Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up

In FY 2011 alone, Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, killed nearly 3.8 million animals—including pets and endangered species. All of it funded by American taxpayers.

According to its website, the mission of Wildlife Services “is to provide Federal leadership in managing problems caused by wildlife.”

“WS recognizes that wildlife is an important public resource greatly valued by the American people. By its very nature, however, wildlife is a highly dynamic and mobile resource that can damage agricultural and industrial resources, pose risks to human health and safety, and affect other natural resources. The WS program carries out the Federal responsibility for helping to solve problems that occur when human activity and wildlife are in conflict with one another. The WS program strives to develop and use wildlife damage management strategies that are biologically sound, environmentally safe, and socially acceptable.”

A three-part investigative series in The Sacramento Bee this week promises to challenge each of the three points from that last sentence, exposing the controversial and secretive practices of Wildlife Services. Indeed, the first installment, which ran Sunday, suggests that the agency, a little-known part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service, is often the source of human-wildlife conflict. Read more

Terrible Twos

Where were you two years ago today?

I was, as I am now, typing away on my laptop well into the night—compelled, as I wrote on the blog’s About page, to speak out on behalf of stray, abandoned, and feral cats. Two years—and 147 posts—later, it’s clear that people are listening.

In the past year alone, 213 additional readers have become subscribers, bringing the total to 370. And the Vox Felina Facebook page is up to 1,239 “Likes,” double what it was on the one-year anniversary.

And word continues to spread.

Over the past 12 months, Vox Felina has been mentioned in Animal People, Conservation magazine and The Washingtonian. In addition, I’ve been profiled in Best Friends magazine, interviewed on Animal Wise Radio, and invited to speak at the 2011 Animal Grantmakers conference.

And the next year is already shaping up to be at least as busy, with, for example, speaking commitments at the No Kill Conference in August and the No More Homeless Pets National Conference in October.

Although there’s already plenty on my to-do list, I’m always interested in hearing from Vox Felina readers. What can I do to help you advocate for stray, abandoned, and feral cats? Send me a note: peter[at] (Please be patient—none of my “assistants” has opposable thumbs.)

And, as always, thank you for your support—and for all that you’re doing on behalf of our community cats!


The Annotated Apocalypse Meow

In the current issue of The Washingtonian, senior writer Luke Mullins provides the most comprehensive profile yet of former Smithsonian researcher Nico Dauphiné, convicted last October of attempted animal cruelty. Most telling are his conversations with her unwavering supporters, who—in spite of the evidence, her well-documented history, and her miserable performance on the stand—continue to make excuses for her.

In the five months since she was convicted of attempted animal cruelty, former Smithsonian researcher Nico Dauphiné has enjoyed a respite from the largely unflattering media spotlight. All that changed in the past few weeks, though—first with Conservation magazine’s “Cat Fight,” and now with a 6,100-word feature in the April issue of The Washingtonian.

In “Apocalypse Now,” senior writer Luke Mullins digs into Dauphiné’s DC court case, as well as her previous “community service” in Athens, GA. The Nico Dauphiné that emerges is a far cry from the sympathetic character portrayed in “Cat Fight”—where, for example, writer John Carey laments: “Unfortunately, the strange case of the accused cat poisoner didn’t end well.” [1]

Although Mullins was unable to speak with Dauphiné for the piece, his conversations with people close to Dauphiné—as well as many who observed her mistreatment of cats—are illuminating. Read more

Vox Humana

Photo courtesy of Alley Cat Allies.

For more than two weeks now, those of us who are outraged by the trapping of cats on the Loews Orlando properties have been able to express ourselves solely through virtual means—blogging, Facebook and Twitter, and an online petition.

Yesterday afternoon, however, many local advocates took to the streets, participating in a protest organized by Alley Cat Allies. According to an ACA press release:

Sixty-eight people raised their voices—and their signs—against the Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Portofino, and Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resorts after management made the decision to trap and remove the 23 feral cats who have lived peacefully on the properties for years.

Many of us—myself included—were unable to attend, but were there in spirit (and watching the whole thing unfold via social media). Thank you to all that made it possible!

