Even if Oda’s right about the two million birds, that says nothing about the impact on their populations. Are the birds common? Rare? Healthy? Unhealthy? Etc.

Referring to “Cats and Wildlife: A Conservation Dilemma,” another of the Wisconsin Study papers, [13] Oda continues:

“Nationwide, cats probably kill over a billion mammals and hundreds of millions of birds each year. Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird species than any other cause except by habitat destruction.”

Again, no mention of impact. And, no mention of where the vast majority of those extinctions took place.  According to Gill’s Ornithology:

“Most (119, or 92 percent) of the 129 bird species that have become officially extinct in the past 500 years are island species. Roughly half of these species were exterminated by introduced predators and diseases. The rest were driven to extinction by direct human exploitation and habitat destruction.” [6]

However isolated Utah may seem at times—politically, socially, and culturally—the state is not an actual island.

Trap-Neuter-Return
For an assessment of TNR, Oda turns not to Alley Cat Allies or to the No More Homeless Pets in Utah program, but to David Jessup, Senior Wildlife Veterinarian with the California Department of Fish and Game:

“David Jessup, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has written that trap, neuter, and release programs are not working as well as it has been touted. I’ve got packets here talking about that. If anybody wants to see it, they’re welcome to that.”

In fact, Jessup offers little to support his own sweeping claim that, “in most locations where TNR has been tried, it fails to substantially or quickly reduce cat numbers and almost never eliminates feral cat populations” [14] Instead, he refers to a paper by Linda Winter, [15] former director of ABC’s Cats Indoors! campaign—and prolific source of misinformation on the subject of TNR.

Oda continues:

“Releasing feral cats back into the wild is actually an unnatural act. They are unnatural predators that compete [for] food with eagles, hawks, owls, ferrets, etc.”

This last point, it would seem, is a reference to the often-cited work of William George, who suggested that “cats inevitably compete for prey with many of our declining raptors, and therein may lie a serious problem.” [16] It turns out, though, that George’s concerns were largely unfounded, as I’ve discussed previously.

No wonder Oda turned to Jessup and Winter for a TNR primer—the man simply doesn’t have a clue:

“Citizens that want to help are often met with expenses and inconveniences that deter them. Many who monitor TNR colonies are not managing them correctly. I had one lady who said she had more than 100 cats that she had saved with TNR, but kept getting new cats almost weekly. She’d been feeding them more than what they could do on their own, thereby attracting new cats.”

I rather doubt that making it legal to shoot at feral cats will somehow make caretakers’ lives easier. And why, if Oda thinks regular citizens are unable to properly manage a colony of feral cats, is he so sure they’ll be able to properly distinguish a feral cat from a pet in the event they want to shoot it?

Oda’s complaint about feeding feral cats—and the idea that this attracts additional cats—is a common one. Cats are remarkably resourceful, and where there are people, there is food. Better to have them part of a managed colony, where they are sterilized—and often adopted, too—than to be under the radar.

The same argument can be made for the alleged relationship between TNR and the dumping of cats. It’s difficult to imagine that the presence or absence of a nearby TNR program would affect a person’s decision to abandon his/her pet cat(s). (If any studies had demonstrated such a connection, TNR opponents would surely cite them.) And, under the circumstances, isn’t it better that they be “enrolled” in a TNR program than the alternative?

“Releasing is also unfair to the rest of the neighborhood,” argued Oda, “who’s adversely affected.”

“It doesn’t affect just the person monitoring. But the problem is much bigger than TNR only. An unspayed female cat can have up to three litters per year, with an average of five kittens per litter, so as you can see, the problem grows exponentially.”

While unrestricted populations will grow exponentially, Oda’s numbers are ridiculous—probably the foundation for the widely debunked 420,000-cats-in-seven-years-myth.

Still think HB 210 isn’t about cats?

A Little Something for Everybody
At this point, Oda’s presentation moves beyond the bogus science and tired, baseless complaints—and pretty well comes off the rails entirely.

“This bill does not replace TNR, but it’s supposed to work potentially in conjunction with TNR, but we need to make sure everybody uses those TNR programs properly. We do have a serious problem with irresponsible owners, and we can’t make it unreasonable for them to take their animals to shelters and animal control facilities… We need to make things a little bit easier for people to help, not just make it easier for them to—” [lost audio]

How open season on feral cats is “supposed to work potentially in conjunction with TNR” is a mystery—and one Oda didn’t have a chance to clear up. At this point, his colleagues give him just one more minute to wrap things up.

“We just need to make it easier for people to be able to do things the right way, instead of making it so ridiculously expensive and inconvenient—so that it’s easier for them to just take their animals and drop them off anywhere else, whether it be cats or dogs, or whatever it may be. Perhaps down the road we might have to have mandatory licensing for cats. We do that with dogs already and the problem with dogs has diminished substantially.”

Huh?

Are we still talking about the same bill here? HB 210 does nothing at all to address dumping, intake policies at shelters, or licensing. The confusion only worsened as several representatives supporting the bill took to the House floor to make their positions known.

Supporters
Rep. Fred Cox
(R), who helped revise the bill, suggested that HB 210 offers a means of controlling the population of feral cats—a complement to TNR programs:

“We spent quite a bit of time reviewing with proposed amendments… We did have the opportunity of listening to a number of individuals speak for and on behalf of various options… You have to decide whether or not it’s a good idea for individuals to purposely release certain animals—sometimes in large quantities into the wild that were not originally designed to be here. There are certain parts of the world that have had problems with this area, and in some cases, we have problems now. This provides us an option. We still have other options that are available—with trap, neuter, and release—those are still on the table. This does not prohibit those methods to be used, but does allow another method to be used.”

For Rep. Lee Perry (R), HB 210 offers a humane approach for dealing with abandoned pets:

“I represent a lot of rural farmers and ranchers, and this bill is critical to them. I can’t have a farmer or rancher going to jail or to prison because they take care of a feral cat or a feral dog that is on their ranch or their farm, that somebody inhumanely took out and dumped out in the middle of western Box Elder County or in western Cache County. When the people go out there and dump their animals, thinking they’re being humane and putting them… out into the wild or onto somebody’s farm, they’re actually harming those animals more than what these farmers or ranchers would be doing in basically being humane, and putting them out of their misery at that point. Because these animals are eventually going to starve to death, in some cases, and die. They’re left in the cold, in the elements. These are usually animals that are meant to be raised in a house, and in a controlled environment. Because of that, I support this substitute bill, and I would ask that the body would support it as well.”

