Predator-Prey Dynamics In an Urban Matrix

According to the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center, Nico Dauphine’s “current project examines predator-prey dynamics in an urban matrix in collaboration with citizen scientists at Neighborhood Nestwatch.” But according to news stories coming out of the Washington, DC, area this evening, it seems Dauphine may have taken on the role of predator herself.

NBC reports: “Authorities say they suspect Nico Dauphine, a PhD who specializes in bird conservation, was poisoning feral cats in her Columbia Heights neighborhood.”

Regular readers will recognize Dauphine’s name immediately, as I’ve been highly critical of her work from the very beginning of Vox Felina. It was, for example, a paper [1] she co-authored with Robert J. Cooper (published in the Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners In Flight Conference) that Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy, used to justify his bogus claim that “there are about . . . 160 million feral cats” in the U.S.

I’ve pointed out, more than once, Dauphine’s dubious scholarship—citing David Jessup’s unattributed “estimate” of “60 to 100 million feral and abandoned cats in the United States,” [2] for example. Or ignoring the results of multiple surveys suggesting that roughly two-thirds of pet cats are kept indoors, in stark contrast to Dauphine’s assertion that “65 percent, or 57 million, are free-ranging outdoor cats for at least some portion of the day.” [1]

She also misinterprets/misrepresents William George’s classic study, suggesting that “only about half of animals killed by cats were provided to their owners,” [1] thereby creating a convenient multiplier where predation is concerned.

More recently, she and Cooper were responsible for “Pick One: Outdoor Cats or Conservation,” a lengthy article in a special section of the Spring Issue of The Wildlife Professional called “The Impact of Free Ranging Cats.” Which was, not surprisingly, plagued with the same exaggerations, misrepresentations, and errors I’ve come to expect. (Dauphine also authored “Follow the Money: The Economics of TNR Advocacy,” in the same issue—where she does to the political and economic aspects of the debate what she and her colleagues have been doing to the scientific side of the debate for years now.)

•     •     •

Obviously, there’s a great deal we don’t know at this point. According to the NBC story, Dauphine “denies the accusations, saying, ‘her whole life is devoted to the care and welfare of animals.’”

At the same time, it’s my understanding that Dauphine was charged with the same crime accused of similar activities when she was living in Georgia. Perhaps we’ll find out more, one way or the other, about that case as the current case unfolds.

In any event, if these charges prove to be true, Daupine is going to have a lot of explaining—and perhaps a little time—to do.

Literature Cited
1. Dauphine, N. and Cooper, R.J., Impacts of Free-ranging Domestic Cats (Felis catus) on birds in the United States: A review of recent research with conservation and management recommendations, in Fourth International Partners in Flight Conference: Tundra to Tropics. 2009. p. 205–219.

2. Jessup, D.A., “The welfare of feral cats and wildlife.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004. 225(9): p. 1377-1383.


In the News