For additional updates on the Loews cats:

Note: Alley Cat Allies has provided high-resolution photos of the event for the media here.

Photos courtesy of Alley Cat Allies.
Photos courtesy of Dorian Wagner/Save Loews Cats.

Loews Memo-random

Just as Loews began removing cats from their Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort properties late last month, Shawn German, Regional Director of Human Resources, issued a memo outlining, among other things, the rationale for the decision and penalty for any members of the Loews “campus community” violating their no-feeding policy.

Not surprisingly, the focus is on the alleged public health threats posed by these sterilized, vaccinated, carefully monitored cats. The memo does not explain what prompted the recent policy reversal—again, no surprise.

What is a little surprising is what’s included in the Rationale section:

You might enjoy getting to know your furry friend but your neighbors might not, and may take action to eliminate the “pests.” Animals that become used to close interaction with humans become easy targets for people who do not respect wildlife and would hurt them intentionally. Also, there are many people who are afraid of wildlife and may injure an animal in an attempt to defend themselves against a mistaken “attack.”

Is Loews really suggesting that these cats are being removed for their own good? Recent events certainly suggest otherwise—indeed, that very little consideration has been given to the treatment and care of the cats that have been trapped. And it’s been nearly two weeks since the remaining cats (six or so, by my count) have been fed.

It’s clear at this point that the greatest threat to these cats is Loews management.

Date:         March 27, 2012
To:             LHUO Subcontractors, Vendors, Tenants and/or Business Partners
From:         Shawn German, Regional Director of Human Resources
Subject:      Animal Feeding and Handling Policy

Whether you are a subcontractor, vendor, tenant and/or business partner of Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando (LHUO) you are considered to be members of our “campus community”. As such, we urge you to please review the attached policy and ensure that all of your employees understand and follow this new policy. The health and safety of our guests, team members, vendors and visitors must be a priority.

We have completed a thorough and objective assessment of the feral, free-roaming cats on hotel property and are working closely with Orange County Animal Services, where the cats will be taken. There are many challenges that arise from maintaining free-roaming, feral cats in our hotel environment. Specifically, when the feral cats get into guest contact areas, it creates safety issues for both guests and team members, as well as health Issues. The outdoor feeding of animals attracts other wild and feral species, which can facilitate the spread of disease from rabies vectors such as raccoons. While our hotels are pet-friendly, there are important distinctions between owned pets and feral, undomesticated animals.

The Florida Department of Health’s position states: “The concept of managing free-roaming, feral domestic cats is not tenable on public health grounds because of the persistent threat posed to communities from injury and disease. While the risk for disease transmission from cats to people is generally low when these animals are maintained indoors and routinely cared for, free-roaming cats pose a continuous concern to communities.”

It is important for you to know that we have researched and evaluated all aspects of this issue and believe we must take these steps in the interest of the health and safety of our guests, team members and members of our “campus community”. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your respective Hotel General Manager or the Regional Executive Offices for LHUO.


POLICY# 7225



The ability to control the feral and undomesticated wild animal population on our campus property is always a concern and priority for us at Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando (LHUO). In an effort to reduce the community’s health risk from contact with these animals, the following policy has been adopted. Feral and undomesticated wild animals are potential carriers of rabies and other diseases, which may infect a person if bitten and/or scratched. This policy intends to raise awareness and reduce conflict with feral and undomesticated wild animals; therefore reducing the risk of contracting animal borne diseases. LHUO team members, vendors, contractors, suppliers and business partners are prohibited from leaving food or water on campus grounds for the purpose of feeding animals. The practice of leaving food stuff outdoors creates attraction of undesirable wild and feral species, which in turn creates the health risk. Any food found outside on LHUO grounds will be promptly removed and disposed of. The person(s) identified as feeding the animals will be informed of the “No Feeding Policy”, and may result in disciplinary action.

All trash dumpsters, in which food may potentially be disposed of, are to be kept clean and covered at all times.