Easily the most interesting account, however, was that of Rep. Brad Galvez (R):

“I had an individual that lives just a few miles west of my home who was basically attacked by a cat—had a cat that scratched him on his hand, and he basically just flung it against the wall. This individual was charged with a third-degree felony.”

A search of several newspapers tells a very different story. Reese Ransom, 85, was actually charged with aggravated animal cruelty—a misdemeanor—when he severely injured a feral kitten. When Ransom picked up the kitten—one of a litter he and his wife had been feeding—to bring it inside:

“It went wild, like cats do,” he said. “It was scratching and biting. It was hanging from my hands with its teeth, so I just pitched it away to get rid of it. It hit the garage and knocked it out.” [17]

According to Ogden’s Standard–Examiner, Weber County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryce Weir witnessed the event. “Weir’s report said Weir got out of his patrol car and walked to the garage, noting the kitten was still alive, but barely moving.” [18]

The kitten was eventually euthanized.

The Animal Advocacy Alliance of Utah pushed for Ransom to be changed with a felony, but were unsuccessful.

But Galvez, who—don’t forget—lives just a few miles east of Ransom, completely misrepresents the facts of the case to his colleagues. There’s no telling whether or not his “interpretation” of events had any bearing on the eventual vote, but it raises questions about the man’s integrity.

Opponents of HB 210
HB 210 had its detractors as well. Among them, Rep. Marie Poulson (D):

“I am… the daughter of a rancher and a cattleman, but have another perspective on this. I realize the threat to cattle of these pests, or feral animals. But, in our particular case, we encourage the population of feral cats, as we have four granaries, and they were some of our best farm workers, and kept down the rodent population. My main problem with this bill is, there’s no designation between what’s considered a feral animal and your beloved house pet. And I think this bill gives license to kill in those areas. My other consideration here is that I have received so many letters from constituents upset by this bill that if I voted for it, I would be considered feral.”

Rep. David Litvack (D) wasn’t buying what Oda and his supporters were selling, especially when it comes to defining feral. “If a person knows that a particular animal is a pet of their neighbor,” explained Oda during his introductory comments, “it’s not feral. If it’s wearing a collar, it’s not feral. If there’s other signs it’s very friendly, obviously it’s not feral.”

Litvack was unmoved:

“I believe it is wrong for us, as a state, to move in the direction where we are having individuals make the decision, the determination on their own (1) what is feral, and (2) now, that they can shoot them, even if it’s only in an unincorporated county. Not a good policy, and, quite frankly, a bit of an embarrassment to the state of Utah.”

Referring specifically to Lines 153 and 154 of the amended bill (“…the humane shooting of an animal in an unincorporated area of a county, where hunting is not prohibited, if the person doing the shooting has a reasonable belief that the animal is a feral animal.”), Rep. Brian King (D) took a similar stance:

“My concern is that we’re providing a loophole in the statute for individuals that want to use this as an opportunity to go out and satisfy [lost audio] they get pleasure from going out and just shooting what are now defined as feral animals just for the pleasure of killing the animal… This is a bill that’s been brought to us now, in its amended form, just today, and we haven’t had a chance to hear from the Humane Society, from other individuals or agencies that have an interest in this. And my concern is that, although I think there is undoubtedly a reasonable need for individuals under certain circumstances—in rural areas, especially—to control feral animal populations that are causing damage, I still have concerns—without more input from those who deal with this, and have really had a chance to think the language through—in voting it out of our body.”

“We spent quite a bit of time reviewing with proposed amendments,” countered Cox. “We did have the opportunity of listening to a number of individuals speak for and on behalf of various options.”

Cox offered no specifics about who was invited to the bargaining table. And it may not have made any difference anyhow—like Oda and Perry, Cox seems to think HB 210 is about feral cat management:

“You have to decide whether or not it’s a good idea for individuals to purposely release certain animals—sometimes in large quantities into the wild that were not originally designed to be here. There are certain parts of the world that have had problems with this area, and in some cases, we have problems now. This provides us an option. We still have other options that are available—with trap, neuter, and release—those are still on the table. This does not prohibit those methods to be used, but does allow another method to be used.”

Rep. Paul Ray (R) responded to King’s concern by comparing TNR to abandonment (an argument perhaps first articulated by Jessup, who refers to TNR as “trap, neuter, and reabandon” [14]):

“It’s against the law to abandon an animal… [TNR practitioners] abandon the animal again. So when we’re talking about getting the perfect language, I’m not sure we can do that because even under the current law we have right now, we have some discrepancies…”

Setting aside the TNR/abandonment issue for the moment, that’s quite a position to take for somebody whose job it is to craft legislation: What we’ve got now isn’t perfect, so why bother?

Oda’s response was no better. “Out in the rural areas,” he said, referring to the concerns about the ambiguity surrounding the term feral, “they know exactly what animals belong in the area, so that’s not even an issue.”

This, I’m sure, was no consolation to Litvack or King.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
If you missed the part where the bill’s supporters defend—or even explain—the need for Utahns to be able to shoot feral animals, you’re not alone. I’ve listened to the entire debate at least twice now and still don’t get it.

As Laura Nirenberg, legislative analyst for Best Friends’ Focus on Felines campaign, pointed out to me, the bill’s language already addresses many issues brought up in the debate.

Under HB 210, for example, the crime of animal cruelty requires that “the person’s conduct is not reasonable and necessary to protect: (1) the actor or another person from injury or death; or (2) property from damage or loss if the property is an animal; or other property that is $50 or more in value.” (The $50 threshold seems like too low a bar to me, but it was never mentioned during the floor debate.)

