Arkansas Game and Fish Declines Offers of Assistance with Feral Cats

When I wrote recently about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s decision to begin trapping cats at the Barnett Access on the Little Red River, I suggested that AGFC fisheries biologist Tom Bly had “been drinking TNR opponents’ Kool-Aid.”

Bingo!

That same day, I sent an e-mail to the AGFC director/deputy directors and commissioners asking for an explanation for the roundup. AGFC Director Loren Hitchcock responded promptly, forwarding my e-mail to Bly, who in turn wrote:

“My information came from the Spring 2011 issue of The Wildlife Professional. This is the magazine of the “The Wildlife Society” and includes peer reviewed and published articles on wildlife management and dealing with feral cat issues. The link to the publication is http://issuu.com/the-wildlife-professional/docs/feralcats.

As you will notice nearly one third of the publication is concerned with wildlife depredation by feral cats and public health related issues.”

Kool-Aid? Check.

What follows is my reply (sent to all deputy directors and commissioners as well):

Loren, Tom: thank you both for your prompt replies.

Tom, I’m actually very familiar with the publication you refer to. In fact, I spent a considerable amount of time and effort responding to it with a lengthy blog post shortly after the issue was made available online.

The fact that so much of this issue was devoted to free-roaming cats should not be taken as a reflection of the threat posed by these cats. On the contrary, The Wildlife Professional’s special issue was merely a reflection of The Wildlife Society’s ongoing witch-hunt (led by CEO/executive director Michael Hutchins) against these cats. Plagued as it is with errors, misrepresentations, and glaring omissions, “The Impact of Free Ranging Cats” is more propaganda than anything else.

Harsh criticism to be sure, but hardly unjustified. As I say, I’ve taken a very careful look at the publication as well as many of the studies and reports cited by its contributors. I invite you and your colleagues to have a look for yourselves, and I’m happy to share PDFs of any studies or reports I cite.

It might interest you to know, by the way, that Nico Dauphiné, one of the chief contributors to the special issue, was found guilty of attempted animal cruelty in October of last year for trying to poison the outdoor cats living outside of her DC-neighborhood apartment building. Though her opposition to free-roaming cats in general, and trap-neuter-return (a humane approach to feral cat management through sterilization) in particular, were well documented, she disowned her own writings on the subject (including parts of her contribution to “The Impact of Free Ranging Cats”) in court.

In fact, a careful look at her writing reveals that her scientific claims were no better than were her claims in court. And still, she was given a platform by TWS. Following Dauphiné’s arrest, however, TWS offered no comment—no explanation for how, just six months earlier, this same woman’s work was featured so prominently in The Wildlife Professional. Hardly the response one expects of a professional organization of such stature.

According to the AGFC Website, the agency “works to generate awareness of ethical and sound management principles.” When it comes to free-roaming cats, then, AGFC must look beyond the misinformation promoted by TWS—whose position is supported by neither the science nor public opinion.

Respectfully,

Peter J. Wolf

Judging from traffic visiting the blog (or not, as the case may be), nobody at AGFC bothered to look into the matter any further. Indeed, the agency seems perfectly satisfied with its plan—which, it seems clear to anybody familiar with such situations, means the killing of most, if not all, of the cats trapped.

According to a press release issued yesterday by Alley Cat Allies, AGFC “declined offers by Alley Cat Allies to coordinate a Trap-Neuter-Return program for the cats at no cost to the state.” “We are disappointed that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has chosen a costly, ‘knee-jerk’ approach over a humane, proven, sustainable long-term solution,” explained ACA president and co-founder Becky Robinson.

Knee-jerk is right.

As quick search of the AGFC meeting minutes from January 2011 through May 2012 reveals not one mention of cats, feral or otherwise. Yet just one month later, The Sun-Times was reporting that “the Barnett Access on the Little Red River is being overrun with feral cats.” [1, emphasis mine]

Something doesn’t add up here.

And ACA wasn’t the only organization to be rebuffed, either. Through the Vox Felina Facebook page, I heard from somebody at Feline Rescue and Rehome, based in Little Rock, who told me:  “We have offered to come in and trap alter, vaccinate, and relocate (since they won’t allow TNR) all at our expense but have been rebuffed.”

A July 10 post on FuRR’s Facebook page reads, in part:

“Several days ago FuRR sent a request to AGFC to allow our group to come and conduct the trapping and relocating efforts. FuRR is the premiere feral cat rescue group serving all of Arkansas and our trappers are well-trained and have years of experience. Feral cats are our primary focus and we currently have arrangements with many local municipalities to legally (and humanely) trap cats. FuRR was prepared to remove all of these cats, sterilize and vaccinate them, and place all of them into new homes and colonies. This would also eliminate the added stress of moving the cats multiple times.”

All of which leaves me asking the same question I asked eight days ago: What the hell is going on here?

Literature Cited
1. n.a. (2012). AGFC to begin feral cat trapping effort at Barnett Access. The Sun-Times, from http://www.thesuntimes.com/news/x1915460971/AGFC-to-begin-feral-cat-trapping-effort-at-Barnett-Access

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