In addition to our “No Feeding Policy” it is also a violation of this policy for any LHUO team member to handle or engage in any physical contact with any feral and undomesticated wild animals found on LHUO grounds. The “No Handling” aspect of this policy is equally important to ensure that no members of our “campus community” are injured by coming into contact with these animals and to rely on experts who are trained and best capable in handling these animals in a safe and humane manner. *

All members of the LHUO “campus community” are required to comply with all aspects of these policies and are responsible for reporting incidences of non-compliance. Any guests that are found to be feeding and/or handling these animals should be asked to comply with this policy as well.

Any incident involving a feral undomesticated wild animal should be reported to the Safety/Security Department. The handling and/or removal of these animals will be handled by the following:

Safety/Security and Engineering personnel, Orange County Animal Control, Florida Fish and Wildlife and/or other representatives designated by LHUO Management.

The purpose of this animal feeding and handling policy is to:

  • reduce the risk of injury to LHUO guests, team members, visitors and members of our “campus community”
  • reduce and/or eliminate contact with these animals which either annoy or endanger the comfort, health or safety of LHUO staff and/or these animals;
  • avoid potential health hazards;
  • and to prevent damage to LHUO buildings and grounds.

This policy applies to all LHUO staff.


Wild Animal – A feral animal that is wild by nature and is not normally considered domesticated includes, but is not limited to, the following: squirrels, ducks, pigeons, raccoons, possums, snakes, birds, alligators, rats, and stray cats and dogs.

Feed – Any material that can be utilized for consumption by wild animals.

Feeding – The feeding, spreading, casting, laying, depositing, throwing, placing, leaving or dumping of food.

LHUO Campus Community – This includes LHUO team members, vendors, suppliers, contractors, business partners, guests and visitors of LHUO.

Feral and/or undomesticated wild animals are prohibited in any LHUO building. This includes, but is not limited to, administrative offices, hotels, tents, food & beverage outlets, and all on-campus structures.

Owned pets may be brought onto campus, but shall be appropriately restrained and/or contained at all times by the responsible owner.

Dogs must be on a leash or chain that does not exceed 6 feet in length and that is in the hands of a responsible owner/custodian.

Other pets may also be allowed on campus, but only in an appropriate cage, carrier, crate, or kennel.

Animals may not be tethered unattended, or abandoned on LHUO property.

Animals may not be left unattended in any vehicle parked on LHUO property.

Animals brought on campus must be appropriately inoculated for rabies, with the burden of proof on the responsible owner/custodian.

When animals are brought on LHUO property, the responsible owner/custodian shall be responsible for feeding and cleaning up after the animal. This includes any fecal material deposited by the animal while on campus.

LHUO, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to request that any animal(s) creating a nuisance be removed from campus property and further reserves the right to prohibit animals from any Hotel/Resort event.

LHUO is not responsible for any animal brought onto LHUO property.

The feeding and/or handling of feral and undomesticated wild animals on or around LHUO grounds is not permitted because:

  • It establishes a potential risk of injury to our Team Members, members of our “campus community”, LHUO guests and visitors;
  • creates or fosters a congregation or congestion of wildlife;
  • establishes the potential conflict with domesticated pets staying with registered guests of LHUO;
  • creates an accumulation of droppings on surrounding properties;
  • causes actual or potential property damage or disfigurement, or degrades scenic attractiveness;
  • has the possibility to attract rodents and other vermin;
  • interferes with the enjoyment of LHUO facilities;
  • is potentially unhealthy for the particular species, or causes undue distress or conflict for the animal being fed;
  • and it increases the likelihood of diseases being spread from animals to other animals and to humans.

In addition, no LHUO team member shall knowingly leave or store any feed in a manner that would constitute a lure, an attraction or an enticement of feral and undomesticated wild animals.

Any LHUO team member that engages in the feeding or handling of feral undomesticated wild animals will be subject to disciplinary action.


OVERPOPULATION An abundance of food can lead to a population increase that the natural food supply cannot support. This can then lead to starvation and disease.