This, it seems, goes an awful long way toward protecting farmers and ranchers who are merely protecting their livestock. And the Reese Ransoms of the world, too. Moreover, there’s already a provision in Utah’s animal cruelty code exempting a “person who humanely destroys any apparently abandoned animal found on the person’s property” (which, strangely, never came up during the HB 210 debate).

Granted, the bill’s amended language does lessen its potential impact on feral cats by restricting “the humane shooting of an animal” to unincorporated areas “where hunting is not prohibited.” Hunting regulations must comply with Utah criminal code, which prohibits the “discharge any kind of dangerous weapon or firearm… without written permission to discharge the dangerous weapon from the owner or person in charge of the property within 600 feet of: a house, dwelling, or any other building; or any structure in which a domestic animal is kept or fed, including a barn, poultry yard, corral, feeding pen, or stockyard.”

Even so, the shooting provision of HB 210 strikes me as essentially indefensible. It’s simply an invitation for senseless cruelty. Representative Litvack is exactly right: “Not a good policy, and, quite frankly, a bit of an embarrassment to the state of Utah.”

•     •     •

It will be interesting to see what happens when HB 210 moves to the Utah Senate, where, just last week, TNR-friendly SB 57 was passed. Among its provisions:

“This bill… defines a sponsor of a cat colony as a person who actively traps cats in a colony for the purpose of sterilizing, vaccinating, and ear-tipping before returning the cat to its original location; exempts community cats from the three-day mandatory hold requirement; and allows a shelter that receives a feral cat to release it to a sponsor that operates a cat program.”

I encourage readers to listen to the HB 210 debate in its entirety, as it provides a fascinating glimpse of democracy in action—warts and all (including, for example, when Oda responds to the call for a vote with “Meow.”) The SMIL audio file is available here, and the required Real Audio application can be downloaded free here.

Literature Cited
1. Coleman, J.S. and Temple, S.A., On the Prowl, in Wisconsin Natural Resources. 1996, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Madison, WI. p. 4–8. http://dnr.wi.gov/wnrmag/html/stories/1996/dec96/cats.htm

2. Coleman, J.S. and Temple, S.A., How Many Birds Do Cats Kill?, in Wildlife Control Technology. 1995. p. 44. http://www.wctech.com/WCT/index99.htm

3. Mitchell, J.C. and Beck, R.A., “Free-Ranging Domestic Cat Predation on Native Vertebrates in Rural and Urban Virginia.” Virginia Journal of Science. 1992. 43(1B): p. 197–207. www.vacadsci.org/vjsArchives/v43/43-1B/43-197.pdf

4. USFWS, Migratory Bird Mortality. 2002, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Arlington, VA. http://www.fws.gov/birds/mortality-fact-sheet.pdf

5.  USFWS, Perils Past and Present : Major Threats to Birds Over Time. 2003, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Arlington, VA. http://www.fws.gov/birds/documents/PastandPresent.pdf

6. Gill, F.B., Ornithology. 3rd ed. 2007, New York: W.H. Freeman. xxvi, 758 p.

7. Pimentel, D., et al., “Environmental and Economic Costs of Nonindigenous Species in the United States.” Bio Science. 2000. 50(1): p. 53–65. http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1641/0006-3568%282000%29050%5B0053%3AEAECON%5D2.3.CO%3B2?journalCode=bisi

www.tcnj.edu/~bshelley/Teaching/PimentelEtal00CostExotics.pdf

8. Pimentel, D., Zuniga, R., and Morrison, D., “Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States.” Ecological Economics. 2005. 52(3): p. 273–288. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VDY-4F4H9SX-3/2/149cde4f02744cae33d76c870a098fea

9. Hoagland, P. and Jin, D.I., “Science and Economics in the Management of an Invasive Species.”BioScience. 2006. 56(11): p. 931-935. http://www.mendeley.com/research/science-economics-management-invasive-species-8/

10. Clancy, E.A., Moore, A.S., and Bertone, E.R., “Evaluation of cat and owner characteristics and their relationships to outdoor access of owned cats.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2003. 222(11): p. 1541-1545. http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2003.222.1541

11. Lord, L.K., “Attitudes toward and perceptions of free-roaming cats among individuals living in Ohio.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2008. 232(8): p. 1159-1167. http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_232_8_1159.pdf

12. APPA, 2009–2010 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. 2009, American Pet Products Association: Greenwich, CT. http://www.americanpetproducts.org/pubs_survey.asp

13. Coleman, J.S., Temple, S.A., and Craven, S.R., Cats and Wildlife: A Conservation Dilemma. 1997, University of Wisconsin, Wildlife Extension. http://forestandwildlifeecology.wisc.edu/wl_extension/catfly3.htm

14. Jessup, D.A., “The welfare of feral cats and wildlife.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004. 225(9): p. 1377-1383. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15552312

http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_225_9_1377.pdf

15. Winter, L., “Trap-neuter-release programs: the reality and the impacts.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004. 225(9): p. 1369–1376. http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2004.225.1369

http://www.avma.org/avmacollections/feral_cats/javma_225_9_1369.pdf

16. George, W., “Domestic cats as predators and factors in winter shortages of raptor prey.” The Wilson Bulletin. 1974. 86(4): p. 384–396. http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Wilson/v086n04/p0384-p0396.pdf

17. Miller, J. (2010, June 24). Charge questioned in death-of-kitten case. Standard-Examiner. http://www.standard.net/topics/courts/2010/06/23/charge-questioned-death-kitten-case

18. Gurrister, T. (2010, July 22, 2010). Cruelty charge in West Haven kitten case to be dismissed Standard-Examinerhttp://www.standard.net/topics/courts/2010/07/22/cruelty-charge-west-haven-kitten-case-be-dismissed

Catbirds, Cats, and Scapegoats

Gray CatbirdA Gray Catbird in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons and John Benson.

Once again, the Smithsonian has apparently put marketing (and perhaps politics, too) ahead of science, reviving a story first posted on the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s (SMBC) Website in October of last year (which has since been removed).