LOSS OF FEAR OF HUMANS Nuisance wildlife problems are often caused by those animals that have lost their natural fear of humans. Property damage and unwanted “houseguests” are often the result. You might enjoy getting to know your furry friend but your neighbors might not, and may take action to eliminate the “pests.” Animals that become used to close interaction with humans become easy targets for people who do not respect wildlife and would hurt them intentionally. Also, there are many people who are afraid of wildlife and may injure an animal in an attempt to defend themselves against a mistaken “attack.”

DISEASE Stress from competition for food, and an inadequate diet can increase the susceptibility of individual animals to diseases and parasites. Some wildlife diseases can be transmitted to other animals and humans.

INJURY RISK Wild animals do not understand that you are trying to be their friend by feeding them. They may misinterpret your actions and injure you. There is no guarantee that a wild animal knows where the food stops and your fingers begin. Bites can also cause substantial injury, trauma and disease.

UNNATURAL INTERACTIONS BETWEEN WILDLIFE Feeding can cause injuries and harmful interactions between wildlife species that would normally forage separately, by often bringing incompatible, competitive or even natural enemies together.

LHUO recognizes it is our responsibility to provide a safe environment for our guests, team members and visitors and to seek assistance to have any feral undomesticated wild animals removed from LHUO property when necessary.

* Sections of this policy may not apply to designated personnel as determined by the management of LHUO)

Issued: 3/28/2012 Revised: 3/27/2012

Loews Update: 10 Cats Trapped So Far

For those of you not following the Loews Cats story on the Vox Felina Facebook page, here’s a quick update…

For more than a week now, cats have been trapped at both the Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort properties. From what I can tell, all 10 that have been trapped have been taken to Orange County Animal Services, where they are subsequently bailed out by volunteers for CARE Feline TNR, Inc., the same organization responsible for the sterilization, vaccination, and long-term care of the Loews cats. (This is done, as I understand it, in collaboration with Orange County Animal Services—OCAS provides the veterinary services, and CARE agrees to provide ongoing care.).

Six or seven cats (reports from caretakers have, understandably, not been entirely consistent) have yet to be trapped.

Frequent updates have provided all week on CARE’s Facebook page, as well as on the recently launched Save Loews Cats Facebook page (which has attracted 1,659 “Likes” in just eight days!).

Inexcusable Conditions
On Thursday, Alley Cat Allies co-founder and president Becky Robinson published a letter on the Care2 website in which she criticizes Critter Control, the pest control company hired by Loews, for “clearly not following humane best practices.”

“We have heard reports of cats being held in the traps outside for hours. The average temperature in Orlando in the past five days has been 89 degrees; today’s heat index is expected to be 97 degrees. There is no indication that proper protocol for trapped cats—visiting the traps every hour, keeping them covered with a towel to minimize the cats’ anxiety, and removing them promptly—is being followed.”

Indeed, an update (sent from one of the caretakers) posted Wednesday on the Save Loews Cats Facebook page reads: “Just reported that there is a cat in a trap at Royal Pacific howling and baking in the sun. Somebody please stop them!”

Later that same day, a photo of Shadow—an open gash on the top of her head—was posted on CARE’s Facebook page with a note reading: “Others have sustained injuries similar to this.”

Earlier this week, Alley Cat Allies started a petition “calling on Loews to stop trapping cats right now” and, according to one of CARE’s “Bailout Team Members,” also made a “generous donation toward the purchase of crates and relocation supplies so very much needed to move the Loews/Universal cats to a safe permanent location.”

No Viable Option?
For its part, Loews has been pretty quiet—hardly surprising, in light of the coverage the story has received, from the mainstream media to various online cat-friendly outlets, including CatChannel, Catster, and Petside.

On Friday, however, the luxury chain was responding to e-mail inquires this way:

Thank you for contacting us. We hear your concerns and understand there are many reports circulating of inhumane trapping. These are not accurate. We continue to re-locate feral cats to the Orange County Animal Services Center and are working closely with the team there. Everything is being handled with the utmost care by experts. Orange County Animal Services was on-site with us as recently as last night for a detailed review of everything we are doing and advised us that they had no concerns with our process.

To provide you with more background, please understand that we reviewed our practice involving feral, free-roaming cats and talked with numerous agencies, including Orange County Animal Services. We met with a local feral cat group to seek their assistance in the re-location, but they felt they could not support this change. For more than two months, we sought input from the public on a solution for re-locating the feral cats. No viable option emerged, after weeks of diligent outreach.

It is important to note that the Florida Department of Health states that feral cats pose a continuous concern to communities due to the persistent threat of injury and disease. The priority at our hotels is the health and safety of our guests and team members.

We would encourage you to review the Florida Department of Health’s Rabies Advisory Committee position statement on this issue. You may access it here:

Page vii (near the bottom) and continuing on page viii.

Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando

Well, as always, I’m here to help. And the best way to do that—to prevent any Loews team member or guest from being exposed to rabies or, more broadly, “the persistent threat of injury and disease”—is to discourage people from going there.

Any empty resort is, as they say, a safe resort.

Please help spread the word!

•     •     •

CARE needs our help finding permanent homes for these cats. If you know anyone with a farm, barn, stable, etc. who might be interested, please email:

What Coyotes Eat

Once again, the American Bird Conservancy misrepresents the science in order to fuel TNR opposition. Ironically, ABC’s claim that “outdoor cats make up 13–45 percent of coyote diets” is refuted by the very studies cited in their recent media release.

Coyote at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and photographer Rebecca Richardson.

Late last month, a New York Times blog post reported that coyotes have made their way into Lower Manhattan. However unsettling the news may be to residents, some in the scientific community are praising the coyotes’ arrival.

“The growing presence of these top predators in New York City has piqued the interest of researchers, who say that coyotes in human territory might not be such a bad thing.”

Never ones to pass up an opportunity to misrepresent the threats both to and from free-roaming cats—there is, admittedly, a certain “efficiency” in playing both sides—the American Bird Conservancy issued a media release warning cat guardians to “think twice before letting their pet roam free outdoors.”

Which, to those unfamiliar with ABC’s long-running witch-hunt, might come across as actual concern. In fact, ABC cares about cats as much as they do science. Or professional ethics, for that matter.

Like its Cats Indoors! program, ABC’s latest bit of propaganda is little more than another Trojan Horse (doubly disguised with its British English) aimed squarely at TNR programs. In the words of Darin Schroeder, Vice President of Conservation Advocacy:

“Well-meaning but misguided cat lovers are creating unsafe conditions for domestic cats by releasing them back into areas where they may become prey for coyotes and other predators. Owners who let their pet cat out into their neighbourhoods may be unknowingly ringing the dinner bell to unseen coyotes. We urge states, cities, and communities to reject this inhumane approach to the feral cat problem and instead, require responsible care of pets and the removal of feral cats from the wild.”

Predation Studies
What caught my eye was not the u in neighbourhoods, but ABC’s claim that: “Studies show that outdoor cats make up 13–45 percent of coyote diets in those environments.”

Studies? Which studies?

Tucson, AZ
Between December 2005 and November 2006, researchers Shannon Grubbs and Paul Krausman tracked eight radio-collared coyotes in Tucson, AZ, “observ[ing] 45 instances of coyotes consuming prey and fruit: 19 cats (42 percent), 15 unidentified rodent species (33.3 percent), 8 lagomorphs (17.8 percent), 1 bird (2.2 percent), and in 3 observations coyotes consumed dates (6.6 percent).” [1]

Although ABC indicates otherwise, this was not an investigation into what coyotes eat. “Our objectives,” write the authors “were to describe the group size of coyotes involved in coyote–cat interactions, time and location of interactions, and outcomes of interactions.” [1] The whole point of the study was to find coyotes killing and/or eating cats—hardly representative of a “day in the life” of either species.

Here’s where it gets interesting, though.

I assume ABC’s “45 percent” was intended to be 42 percent—but that’s hardly worth mentioning in light of their far more egregious error. The real problem is that Grubbs and Krausman’s 42 percent figure actually tells us very little about coyotes’ dietary intake. In order to know what percentage of these coyotes’ diet is made up of domestic cats, the researchers would need to examine their stomach contents.