“Alarming number of fledgling, suburban catbirds fall prey to domestic cats, study finds,” reads the headline of the most recent version—posted not on the SMBC site, but as a feature story on Science at the Smithsonian, “a new Website from the Smithsonian Office of Public Affairs.” So what’s changed in the four months since I first commented on the story? Only the publication of the research involved: “Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: Sources, sinks and domestic cats” by Anne L. Balogh, Thomas B. Ryder, and Peter P. Marra (all of whom are affiliated with the Migratory Bird Center) appeared in the January issue of the Journal of Ornithology.

Whoever wrote the piece for the Smithsonian, though, doesn’t seem to have read the paper.

Indeed, it seems the people responsible for its publication are far more interested in making scapegoats out of the cats than they are in science, or science journalism.

Predation: Real and Imagined
According to the Smithsonian, “Nearly half (47 percent) of the [juvenile catbird] deaths were attributed to domestic cats in Opal Daniels and Spring Park.”

In “Population demography of Gray Catbirds,” the authors report that the Opal Daniels and Spring Park sites accounted for 34 of 42 total juvenile mortalities. [1] The presumption, then, is that 16 (47 percent) are due to cats. However, cats accounted for—at most—just nine of the 42 total mortalities (no breakdown regarding cat kills/site is provided in the paper).

Something doesn’t add up here—and I suspect it’s no accident.

But attributing even nine kills to cats is highly questionable; only six were actually observed. The researchers then attributed three additional kills to cats, claiming: “we are unaware of any other native or non-native predator that regularly decapitates birds while leaving the body uneaten.” [1]

As I’ve pointed out previously, though, a survey of several credible sources [2–5] turns up no supporting evidence. Anderson, describing “predation and its identification,” goes into some detail:

“Domestic cats rarely prey on anything larger than a duck, pheasant, or rabbit. Einarsen (1956) noted their messy feeding behavior. Portions of their prey are often strewn over several hundred square feet in open areas. The meaty portions of large birds are almost entirely consumed leaving loose skin with feathers attached. Small birds are generally consumed, with only the wings, and scattered feathers remaining. Cats usually leave teeth marks on every exposed bone of their prey.” [6]

Raccoons, writes Anderson, are also known to “prey on birds and their eggs. The heads of adult birds are usually bitten off and left some distance from the body (Anon. 1936).” [6]

And it seems to be common knowledge within the birding community that certain species of birds decapitate their prey:

“In urban and suburban settings grackles are the most likely culprits, although jays, magpies, and crows will decapitate small birds, too. Screech-owls and pygmy-owls also decapitate their prey, but, intending to eat them later, they usually cache their victims out of sight.” [7]

“There is little you can do to discourage screech-owls if only because they do their killing under cover of darkness. However, you can recognize their handiwork by looking for partially plucked carcasses of songbirds with the heads missing… Corvids—crows, ravens, jays, and magpies—are well known for their raids on birds’ nests to take eggs and nestlings.” [8] (Interestingly, the author, David M. Bird, was among Marra’s nine co-authors on “What Conservation Biologists Can Do.”)

Balogh, Ryder, and Marra also point out that another “potential nest predator,” the gray squirrel, was more common at the Opal Daniels and Spring Park sites than at the Bethesda site. [1] And roughly three to five times as abundant as cats, based on researcher sightings. Yet the squirrels aren’t mentioned at all in the Smithsonian story.

Populations and Ecological Traps
In addition, Marra’s suggestion that “these suburban areas [are] ecological traps for nesting birds” is contradicted by the results of bird surveys in Maryland.

The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia, for example reports: “during the Atlas period [1983–87], gray catbirds were found throughout the state, including the most heavily urbanized blocks.” The Atlas goes on to note the bird’s “high tolerance for human activity,” concluding that “the gray catbird’s future in Maryland seems secure.” [9]

Data from the Atlas indicate that Maryland’s gray catbird population declined perhaps 7 percent between 1966–1989, a period during which the state’s human population grew approximately 35 percent. (Note: In my previous post on this topic, I mistakenly suggested that the Atlas used Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data, which is not the case.)

The North American Breeding Bird Survey indicates that Maryland’s gray catbird population has increased about 9 percent between 1966–2009, a period during which the state’s human population grew approximately 57 percent. And data from BBS Route 46110, the nearest to the research sites, also trend upward in recent years. (Note: It’s important to point out that “the survey produces an index of relative abundance rather than a complete count of breeding bird populations.”)

Maryland Catbirds 1966-2007Caption: BBS Data: Gray Catbird Counts Across Maryland, 1966–2007

The Migratory Bird Center’s Website, too, suggests the outlook for the catbird population is quite good:

“To thrive in these [fragmented] habitats birds must have special adaptations such as the ability to respond to frequent nest predation and parasitism and to forage on a wide variety of seasonally available foods. Armed with these adaptations, catbirds are well prepared for the disturbed habitats of the 21st century’s fragmented landscape.”

•     •     •

Marra revealed his position on free-roaming cats last year in that letter to Conservation Biology opposing TNR. Among the “highlights” were the authors’ assertion that “trap-neuter-return is essentially cat hoarding without walls,” and a demand for “legal action against colonies and colony managers.” The authors also call on conservation biologists to “begin speaking out” against TNR “at local meetings, through the news media, and at outreach events” (a message Marra has obviously taken to heart).

In the past couple of months, the Smithsonian has raised questions about its own stance on free-roaming cats, first with its World’s Most Invasive Mammals story, and now this. In both cases, their reporting has been either careless or intentionally misleading.

According to its Website, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is a “national and international leader in the biology and conservation of migratory birds.” In this case, though, it seems the SMBC—and, by extension, Science at the Smithsonian—have abdicated any leadership role in order to participate in the shameful witch hunt against free-roaming cats.

The Institution’s supporters—and the public at large—expect and deserve better.

Literature Cited

1. Balogh, A., Ryder, T., and Marra, P., “Population demography of Gray Catbirds in the suburban matrix: sources, sinks and domestic cats.” Journal of Ornithology. 2011: p. 1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10336-011-0648-7

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/science_article/pdfs/55.pdf

2. Tabor, R., Cats—The Rise of the Cat. 1991, London: BBC Books.

3. Leyhausen, P., Cat behavior: The predatory and social behavior of domestic and wild cats. Garland series in ethology. 1979, New York: Garland STPM Press. xv, 340 p.

4. Fitzgerald, B.M. and Turner, D.C., Hunting Behaviour of domestic cats and their impact on prey populations, in The Domestic Cat: The biology of its behaviour, D.C. Turner and P.P.G. Bateson, Editors. 2000, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, U.K.; New York. p. 151–175.

5.  Turner, D.C. and Meister, O., Hunting Behaviour of the Domestic Cat, in The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour, D.C. Turner and P.P.G. Bateson, Editors. 1988, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. p. 222.

6. Anderson, T.E., Identifying, evaluating and controlling wildlife damage, in Wildlife Management Techniques. 1969, Wildlife Society: Washington. p. 497–520.

7. Thompson, B., The Backyard Bird Watcher’s Answer Guide. 2008: Bird Watcher’s Digest.

8. Bird, D.M., Crouching Raptor, Hidden Danger, in The Backyard Birds Newsletter. 2010, Bird Watcher’s Digest.

9. Robbins, C.S. and Blom, E.A.T., Atlas of the breeding birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Pitt series in nature and natural history. 1996, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. xx, 479 p.

Best Available Science?

After a while, I suppose, such things will no longer surprise me.

A couple weeks ago, the American Bird Conservancy released a statement in support of the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Predator Management Plan/Draft Environmental Assessment proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS):

“American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, and 27 additional science and conservation organizations have signed a letter to the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge supporting their plans to remove cats and cat feeding stations found on refuge lands in the Keys because of the harm they are causing to birds and other wildlife, including endangered species.”

No surprise there, really. It’s the following paragraph that caught my eye:

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deserves credit for bringing the best available science to bear on the management of exotic predators inhabiting National Wildlife Refuge lands regardless of the emotional aspects of the issue,” said Steve Holmer, Senior Policy Advisor for American Bird Conservancy. “Given the overwhelming evidence of harm to native birds inhabiting and migrating through the Keys, this predator management plan offers hope for healthier environment.”

“Best available science”? Are we talking about the same document here?

Granted, this is Steve Holmer—the same guy who, a year ago, told the Los Angeles Times that there are 160 million feral cats in the U.S. (a figure he arrived at by “reinterpreting” the already inflated figure proposed by Dauphine and Cooper).

In other words, consider the source.

Among the letter’s highlights (the letter itself doesn’t seem to be available, which is a shame, as I’m very interested in knowing which other “science and conservation organizations” are supporters):

“…cat predation accounted for 50 percent and 77 percent of mortality of two endangered species—the Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit and the Key Largo Woodrat.”

Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit
ABC’s claim about cats being responsible for half the mortality of marsh rabbits doesn’t actually correspond with what’s in the USFWS plan:

“Free-roaming domestic cat predation accounted for 50 percent of adult Lower Keys marsh rabbit mortality during radio telemetry studies and was cited as the largest factor limiting their population viability in the 1990s (Forys and Humphrey 1999).” [1]

During her PhD dissertation work, Elizabeth Forys’ found that 13 of 24 rabbits monitored over the course of her research were killed by cats, [2] findings she described four years later (in the paper cited by USFWS) this way:

“Twenty-seven (18 M, 9 F) of the 43 radiocollared individuals died during our 2.5-year study. Domestic cats killed the most marsh rabbits (53 percent of all mortality), killing nearly an equal number of both juvenile and adult marsh rabbits.” [3]

ABC misrepresents both Forys’ work and the USFWS plan by transforming those 13 marsh rabbits into “50 percent of mortality of [this] endangered species.” And this is too straightforward to be an accident.

For what it’s worth, this has been done before.

Impact of Cats on Marsh Rabbits
The Multi-Species Recovery Plan (MSRP) for South Florida, published in 1999 by USFWS, refers repeatedly to Forys’ work, noting, for example:

“Although habitat loss is responsible for the original decline of the Lower Keys marsh rabbit, high mortality from cats may be the greatest current threat to the persistence of the Lower Keys marsh rabbit [4].”

The report’s authors alternate between concessions and allegations, the latter of which are based on what can only be considered—even in the most generous light—circumstantial evidence. They acknowledge, for instance, that “a detailed study of cat diets in the Keys has not been conducted,” but then point out that “rabbits were the largest component of feral cat diets in several studies that have been conducted elsewhere (Jones and Coman 1981, Liberg 1985).” [5]

Let’s set aside for the moment the debate about whether or not two is considered “several” (and the fact that they got the year wrong on the Liberg study). Where exactly were those studies conducted? “Victorian Mallee, Kinchega National Park in western New South Wales, and the Victorian eastern highlands” [6] and “Revinge area in southern Sweden.” [7]

None of which, it’s safe to say, could be mistaken for the Florida Keys.

USFWS also acknowledges that “the exact extent [of predation by cats] cannot be determined,” though they imply that it must be increasing: “the number of cats present in the Lower Keys has increased over the past 20 years with the increase in the residential population.” [5]

(In fact, a number of studies have shown that cats will shift their “preferences” according to prey availability [see, for example, the review in 8]. Indeed, this was the case in the study from southern Sweden cited by USFWS: “Wild rabbits were the most important prey, and cats responded functionally to changes in abundance and availability of this prey.” [7])

The less common the rabbits, the less likely they are to fall prey to free-roaming cats.

Telling Stories
Somewhere along the line, though, the marsh rabbit story began to change.

An article in The Key West Citizen describing USFWS’s 2007 effort to round up cats in the Keys [9, 10] is a clear reference to—and equally clear misrepresentation of—Forys’ work:

“According to a 1999 U.S. Fish and Wildlife report, feral cats have killed 53 percent of marsh rabbits in the Lower Keys.” [9]

Contributors to the 2008 South Florida Environmental Report claim, “feral cats… have contributed to a 50 percent decline in populations of Hugh Hefner’s rabbits (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, an endangered subspecies of marsh rabbit named for Hefner’s contributions to their research) on Big Pine Key (CNN.com, accessed May 20, 2007).” [11] I was unable to find anything at the CNN site, but suspect the story was nothing more than a pick-up of the story that ran in The Key West Citizen. (Florida residents will no doubt take great comfort in knowing that the South Florida Water Management District, publisher of the report, is unwilling to look any further than CNN.com for its science.)