There are a number of ways to describe dietary intake—prey count being perhaps the easiest to understand. Often, though, researchers have available to them only stomach contents or scat, in which case results are typically expressed in either percent frequency of occurrence or percent by volume.

ABC has confused the two.

To appreciate the implications, consider a more familiar example: coffee consumption. According to the 2011 National Coffee Drinking Trends Study, “54 percent of adults age 25–39, said they drink coffee daily.” Were we to do a dietary study of this age group, then, we would expect to find coffee at a 54 percent frequency of occurrence.

To say that coffee makes up 54 percent of our dietary intake (either in terms of volume or, say, calories) on the other hand—essentially ABC’s interpretation—is obviously a gross exaggeration of true consumption levels.

A closer look at Grubbs and Krausman’s work reveals the same error, and—more broadly—the complexities involved in accurately assessing dietary intake in the field. Domestic cats, they argue, “have contributed ≤13.1 percent of the diet of coyotes (MacCracken 1982, Shargo 1988, Quinn 1997).” [1]

What exactly did these other researchers find?

Los Angeles Suburbs
Shargo analyzed 22 coyote scats collected “in a suburban residential neighborhood in Los Angeles from 1984 to 1987” and found domestic cats at a 13.6 percent frequency of occurrence. [2] Which, as I’ve explained, should not be confused with percent of dietary intake.

Among the other items tabulated: plant material: 81.8 percent; rodents: 45.5; garbage 40.9; mule deer 9.1; small birds 4.5. (The numbers are telling in that they add up to well over 100—this is to be expected when findings are expressed as percent frequency of occurrence. If, as ABC suggests, domestic cats make up as much as 45 percent of coyotes’ diet, then where are they putting all the plant material, rodents, and garbage?)

Although Shargo’s “study was not intended to analyze coyote diet in great detail,” he found that 13.6 figure worthy of comment: “Domestic pets, notably cats, are quite commonly eaten.” [2]

(An article in the current issue of The Wildlife Professional (PDF)—to which ABC refers in their media release—suggests that preventing coyote attacks on humans “might mean removing all exterior food sources such as trash, bird feeders, free-roaming cats, or tethered dogs.” [3] Shargo’s work suggests that rodents may be a far more attractive “food source”—one that would be available in even greater abundance were ABC to get their way and remove all free-roaming cats from the environment.)

Western Washington
Quinn “collected a total of 1,435 coyote scats from [three different] habitat types (735 from residential, 449 from mixed agricultural, and 251 from mixed forest)” in western Washington during his dissertation fieldwork in 1989 and 1990.

“Fruits and mammals were the largest classes of food item in all habitat types and their seasonal use was similar among habitats. Apple and cherry were the most abundant fruits in the scats, and ranged from 22–41 percent and 9–13 percent of the annual diet, respectively. Vole was the most abundant mammalian food item (41.7 percent) of coyotes in mixed agricultural-residential habitat while house cat and squirrel were the two most abundant mammalian food items (13.1 and 7.8 percent, respectively) of coyotes in residential habitat.” [4]

In the mixed agricultural mixed forest habitats, coyote scats contained 2.3 and 3.3 percent domestic cats, respectively. (Unlike Shargo’s, Quinn’s estimates reflect percent volume, not percent frequency.)

El Cajon, CA
Examining 97 coyote scats collected in El Cajon, CA, during 1978, MacCracken found domestic cats made up 2.3 percent by volume (though, inexplicably, his own paper suggests otherwise, that his figures represent “percent frequency of occurrence of items recovered”).

Overall, mammals accounted for 28.9 percent, birds 15.9 percent, and vegetation 38.5 percent by volume. “Miscellaneous items such as pieces from chicken egg shells, cellophane wrappers, pieces of cloth, string, plastic, and paper accounted for 16.7 percent of the remains in the scats examined.” [5]

All of which adds up to what, exactly? It’s difficult to say.