In the 2009 book Invasive Species: Detection, Impact and Control, the story is much the same:

“[cats] have been a factor in the 50 percent decline in populations of the endangered Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Forys and Humphrey 1999).” [12]

In fact, Forys and Humphrey have little to say about the declining population:

“During the 1970s and 1980s, a period of intense habitat destruction, a decline in marsh rabbits was reported (Lazell 1984).” [3]

And Lazell? Nothing at all about the marsh rabbit population. I did, however, find this interesting:

“In 1980 I live-trapped five specimens on Lower Sugarloaf Key under Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (FGFWFC) permit 28. Three were prepared as skins and skeletons; two were released after physiological studies (Dunson and Lazell, 1982).” [13]

Not that Lazell was the only scientist taking marsh rabbits. North of the Keys, 10 years earlier, Nicholas Holler and Clinton Conaway were studying the reproduction of this now-endangered species.

“From September 1968 through August 1969, 610 marsh rabbits were collected by hand or with a .22 caliber rifle in sugarcane plantations south and west of Belle Glade, Palm Beach and Hendry counties, Florida, at the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee. Rabbits were readily obtained except in July, August, and September…. After collection, rabbits were weighed and one eye and one front paw were preserved in 10 percent formalin.” [14]

To put this into perspective, the MSRP (published 30 years after Holler and Conway’s research) suggests that there may be only 100–300 marsh rabbits left. [5]

How’s that for irony? It seems the best evidence of a declining population comes from two scientists who killed several hundred marsh rabbits 40 years ago.

Key Largo Woodrat
ABC’s reference to Key Largo woodrat mortality is actually an accurate recounting of what’s in the USFWS plan:

“In addition, cats accounted for 77 percent of the mortality during a recent re-introduction of the Key Largo woodrat (S. Klett, Refuge Manager, personal communication).” [1]

Such personal communications—even by knowledgeable, honest professionals—are no substitute for rigorous, science-based reporting. What kind of sample size are we talking about? Over what duration? Under what conditions? Where? Etc.

More to the point, though: here is ABC once again blatantly misrepresenting the science (or the closest thing we’ve got to science, in this case). USFWS is talking about a portion of the population, while ABC is talking about the entire population. And I have to think the people responsible are smart enough to know the difference—which, of course, can mean only one thing: it’s not the intelligence that’s lacking here, but the integrity.

The Rest of the Best
But what about all the rest of the science—the “best available,” according to Holmer, don’t forget—that USFWS including in its Integrated Predator Management Plan/Draft Environmental Assessment? Among the more egregious errors and misinterpretations I cited in my comments to USFWS:

  • Another of the papers cited by USFWS has nothing to do with extinctions at all. As the authors describe it, their study was an evaluation of “whether a collar-worn pounce protector, the CatBib, reduces the number of vertebrates caught by pet cats and whether its effectiveness was influenced by colour or adding a bell.” [17]
  • Listed among the “evidence” of island extinctions were studies that—in addition to having nothing to do with extinctions—were not conducted on islands. Coleman and Temple’s 1993 survey, for example, involved rural Wisconsin residents and their outdoor cats, [18] while Churcher and Lawton surveyed residents of a small English village. [19]
  • Among the evidence that “free-roaming cats kill at least one billion birds every year in the U.S., representing one of the largest single sources of human-influenced mortality for small native wildlife,” [1] is Rich Stallcup’s 1991 article from the Observer, a publication of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. In fact, “A Reversible Catastrophe” is little more than Stallcup’s advice—at once both folksy and sinister—about defending one’s garden from neighborhood cats (“…try a B-B or pellet gun. There is no need to kill or shoot toward the head, but a good sting on the rump seems memorable for most felines, and they seldom return for a third experience.” [21]).
  • Another of the studies cited by FWS—a 2008 paper by Sax and Gaines—isn’t about cats at all. Or even invasive animals. It’s about invasive plants. [22]
  • Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, USFWS argues: “…free-roaming cats not only threaten wildlife through direct predation but also serve as vectors for a number of diseases including rabies, cat scratch fever, hookworms, roundworms and toxoplasmosis. Some of these diseases can be transmitted to other domestic animals, native wildlife, and in some cases, humans.”

    In fact, the CDC site makes no mention of cats being a threat to wildlife. And humans? “Although cats can carry diseases and pass them to people, you are not likely to get sick from touching or owning a cat.” And, notes the CDC, “People are probably more likely to get toxoplasmosis from gardening or eating raw meat than from having a pet cat.”

    (Unwilling to do their own research and writing, ABC uses exactly the same language and cites the same CDC website as USFWS. Had they simply clicked on the link, they might have avoided the blunder—which, I think, speaks volumes about little scrutiny they gave the USFWS plan before backing it.)

This is what Holmer is referring to when he says USFWS “deserves credit for bringing the best available science to bear on the management of exotic predators inhabiting National Wildlife Refuge lands regardless of the emotional aspects of the issue.”

What’s Missing
In addition to everything USFWS gets wrong, though, there’s also everything they overlooked or ignored (again, each point is covered in detail in my comments to USFWS). For example:

Mesopredator Release
“In the absence of large, dominant predators,” write Soulé et al., “smaller omnivores and predators undergo population explosions, sometimes becoming four to 10 times more abundant than normal.” [23] Several studies have demonstrated such an “explosion” of non-native rat populations as a result of cat populations being eliminated. [24–27]

As Courchamp et al. explain, “although counter-intuitive, eradication of introduced superpredators, such as feral domestic cats, is not always the best solution to protect endemic prey when introduced mesopredators, such as rats, are also present.” [26] Fan et al. warn of the risks involved with such eradication efforts: “In some cases, it may cause a disastrous impact to managed or natural ecosystems.” [25]

But USFWS doesn’t even mention the risk of mesopredator release, despite the fact that—should the population of free-roaming cats be sufficiently reduced—the situation in the Keys suggests that such an outcome is actually quite likely. And controlling these rats is complicated considerably by the need to protect Lower Keys marsh rabbits. Indeed, the MSRP warns of these rabbits coming into contact with pesticides and “poisons used to control black rats.” [5]

Based on evidence cited by USFWS itself, it’s clear that a dramatic reduction in the number of free-roaming cats in the Keys (assuming it’s possible—see below) will very likely have a negative impact on the marsh rabbit population—and may well lead to their extirpation from any Key where these rats are present.

Such impacts would also likely affect the Key Largo cotton mouse [28–29], Key Largo woodrat [30–31], and silver rice rat [32–33], all of which USFWS identifies as species of particular concern, and which are threatened—either through predation or competition—by non-native rats such as the black rat.

Removing Cats
Reports indicate that USFWS has a rather poor track record when it comes to trapping cats. Its 2003 contract with USDA, for example, yielded just 23 cats over 31 days of trapping. [34] Their efforts four years later—at a cost of $50,000—were equally ineffective. [9–10]

None of which should surprise USFWS. “Successful” eradication efforts require both extraordinary resources and profound cruelty. For example:

  • Nogales et al., describing the “success” of Marion Island, note, “it took about 15 years of intense effort to eradicate the cats, combining several methods such as trapping, hunting, poisoning, and disease introduction… The use of disease agents or targeted poisoning campaigns hold promise for an initial population reduction in eradication programs on large islands—such an approach may save effort, time, and money.” [35]
  • Cruz and Cruz point out that, of all the non-native mammals there, cats were “the most difficult to control or eliminate on Floreana Island.” Although “hunting with dogs was the single most effective method employed and it gave a sure body count,” the authors warn that “the method was costly and with the limited manpower available was only useful over small areas. Both poisoning and trapping were effective and the combination of the three methods is probably the most effective approach, as well as being the best use of time and materials.” [15]
  • Veitch describes efforts on 11-square-mile Little Barrier Island as “a determined [cat] eradication attempt” involving “cage traps, leg-hold traps, dogs and 1080 poison were used, but leg-hold traps and 1080 poison were the only effective methods.” [36] Four cats were also infected with Feline enteritis, but “because of the poor reaction to the virus no other cats were dosed and none were released… Altogether, 151 cats were known to have been killed before the eradication was declared complete. Important lessons learnt can be transferred to other feral cat eradication programmes.” [36] (By way of comparison, the Keys are approximately 137 square miles in total area.)

As USFWS admits, such methods are “not… socially acceptable” and “inconsistent with the points of consensus developed by the stakeholder group.” Yet, they offer nothing in the way of a feasible alternative; their latest plan is just more of what’s been done—and proven ineffective—in the past.

Because it’s extremely doubtful that USFWS will be able to remove the cats quickly enough to keep up with reproduction rates (again, consider the “success” stories outlined above), the most likely outcome of their plan is an increase in the number of feral cats in the Keys—and, of course, a corresponding increase in the negative impacts they have on the area’s wildlife and environment.

•     •     •

I fully expected ABC to support the USFWS plan. And, come to think of it, I should have expected them to blindly embrace the underlying science. After all, this is the same organization that’s been trying, since at least 1997, to sell the Wisconsin Study as valid research.

And, more recently, ABC endorsed “Feral Cats and Their Management” (also known as the University of Nebraska report) as if it were valid research.

Perhaps this is what ABC President and CEO George Fenwick meant when he wrote, in the preface to The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation, “every point of view has its own science.” [37]

Literature Cited
1. n.a., Draft Environmental Assessment: Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex Integrated Predator Management Plan. 2011, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Big Pine Key, FL. http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/predatormgmt.html

http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/pdfs/USFWS%20FL%20Keys%20Refuges%20Integrated%20Predator%20Mgmt%20Plan%20&%20EA%20FINAL%20DRAFT.pdf

2. Forys, E.A., Metapopulations of marsh rabbits: A population viability analysis of the Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri), in Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. 1995, University of Florida: Gainesville. p. 244.

3. Forys, E.A. and Humphrey, S.R., “Use of Population Viability Analysis to Evaluate Management Options for the Endangered Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit.” The Journal of Wildlife Management. 1999. 63(1): p. 251–260. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3802507

4. Forys, E.A. and Humphrey, S.R., “Home Range and Movements of the Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit in a Highly Fragmented Habitat.” Journal of Mammalogy. 1996. 77(4): p. 1042-1048. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1382784

5. n.a., Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida: Lower Keys Rabbit. 1999, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Atlanta, GA. p. 151–171. http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/index.cfm?Method=programs&NavProgramCategoryID=3&programID=107&ProgramCategoryID=3

www.fws.gov/verobeach/images/pdflibrary/lkmr.pdf

6. Jones, E. and Coman, B.J., ” Ecology of the feral cat, Felis catus (L.), in southeastern Australia.” Australian Wildlife Research. 1981. 8: p. 537–547. http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WR9810537.htm

7. Liberg, O., “Food Habits and Prey Impact by Feral and House-Based Domestic Cats in a Rural Area in Southern Sweden.” Journal of Mammalogy. 1984. 65(3): p. 424-432. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1381089

8. Fitzgerald, B.M., Diet of domestic cats and their impact on prey populations, in The Domestic cat: The biology of its behaviour, D.C. Turner and P.P.G. Bateson, Editors. 1988, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge; New York. p. 123–147.

9. O’Hara, T. (2007, April 3). Fish & Wildlife Service to begin removing cats from Keys refuges. The Key West Citizen, from http://keysnews.com/archives

10. n.a., Lower Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan. 2009, U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service: Atlanta, GA. http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/

http://www.fws.gov/southeast/planning/PDFdocuments/Florida%20Keys%20FINAL/TheKeysFinalCCPFormatted.pdf

11. Ferriter, A., et al., The Status of Nonindigenous Species in the South Florida Environment, in 2008 South Florida Environmental Report. 2008, South Florida Water Management District.