Even the most precise scat analysis provides an incomplete picture. “The ability of scat analysis to determine food habits undoubtedly varies by species and circumstances,” argues Bart O’Gara. “Scat analyses should be verified by at least limited stomach analyses so the stomach data can serve as a way to ‘calibrate’ results inferred from scats.” [6]

Off Script, On Message
One wonders just how closely ABC read the Grubbs and Krausman paper—ostensibly the study behind their headline-grabbing media release. What Grubbs and Krausman cite as an upper limit of dietary intake, ABC twisted into a lower limit. And what ABC claims to be an upper limit has no scientific basis whatsoever.

And this isn’t the first time ABC’s done this.

According to their brochure, Domestic Cat Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife (PDF), “extensive studies of the feeding habits of domestic, free-roaming cats… show that approximately… 20 to 30 percent [of their diet] are birds.”

Ellen Perry Berkeley carefully examined—and debunked—this claim in her 2004 book, TNR Past Present and Future: A history of the trap-neuter-return movement, pointing out that ABC’s figure (among its many flaws) is actually based largely on a misreading and/or misrepresentation of Mike Fitzgerald’s considerable research into the dietary habits of cats. Like Shargo, Fitzgerald reported results as percent frequency of occurrence. ABC’s “interpretation,” suggests Fitzgerald in his communication with Berkeley, likely overstates predation by a factor of two or three. [7]

And yet, the error persists even after ABC revised Domestic Cat Predation on Birds and Other Wildlife last year.

So, it’s not difficult to imagine their 13–45 percent of coyote diets claim becoming an equally persistent error in a future ABC brochure—especially in light of the press coverage it’s receiving. (See, for example, the San Francisco Chronicle’s politics blog and Salt Lake City’s KSL TV.)

All of which begs the question: Are such misrepresentations intentional, or do they suggest an inability to accurately interpret the relevant research?

Does it really matter? Neither answer paints ABC—an organization that claims repeatedly to base its policy recommendations on “the best available science”—in a flattering light.

•     •     •

To be clear: coyotes do pose a threat to outdoor cats.

Over the course of 790 hours, Grubbs and Krausman observed eight coyotes kill 19 cats, mostly in residential areas. And, in an often-cited study conducted in the San Diego area, researchers found that “25 percent of radio-collared [pet] cats were killed by coyotes.” [8]

In her outstanding paper on the subject (PDF), Judith Webster addresses this issue in great detail, and, in a comment anticipating ABC’s recent media release by five years, argues:

“One cannot address the issue of urban coyotes without talking about cats and songbirds. For many environmentalists, the killing of cats by coyotes is not the collateral damage of laissez-faire management, but a desired result.” [9]

In their latest media release, ABC puts a new twist on this—grossly exaggerating the killing of cats by coyotes to achieve their own desired result: the kind of press coverage that advances their anti-TNR agenda. And, not to put too fine a point on it, attracts donations.

Literature Cited
1.Grubbs, S.E. and Krausman, P.R., “Observations of Coyote-Cat Interactions.” Journal of Wildlife Management. 2009. 73(5): p. 683–685.

2. Shargo, E.S., Home range, movements, and activity patterns of coyotes (Canis latrans) in Los Angeles suburbs, in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. 1988, University of California, Los Angeles. p. 124 p.

3. Toomey, A.H., et al., “The Last Frontier.” The Wildlife Professional. 2012(Spring): p. 54–57.

4. Quinn, T., “Coyote (Canis latrans) Food Habits in Three Urban Habitat Types of Western Washington.” Northwest Science. 1997. 71(1): p. 1–5.

5. MacCracken, J.G., “Coyote Foods in a Southern California Suburb.” Wildlife Society Bulletin. 1982. 10(3): p. 280–281.

6. O’Gara, B.W., “Reliability of Scat Analysis for Determining Coyote Feeding on Large Mammals.” The Murrelet. 1986. 67(3): p. 79–81.

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

8. Crooks, K.R. and Soulé, M.E., “Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system.” Nature. 1999. 400(6744): p. 563–566.

9. Webster, J.C., Missing Cats, Stray Coyotes: One Citizen’s Perspective, in Wildlife Damage Management Conferences. 2007, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management: University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Revised 2009 by the author). p. 74–116.