12.  Engeman, R., Constantin, B., and Hardin, S., “Species Pollution” in Florida: A Cross Section of Invasive Vertebrate Issues and Management Responses, in Invasive Species: Detection, Impact and Control, C.P. Wilcox and R.B. Turpin, Editors. 2009. p. 179–197.

13. Lazell, J.D., Jr., “A New Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) from Florida’s Lower Keys.”Journal of Mammalogy. 1984. 65(1): p. 26–33. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1381196

14. Holler, N.R. and Clinton, H.C., “Reproduction of the Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) in South Florida.” Journal of Mammalogy. 1979. 60(4): p. 769–777. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1380192

15. Cruz, J.B. and Cruz, F., “Conservation of the dark-rumped petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.” Biological Conservation. 1987. 42(4): p. 303-311. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V5X-48XKMBP-17J/2/f81b57e317f217802d9aca8b6927a88c

16. Kirkpatrick, R.D. and Rauzon, M.J., “Foods of Feral Cats Felis catus on Jarvis and Howland Islands, Central Pacific Ocean.” Biotropica. 1986. 18(1): p. 72-75. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2388365

17. Calver, M., et al., “Reducing the rate of predation on wildlife by pet cats: The efficacy and practicability of collar-mounted pounce protectors.” Biological Conservation. 2007. 137(3): p. 341-348. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V5X-4NGBB7H-3/2/456180347a2c3916d1ae99e220dd329e

18. Coleman, J.S. and Temple, S.A., “Rural Residents’ Free-Ranging Domestic Cats: A Survey.”Wildlife Society Bulletin. 1993. 21(4): p. 381–390. http://www.jstor.org/pss/3783408

19. Churcher, P.B. and Lawton, J.H., “Predation by domestic cats in an English village.” Journal of Zoology. 1987. 212(3): p. 439-455. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1987.tb02915.x

20. Hawkins, C.C., Impact of a subsidized exotic predator on native biota: Effect of house cats (Felis catus) on California birds and rodents. 1998, Texas A&M University.

21. Stallcup, R., “A reversible catastrophe.” Observer 91. 1991(Spring/Summer): p. 8–9. http://www.prbo.org/cms/print.php?mid=530

http://www.prbo.org/cms/docs/observer/focus/focus29cats1991.pdf

22. Sax, D.F. and Gaines, S.D., Species invasions and extinction: The future of native biodiversity on islands, in In the Light of Evolution II: Biodiversity and Extinction,. 2008: Irvine, CA. p. 11490–11497. www.pnas.org/content/105/suppl.1/11490.full

http://www.pnas.org/content/105/suppl.1/11490.full.pdf

23. Soulé, M.E., et al., “Reconstructed Dynamics of Rapid Extinctions of Chaparral-Requiring Birds in Urban Habitat Islands.” Conservation Biology. 1988. 2(1): p. 75–92. http://www.jstor.org/pss/2386274

http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/74761/1/j.1523-1739.1988.tb00337.x.pdf

24. Fitzgerald, B.M., Karl, B.J., and Veitch, C.R., “The diet of feral cat (Felis catus) on Raoul Island, Kermadec group.” New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 1991. 15(2): p. 123–129. http://www.feral.org.au/the-diet-of-feral-cats-felis-catus-on-raoul-island-kermadec-group/

www.newzealandecology.org.nz/nzje/free_issues/NZJEcol15_2_123.pdf

25. Fan, M., Kuang, Y., and Feng, Z., “Cats protecting birds revisited.” Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. 2005. 67(5): p. 1081–1106. http://www.springerlink.com/content/p0h5854n56183874/

26. Courchamp, F., Langlais, M., and Sugihara, G., “Cats protecting birds: modelling the mesopredator release effect.” Journal of Animal Ecology. 1999. 68(2): p. 282–292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2656.1999.00285.x

http://deepeco.ucsd.edu/~george/publications/99_cats_protecting.pdf

27. Bergstrom, D.M., et al., “Indirect effects of invasive species removal devastate World Heritage Island.” Journal of Applied Ecology. 2009. 46(1): p. 73-81. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01601.x/abstract

http://eprints.utas.edu.au/8384/4/JAppEcol_Bergstrom_etal_journal.pdf

28. n.a., Key Largo Cotton Mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. 2009, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, South Fiorida Ecological Services Office: Veero Beach, FL. p. 19. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A086

http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc2378.pdf

29. n.a., Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida: Key Largo Cotton Mouse. 1999, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Atlanta, GA. p. 79–96. http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/index.cfm?Method=programs&NavProgramCategoryID=3&programID=107&ProgramCategoryID=3

http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/images/pdflibrary/klcm.pdf

30. n.a., Key Largo Woodrat (Neotomafloridana smalli) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. 2008, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, South Fiorida Ecological Services Office: Vero Beach, FL. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A087

http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1985.pdf

31. n.a., Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida: Key Largo Woodrat. 1999, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Atlanta, GA. p. 195–216. http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/index.cfm?Method=programs&NavProgramCategoryID=3&programID=107&ProgramCategoryID=3

http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/images/pdflibrary/klwr.pdf

32. n.a., Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida: Rice Rat. 1999, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Atlanta, GA. p. 173–194. http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/index.cfm?Method=programs&NavProgramCategoryID=3&programID=107&ProgramCategoryID=3

http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/images/pdflibrary/srra.pdf

33. n.a., Rice rat (Oryzomys palustris natator) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. 2008, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, South Florida Ecological Services Office: Vero Beach, FL. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=A083

http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc1958.pdf

34. n.a., Feral and Free-Ranging Cat Trapping by the USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services (WS) on North Key Largo. 2004, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

35. Nogales, M., et al., “A Review of Feral Cat Eradication on Islands.” Conservation Biology. 2004. 18(2): p. 310–319. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2004.00442.x/abstract

36. Veitch, C.R., “The eradication of feral cats (Felis catus) from Little Barrier Island, New Zealand.” New Zealand Journal of Zoology. 2001. 28: p. 1–12. http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/publications/journals/nzjz/2001/001/

http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/media/publications-journals-nzjz-2001-001.pdf

37. Lebbin, D.J., Parr, M.J., and Fenwick, G.H., The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation. 2010, London: University of Chicago Press.